The Pros and Cons of Different Sleeping Positions

A good night’s sleep is one of the best things you can do to improve your overall health, mood, and productivity. And while many factors can impact the quality of your sleep, the position you choose to spend your nights can really make a difference.
Sleeping position can play a role in digestion, pain, snoring, and skin health. Here are the pros and cons of each common sleeping position, plus tips on how to make your preferred position even better.

Back Sleeping

Especially Good For: People with Back Pain or Back Tightness
When on your back the spine is straight and depending on your mattress, usually neutral in alignment. This also means the back muscles can relax, meaning you’re less likely to wake up with back pain.
Here’s another proof back sleeping: Keeping your face off the pillow and free of pressure means it’s unlikely to cause skin dragging and potential wrinkles. Back sleeping can also be good for the acne-prone, as the face isn’t in constant contact with a bacteria harboring pillowcase.
Could Be Bad For: People Who Snore or Those with Sleep Apnea
Back sleeping can case the base of the tongue to collapse backward into the throat, filling that space. This means every breath causes the air around the top of the throat to vibrate, which can be cause for some loud snores – particularly not ideal for those who share a bed.
Back sleeping is closely linked to the breathing condition of sleep apnea, so much so that prescribing side sleeping is often the first port of call for addressing the condition.
Back Sleeping Tips: Placing a pillow under the knees while sleeping on your back may help keep the spine in a neutral, and thus more comfortable position for some sleepers.

Side Sleeping

Especially Good For Pregnant Women, People with Lower Back Pain, People Who Snore
Side sleeping is often the most comfortable position for pregnant women, and it’s a position that’s usually recommended for sleeping during pregnancy. Side sleepers should always choose a mattress that is designed specifically for them. You want your spine to be lined up especially if you are pregnant.
However, side sleeping has benefits for individuals who aren’t pregnant, especially individuals with lower back pain and snorers.
Side sleepers experience a lessening of pressure on the vena cavae. This could improve blood flow, and because of this, some doctors may recommend the position of people with high blood pressure. (Of course, it’s best to consult with your physician if you think a particular sleeping position may be impacting your health.)
And if that’s not enough, side sleepers are generally less likely to snore throughout the night and may be the most optimal position for easy breathing.
Could Be Bad For: Those Who Experience Arm or Leg Numbness, Individuals with Acid Reflux
When you sleep on your side, the arm which rests under your body during side sleep can experience what’s known as capillary collapse. This is a cutting off of circulation due to weight on the arm, and it can be very painful by morning (not to mention inconvenient to wake up to). Side sleepers may also experience a higher rate of heartburn, indigestion, and acid reflux, which can be particularly noticeable if you eat close to bedtime.
Side Sleeping Tips: The best thing side sleepers can do is have a thick and supportive pillow, which fills the space below their head to properly support the neck. A pillow between the knees can also be useful to help the spine. Side sleepers may prefer a softer mattress than those who sleep in other positions.

Stomach Sleeping

Especially Good For: People Who Snore
Though it’s the least common sleeping position, some people do find sleeping on their stomach to be more comfortable. Sleeping on the stomach allows the tongue to hang forward and not obstruct the breathing passageway. It’s much less likely to be a position which causes snoring than back sleeping and could be a compromise for back sleepers who have trouble getting comfortable on their side..
Could Be Bad For: People with Spine, Back or Orthopedic Issues, Women
Stomach sleeping disrupts the natural curvature of the spine, which can cause back pain and ongoing back problems. Turning your head to one side for extended periods of time can also twist the neck and cause painful twinges.  According to stomach sleeping is definitely a bad idea.
It’s also important to note that sleeping on the stomach puts added pressure on certain organs, as well as the breasts, forcing them into an unnatural position for extended periods of time. This can potentially contribute to premature sagging and even stretch marks.
Stomach Sleeping Tips: The best thing to do is use pillows to train your body into side or back sleeping, as stomach sleeping is probably not a great choice in the long term. But pillows can also be used to reinforce the neutral position of the spine to reduce pain – try one under the hips to elevate the lower spine.

Artur Kot

Artur Kot

I help men evolve into a person they want to become by giving them a personalized roadmap to success.

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  1. Chad

    Great article Artur! Love how you went into detail about different health benefits of each (Ie., side sleeping being ideal for high BP). Have you ever tried ditching the mattress and sleeping on the floor?

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