After a night of sleep, how do you feel? Well-rested, refreshed and recuperated or do you wake up with neck, shoulder or other aches and pains lingering for hours?
The act of sleeping in bed may seem straight forward but your sleep positions can have a big impact on how you feel the next day. All of us have a favorite sleep position but is it the best position benefitting your health? Here’s a look at different sleep positions and which ones are recommended and which ones are to avoid:
Three recommended sleep positions
Lying on your side
If enhancing and protecting your back health is a priority, then choose this sleep position. Lying on your side (where your torso and legs are relatively straight) can have many health benefits when done correctly. It can help reduce acid reflux, it wards off back and neck pain since the spine is elongated in this position, and you’re less likely to snore as it helps keep your airways open, making it the best choice for those with sleep apnea. About 15% of adults lie on their side when sleeping. The one downside however to lying on your side is it can lead to wrinkles, especially when half of your face is pushed into your pillow.
To make sure you are lying on your side correctly when sleeping, follow these guidelines:
- Use a pillow under your head thick enough to bring your neck to the same level as your spine
- Place a small pillow between your knees and bend your legs to support your lower back.
- Use a body pillow to help align the hips, back and shoulders, preventing you from twisting and straining your back.
Lying on your back
Only about 8% of us prefer sleeping on our backs but it is still a recommended sleep position. Considered the healthiest option for most people, sleeping on your back allows your head, neck, and spine to rest in a neutral position. This means there is no extra pressure on those areas which means you wake up pain-free. Back sleeping also means less acid reflux. One suggestion is to be sure to use a pillow that elevates and supports your head so that your stomach is below your esophagus to prevent food or acid from coming up your throat.
The one drawback to sleeping on your back is that it is not recommended for anyone with sleep apnea. Lying prone on your back can cause your tongue to block the airways making it dangerous for sufferers of sleep apnea and it can also make snoring more severe.
Lying in the fetal position
The most popular sleeping position – around 41% of adults – the fetal position is what we are used to in utero and many of us continue to prefer this position into adulthood. The fetal position is where you lie on your side with your torso hunched and knees bent, is especially good for pregnant women. It improves circulation in the woman’s body and prevents the uterus from pressing on the liver.
The fetal position is also good for anyone who snores. But if you curl up too tightly in this position it can restrict breathing in your diaphragm. You may notice feeling sore in the morning particularly if you already have arthritis in your joints or back. One way to prevent this is to straighten out your body as much as you can instead of tucking your chin into your chest and pulling your knees up high. Another way to reduce strain on your hips is to place a pillow between your knees while in the fetal position.
One sleep positon that is not recommended
Lying on your stomach
If there is a sleeping position to avoid, lying on your stomach is it. Yet, up to 7% of adults choose this position night after night. Lying on your stomach is problematic as you have to turn your head to one side in order to breathe. Likely, stomach sleepers tend to choose to turn their head to the same side most of the time. This can result in ‘wear and tear” on the joints of the cervical spine. This is comparable to someone sitting at a computer monitor off to one side all day with their head turned to view it. Whether it’s eight hours at a computer or sleeping in bed, it’s bad ergonomics to have your head rotated to one side for long periods of time.
Stomach sleepers may also notice more problems with back and neck pain since it’s hard to keep the spine in a neutral position. Lying in this position also puts pressure on muscles and joints, possibly leading to numbness, tingling, aches, and irritated nerves.
If you must sleep on your stomach, place pillows under your torso and neck to at least lessen the amount of neck rotation that you need to breathe.
Dr. David Samadi is the Director of Men’s Health and Urologic Oncology at St. Francis Hospital in Long Island. He’s a renowned and highly successful board certified Urologic Oncologist Expert and Robotic Surgeon in New York City, regarded as one of the leading prostate surgeons in the U.S., with a vast expertise in prostate cancer treatment and Robotic-Assisted Laparoscopic Prostatectomy. Dr. Samadi is a medical contributor to NewsMax TV and is also the author of The Ultimate MANual, Dr. Samadi’s Guide to Men’s Health and Wellness, available online both on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Visit Dr. Samadi’s websites at robotic oncolo gy and prostate cancer 911.