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Best Sleeping Positions: How Should You Sleep?

21st January 2020

Slumber Centre

According to a study from the Sleep Council, nearly a half of us are getting 6 hours sleep or less a night, and the way we sleep could be to blame. There are a number of reasons why you might be struggling to sleep, but taking the time to consider the best sleeping position for you could help. While it’s not always a conscious choice, being aware of how we sleep can help us to understand what’s going on and make improvements.

So, how do we know what the best sleep positions are?

Everyone has different needs when it comes to sleep, whether it’s the best sleeping position for neck pain or getting comfortable when you’re pregnant, we all require something different.

Considering the pros and cons of each sleeping position can help you understand what you need.

Sleeping on your back

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Although one of the least popular sleeping positions, it’s considered by many to be the best for your health.

Sleeping on your back helps the mattress do its job of supporting your spine, making it the best sleeping position for back pain.

With this position, there’s no extra pressure on your head, neck, and spine, and as a result, you’re less likely to experience pain in these areas.

Another benefit of sleeping on your back is wrinkle prevention – we kid you not!

It’s all down to the constant flow of air against the face without obstruction from a pillow or duvet. So if it’s beauty sleep you’re after, this could be the position for you!

It’s also believed that sleeping on your back is the best position for digestion – see you later acid reflux!

Keeping the head elevated whilst sleeping on your back allows the stomach to sit below the oesophagus and prevents food or acid from coming back up.

Positives aside, for some sleeping on your back can cause other sleep problems that might not be worth the trouble.

Sleeping on your back can increase the chances of snoring and sleep apnea. Gravity causes the tongue to fall into the airway.

It’s this obstruction that causes us to make those infamous snoring noises while we sleep.

Sleeping in the fetal position

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This is arguably the most popular sleeping position, and for good reason.

If you’re most comfortable sleeping on your side, with your torso hunched and your knees bent, then you’re a fan of the fetal sleeping position.

But, what are the benefits of this position?

The fetal position has a number of benefits including reduced chances of snoring and acid reflux, not to mention benefits for preventing neck and back pain.

It’s considered the best sleeping position during pregnancy too, especially on the left side as this improves circulation in the body for both mother and baby.

Sleeping on your side comes with its flaws, too. Resting the whole body on one arm can restrict blood flow and cause the arm to go numb.

Sleeping on your stomach

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Many professionals regard this as the worst sleeping position, so it’s probably one to avoid.

One of the biggest difficulties of sleeping on your stomach is that it makes it difficult to maintain a neutral spinal position.

This sleeping position puts pressure on your joints and muscles, which as a result can irritate the nerves and result in back pain.

Imagine keeping your head turned to one side during the day for an hour – the chances are you’d feel uncomfortable with aches and pains.

It’s the same with sleeping on your stomach.

On the positive side of things, it is believed this position can be good for snoring; however, as an overall position for your health, it’s not ideal.

What other factors do you need to consider?

Once you have worked out your ideal sleeping position, be sure to look at your surroundings during sleep too, starting with your mattress and pillow.

Regardless of what sleep position you choose, it’s important to consider the alignment of your spine.

Large gaps between your body and the mattress can cause potentially painful body strains.

Finding the right mattress and pillow for you can give the support your body, neck, and head needs and alleviate unnecessary sleep problems.

How to choose the right pillow based on you sleep

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The pillow is not just for comfort. It’s an important device to cradle your head and neck with the aim of supporting the upper part of your spine.

Your sleeping position will help determine the right pillow for you.

Stomach sleepers

As mentioned above, sleeping on your stomach is not an ideal sleeping position and as a result, some experts believe you shouldn’t actually use a pillow if you adopt this position.

We appreciate this wouldn’t be a realistic option for many of us, but if you do sleep in this position, it’s recommended to use a thinner type of pillow.

Side sleepers

If you are a side sleeper it’s important to make sure the area between your ear and shoulder is perfectly supported, so it’s advised to go for a firmer pillow.

Some side sleepers also try putting a pillow between their knees for comfort and to support the alignment of the spine.

Back sleepers

Back sleepers should look to use thinner types of pillows.

This is to ensure your neck isn’t too far forward and the bottom third of the pillow should have enough plumpness to cradle your neck.

You can also try sleeping with another pillow behind your knees to help alleviate pressure on your lower back.

Choosing the right mattress

When choosing a mattress, it’s important that you go for something that suits your needs.

A common misconception is that a firm mattress is the best option for your back, but this isn’t necessarily the case as it’s all dependant on your own body type.

The key is to ensure your mattress perfectly supports your body and as a result, keeps your spine aligned.