Getting proper sleep is essential to feeling good the next day. You’ve surely had nights where you’ve tossed and turned, unable to find a comfortable place on your mattress and pillow. Even worse is when you wake up stiff and sore from sleeping in a strange position. The truth is, you will tend to sleep better if you find a position that supports your spine and neck. In addition, certain sleeping positions are better for various conditions and ailments. Read on to learn more about the best direction to sleep if you’re looking for a great night’s rest.
Sleeping on Your Back
When it comes to keeping your spine aligned, sleeping on your back is generally seen as the gold standard. Your spine will remain straight, and there won’t be pressure points at your hips and shoulders. Your weight will also remain evenly distributed, which can prevent sore spots the next day. Keeping your legs completely straight can lead to lower back strain in some cases, though, so if you sleep on your back, you might want to put a pillow under your knees for greater comfort.
There are some caveats to this position, however. The first is that if you snore or have sleep apnea, sleeping on your back can exacerbate these conditions.1 Also, if you have heartburn, sleeping flat on your back can make you more uncomfortable. In this case, you might try sleeping on a wedge or raising the head of your bed so your head is higher than your stomach.
Sleeping on Your Front
Many people are comfortable sleeping in a prone position, or on their stomach and chest. This sleep position can be very hard on your neck, though. When you sleep on your front, you naturally turn your head to the right or left. After several hours in this position, your neck can become stiff and sore. If you like to sleep on your stomach, consider using no pillow or a flat pillow so your head is at the same level as the mattress; that can help with neck soreness in this position. You can also put a pillow under your pelvis to keep your lower back from drooping.
Sleeping on Your Side
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Side-sleeping is very common; many people start off their nightly sleep on their left or right side. Side-sleeping can have various benefits. For example, there is speculation that the brain can better clear itself of waste products when a side-lying position is used; this is extrapolated from a study done on rodents.2 Side-sleeping also helps reduce snoring, in part because the excess tissue around the throat doesn’t become an obstruction. Curling the knees toward the body while laying on the left or right side can also help alleviate lower back pain.
Some of the benefits depend on which side you’re sleeping:
- Those who sleep on the left side might experience better digestion. Waste passes from the small to large intestine through a valve on the right side, so sleeping on the left side allows your body to take advantage of gravity, making digestion easier.
- Sleeping on the left side can also reduce heartburn because the stomach will be lower than the esophagus, making it more difficult for acids to creep back up the esophagus and lead to uncomfortable sensations in the chest and throat. 3
- Expectant mothers should sleep on their left sides when possible to reduce the pressure on the aorta. 4
There are also benefits to sleeping on the right side:
- Laying on your right side can give the heart more room and allow it to pump more effectively. One study showed that people with congestive heart failure did better overall if they slept on their right sides. 5
- Right-side sleeping can also keep the blood pressure and heart rate more consistent. This is linked to overall good health.6