Sleep: What Are the Best Sleeping Positions?

What’s the Best Sleep Position?

How do you sleep?

Do you sleep on your back, side, or tummy? If you are pregnant, sore, or have certain medical conditions, you may have to sleep in certain positions to be comfortable. Sleeping the wrong way can cause or aggravate neck or back pain. How you sleep may reveal aspects of your personality. Read on to learn the best sleep position for you.

Do You Sleep on Your Stomach?

Stomach sleeping may cause problems.

Approximately 7% of people sleep on their stomach. It may help ease snoring, but sleeping in this position may aggravate other medical conditions. Your neck and spine are not in a neutral position when you sleep on your stomach. This may cause neck and back pain. Stomach sleeping can put pressure on nerves and cause numbness, tingling, and nerve pain. It's best to choose another sleep position if you are stomach sleeper. If you can't break the habit, prop your forehead up on a pillow so your head and spine remain in a neutral position and you have room to breathe.

The Freefall Position

People who sleep in the freefall position may be sociable and outgoing.

About 7% of people sleep on their stomachs with their heads turned to the side. People who sleep this way have their arms wrapped around a pillow or tucked under a pillow. One sleep researcher discovered people who sleep this way may be more likely to be outspoken, outgoing, and sociable. They may also be more likely to not take criticism well.

Do You Sleep on Your Back?

Sleeping on your back has positives and negatives.

Some people who sleep on their backs may experience low back pain from this sleep position. It can also make existing back pain worse. So this is not the best sleep position for lower back pain. If you suffer from snoring or sleep apnea, sleeping on your back may aggravate these conditions. There are upsides to sleeping on your back. Your head, neck, and spine are in a neutral position so you're less likely to experience neck pain. Sleeping on your back with your head slightly elevated is also the best sleep position for heartburn.

The Soldier Position

Back sleeping is not the best position for snoring.

In this position, the sleepers lie on their backs and their arms are down and close to the body. Approximately 8% of people sleep like this. Research has shown that people who sleep in this position may have quiet and reserved personalities. They may also have high standards both for themselves and others. This is not one of the best sleep positions for snoring and may prevent you from getting a restful night's sleep. Talk to your doctor if snoring keeps you from getting enough rest.

The Starfish Position

Do you sleep in the starfish position?

People who sleep in a starfish position sleep on their backs with their arms up over their head. Approximately 5% of people sleep this way. Research shows people who sleep in this position do not like being the center of attention. They are also likely to be good listeners and helpful. As all those who sleep on their backs, people who sleep in the starfish position may be prone to snoring and sleep problems.

Do you sleep on your side?

Many people sleep on their sides.

The most popular sleep position by far is side sleeping. Approximately 41% of people sleep this way, curled up on their sides with their knees bent. This is also called the fetal position. More women than men sleep in this position. This position is good for pregnant women because it facilitates circulation to both mom and the fetus. The position may be good for those who snore. If you have arthritis, sleeping in this position may make you sore. Curling up may also prevent you from breathing deeply because your diaphragm is restricted.

The Fetal Position

The fetal position is the most common sleep position.

Side sleepers who sleep with their legs bent and curled toward their torsos are sleeping in the so called fetal position. Women are twice as likely to sleep in the fetal position as men. Researchers have found that people who sleep in the fetal position have warm and friendly personalities. They may be more likely to be sensitive on the inside and have a tough, protective exterior. If sleeping this way hurts your hips, placing a pillow between your knees may help relieve the pressure.

The Log Position

The log position is a less common sleep position

People who sleep in the log position sleep on their sides with their arms down next to their bodies. This sleep position may be good for you if you snore. If you have arthritis, you may wake up in pain. Approximately 15% of people sleep like a log. Researchers have found that people who sleep this way easygoing and social. They are more likely to be trusting, perhaps even gullible.

The Yearner Position

The yearner position involves reaching out in front of the body.

People who sleep in the yearner position sleep on their sides with their arms outstretched in front of the body. The position may be good for you if you snore, but bad if you suffer from arthritis. Approximately 13% of people sleep in this position. In a study, a researcher found that people who sleep in the yearner position are stubborn. They are open-minded, but also suspicious and cynical. They tend to stick to a decision once they've made up their minds.

The Spooning Position

Spooning is a popular couples sleep position.

Spooning is a side sleeping position for couples where the person in the back holds the one in the front close to their body. Couples may wake up more frequently sleeping this way, but cuddling stimulates the release of oxytocin. This is a hormone that promotes bonding, decreases stress, and may help you get to sleep more quickly. Cuddling for as little as 10 minutes is enough to trigger the release of oxytocin.

Do You Snore?

Snoring disrupts sleep.

If you snore, it's best to sleep on your side to minimize the risk of snoring. Sleeping on your back may aggravate snoring. If you want to sleep on your back and you snore, stack a few pillows underneath your head to reduce the risk of snoring. If snoring wakes you up or if you wake up gasping or feel tired during the day, it's time to see your doctor. Severe or loud snoring may be a sign of sleep apnea, a condition that causes you to stop and start breathing while you sleep. Sleep apnea is associated with high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.

Does Your Back Hurt?

Side sleeping is best for those with back pain.

If you have back pain, sleeping on your stomach or back may aggravate your pain. Switch to side sleeping to minimize your risk of back pain. For further relief, put a pillow between your knees to keep your hips in alignment. If you must sleep on your back, placing a pillow under your knees will take some strain off of your back.

Are You Pregnant?

Sleeping on your side is best during pregnancy.

If you are pregnant, sleeping on your stomach or back will be uncomfortable or impossible. You will be most comfortable sleeping on your side. Favor your left side to maximize circulation for both you and your baby. Placing a body pillow or pillow under your belly can help relieve back pain. Place another pillow between your legs and bend your knees to be even more comfortable.

Is Your Mattress Comfortable?

Your mattress should be supportive and comfortable.

Mattresses are made of a variety of materials. Some are softer or more firm. The type of material that a mattress is made out of affect your body temperature. When it comes to the firmness of a mattress, you want one that is firm enough to be supportive where you need it, but also soft enough to conform to the shape of your body. People who suffer from back pain may be most comfortable on a mattress that is softer and more cushioning. When shopping for a mattress, buy one from a store that will let you test it for several weeks and exchange it if it doesn't work for you.



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  • The Better Sleep Council: “Starfish or Freefall? What Your Sleep Position Can Tell You.”
  • National Sleep Foundation: “The Best Sleep Position for Your Body,” “Buying the Right Mattress for You,” "How Cuddlign Affects Your Sleep."
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