Many people ask that question! What’s the best and worst sleeping position? There are logical answers to this, most based on the human anatomy, although a lot depends on your personal preferences. If you suffer from acid reflux (the regurgitation of your stomach contents while lying in bed) then your needs will be different to those of a snorer. Snoring may not bother a single person, but it will certainly bother a partner!
So the question of the best and worst sleeping positions is not an easy one to answer. It “all depends” – that term which means that different circumstances need different solutions. Let’s look at the question from a physiological point of view in relation to various possible sleeping positions.
The Best Sleeping Position: Sleeping on Your Back
Most doctors and physiotherapists will tell you that the supine position is best. Sleeping on your back distributes your body weight evenly on your spine and major back muscles. Not only that, but your head is elevated on the pillow and your stomach naturally lies gravitationally below your oesophagus. That means you are a lot less likely to suffer acid reflux when sleeping on your back than in any other position.
Sleeping on their back is good for younger women since it helps develop healthy breasts with a minimum of sagging. It can also lead to fewer face wrinkles, since your face is in the open air and not squashed into a pillow. However, there is a negative to sleeping on your back – and a potentially noisy one! If you have a tendency to snore, then sleeping on your back will be the worst sleeping position for you – or for your partner! Your breathing will be affected because gravity will pull down your throat and your belly region. Lying on your side or front tends to prevent snoring. You should try out these anti-snore mattresses.
A Pillow or Rolled Towel Under Your Knees: Another benefit of sleeping on your back is that if you use a pillow or rolled-up towel under your knees, it can help prevent or reduce lower back pain. If you lie straight out on your back, you will likely be able to slip your hand under your unsupported lower back, between your hips and upper back. By raising your knees you relieve this pressure that would otherwise be exerted on your spine all night.
Unless you suffer sleep apnoea, and tend to snore a lot, then sleeping on your back is physiologically the best sleeping position. It is also believed to pull down on your skin less, and so help to reduce wrinkling. Not every sleep expert agrees with this, but the majority do.
The Worst Sleeping Position: On Your Stomach
The only good thing about sleeping on your stomach is that it stops snoring! It helps open up your airway and improves your breathing. However, unlike sleeping on your back, you have to turn your head at a 90-degree angle from your body in order to breathe! This can lead to neck pain, particularly when your pillow also raises your neck and head upwards from your body to an unnatural position. With back sleepers, the pillow places their head downwards in relation to their body which put less strain on the cervical vertebrae.
The unnatural curvature of your spine caused by sleeping on your stomach will exert pressure on your neck and lower back which will ultimately lead to chronic back pain. Stomach sleeping might be OK for a short time, but not as a regular sleeping position. This position also puts a lot of pressure on your stomach – so not advisable if you have just had a large supper or have had a night out drinking.
The Alternative: Sleeping on Your Side
Many people prefer to sleep on their side – some on their right side and others on their left side. Is there a difference between these two other than facing one way or the other? In fact, there is. Your anatomy makes a big difference here, and there are reasons why sleeping on one side is more beneficial to your health than sleeping on the other.
Your heart is to the left of your breastbone and spine while the main part of your cardiovascular system is on your right. If you sleep on your right side, you can put pressure on the arteries and veins on that side of your body, interfering with supply of blood to and from your heart. On the other hand, sleeping on your left can put pressure on your spleen, but it does allow your blood supply to run more freely.
What’s the Best and Worst Sleeping Position? Summary:
If you can sleep on your back without snoring, and place a rolled up towel under your knees, then sleeping on your back is likely the best. The medical community is not in total agreement with this, but the majority verdict goes to the back sleeper. The worst position is undoubtedly sleeping on your stomach. Stomach sleepers, or belly sleepers, can place unnatural stresses on their neck. Otherwise, one side or the other is next best, with the left side seeming to be preferred by the medics.
It is also important to sleep on a comfortable mattress. Side-sleepers often find a memory foam mattress best because it absorbs the pressure on their hips and shoulders. This may also suit back sleepers, though a medium-firm mattress is best for them. Latex, gel or memory foam on an innerspring base are good options, although It’s important to use a mattress you feel comfortable with.