The main factor in a good night’s sleep isn’t how comfortable your bed is or how nice your Egyptian cotton sheets are, it’s the position that you’re most comfortable with. Even though there is no perfect sleeping position, you might be surprised at both the benefits and drawbacks for the way you fall asleep at night. There are three main general ways that most people sleep: on their backs, their side or their stomachs. The reason it’s so important to understand different sleeping positions is to know why you might be waking up with that bad back or having trouble sleeping soundly throughout the night. Studies have shown that lack of proper sleep can cause a whole myriad of health issues such as immune deficiency, obesity and even diabetes. By being aware of the advantages and disadvantages of each and every sleeping position (as well as the types of variations each type of position you can relax your muscles groups in), it may lead you to understanding what about your preferred position might be causing health issues for you.
Back Sleeping Positions
People who like to sleep on their back have probably done so all their lives, and with good reason. Sleeping on your back is an excellent way to promote proper spine and neck alignment while these muscles groups are at rest. It might even be the reason some prefer not to use too many pillows – as too many can cause neck strain and hinder proper breathing while you’re asleep. It even prevents too many wrinkles on your face as your face isn’t getting smooshed up against a pillow. But there are drawbacks to sleeping on your back. You’re more inclined to snore and suffer sleep apnea while on your back. The gravity pulling on the back of your tongue can block breathing pathways in your throat and lungs. And this often leads to those who sleep on their back to have more difficulty achieving REM sleep than those that sleep on their sides.
Soldier : This is when you sleep on your back and rest your arms at your hips and hands facing down close to your body. Those who snore or suffer some kind of sleep apnea are most likely to do so in the soldier position
Starfish : This is when you lie on your back with your arms and hands raised over your head. This does a little to alleviate the gravity pulling at the back of your neck, but not enough to make a significant difference.
Side Sleeping Positions
This the position the majority of sleepers prefer, and it’s easy to see why. Women who are pregnant have much better circulation to their hearts when sleeping on their sides. As for the rest of us, by not sleeping on your back it places much less pressure on your lower lumbar region. It’s also much better for your digestion when you sleep on your left side as you’re less prone to suffer acid reflux or indigestion in this position. If you often have heartburn keeping you up at night, it might be because you’re sleeping wrong.
However, there is a down side to this most popular of sleeping positions. All that body weight being forced on your left side can put too much pressure on your stomach and lung organs. And everyone hate when their arm or leg falls asleep, which can happen when you sleep on it and cut off circulation to these extremities. Additionally, if you don’t sleep with a pillow between your legs, you can pull your hip flexors or lower back muscles by tossing and turning at night. Finally, the pinching of nerves and pulling of neck and/or shoulder muscles is much more likely when on your side.
Fetus : This is the position most people prefer – where your curled up with your knees toward your chest and your elbows curled towards your chest. As long as you keep a pillow between your legs to align your knees and your hips to prevent pulling any back muscles, this position can lead to fewer (but not completely eliminate all risk off) pulled muscles and better sleep.
Log : This is when you sleep on your side and have your arms and legs fully extended at your sides. This leads to fewer instances of pulling muscles in your arms and legs, but it also puts for back and neck at a higher risk for the same.
Yearner : This is a slight variation of the log position, but only with your arms extended out in front of your chest. This might make it easier to breathe at night, but you have a greater risk of cutting off the circulation and pulling muscles in the arm and shoulder that your whole body is resting on.
Stomach Sleeping Positions
Finally, the benefits of sleeping on your stomach include reducing your risk of sleep apnea and snoring. Unfortunately, those appear to be the only benefits. Sleeping on your stomach disrupts the natural curve of your spine, which often causes lower back pain. This is the same risk your neck muscles are vulnerable to in this position. The hips and lower abdomen need more support to prevent these types of injuries as you sleep, and falling asleep on your face can often hinder this support. This is the sleeping position you may need the most amount of pillows strategically placed to train your body to relax it’s muscles while not letting gravity pull your body in awkward ways and hurt yourself.
Freefall : This is the only way most people sleep on their stomachs: lying face down with their arms stretched out over their heads. This is because resting your arms at your side while on your stomach often makes your palms fall inward and pull at your shoulders in a way that strains that muscle group. Even in the freefall position, people often rest their head or shoulders on a pillow to ease any strain on their neck muscles. In any position, using additional pillows to compensate for the disadvantages of sleeping on your back, side or stomach is a good idea for everyone looking to get a better night’s sleep.