Quality sleep restores the body; how you feel when you’re awake is largely dependent upon how you sleep. From snoring to sleep positions many factors impact the quality of your sleep. Most people think they can only suffer from sleep deprivation by not sleeping at all, but sleep deficiencies (read: poor quality sleep) can negatively impact how you think, react, work, learn, and communicate in addition to increasing your risk for health conditions.
While we can’t always control what we do in our sleep, we can improve our quality of sleep without sleep remedies by controlling how we fall asleep. In fact, sleep posture can exacerbate sleep apnea and cause headaches, acid reflux, and stiffness and pain in the neck and back. Different sleep positions have their pros and cons and choosing the right one depends largely upon the symptoms you present.
Back aka The Soldier
Sleeping on your back, with your arms down and close to your body, is dubbed The Soldier position (though it’s very reminiscent of the yoga corpse pose). While only 8% of people sleep in this position, by sleeping on your back with your head slightly raised, you’re positioning your body optimally for your head, neck, spine, and internal organs – which is also supported by your mattress. This position reduces acid reflux since your head is slightly elevated above the stomach and, without fabric and bedding pressing on your face, it reduces wrinkles. However, if you have sleep apnea symptoms like snoring, consistently waking up with a sore throat, or feeling continually sleepy throughout the day, you may want to change positions, get tested for sleep apnea, and seek out sleep apnea treatment like a mouthguard or CPAP machine.
Side aka The Yearner/Log
The side-lying sleep position where your arms reach out in front of you (versus under your pillow or curled up around your face) is called The Yearner or Log position. It’s one of the most popular sleep positions with 28% of people sleeping this way. Considered the best sleep position for people who snore or have sleep apnea, this position elongates the spine, reduces acid reflux, increases blood flow (especially during pregnancy if sleeping on the left), and reduces stress on your back and knees when paired with a pillow between your knees. But despite its benefits, this sleep position can put pressure on your stomach and lungs (which can be prevented by switching sides), it can put pressure on the breasts, and it can increase wrinkles since your face is smushed into a pillow.
Stomach aka Freefall
The stomach or free fall sleep position is considered one of the worst because it’s difficult to maintain a neutral spine position because it flattens the natural curve of your spine. This position puts pressure on both your joints and muscles (especially your neck and back), and can irritate nerves and cause numbness and tingling. Placing pillows strategically to encourage moving to your side can help you retrain your body’s natural sleep position or you can place a pillow under your hips and tummy to slightly raise the bottom of your spine. Despite its problems, only about 7% of people use this sleep position and it does open up your airways.
Fetal aka The Baby
Unfortunately, this sleep position is both the worst and the most popular with 41% of people choosing it. The fetal position (curled on your side with your knees up and your arms up near your face) is great if you’re pregnant because it improves circulation but if you’re curled too tightly, this sleep position restricts your breathing, making it more difficult, and increases arthritic pain, causes premature wrinkles, and puts pressure on your face and breasts. You can reduce the negative impacts of this position, by straightening out as much as you can and using a pillow between your knees.
Not surprisingly, the position you sleep in can impact the length and quality of your sleep, and today, only a rare 7% of people sleep the recommended 8 hours per night. In fact, the average person only sleeps 5.5 to 7.75 hours a night, with 23% of people sleeping less than six hours.
Since a good night’s sleep is so important, ensure that your sleep position isn’t hindering your quality of sleep, and if you have sleep apnea symptoms take our quiz to find out if a sleep test may benefit you.