What is the best sleeping position? Find out how your sleeping position affects your health and how to sleep better in a healthy sleep position.
What position do you find most comfortable for sleeping?
Front, back, right side, left side? Curled up, straight as a log, one leg over the other, splayed out across the entire bed? One pillow? Two, three, none? Pillow between legs, under knees, under feet, under stomach? Head and chest elevated, or legs above head?
A year ago, I suffered a life-altering concussion. Though I’ve mostly recovered, erratic sleep patterns remain one long-term consequence. I got to wondering if my sleeping position might have something to do with my sleep/wake patterns.
What Health Conditions Can Sleep Position Affect?
Turns out, there’s a robust body of clinical research (and professional advice) on the topic of sleeping position. How you arrange yourself during sleep may increase or reduce your risks of these conditions:
- Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases
- Sleep apnea
- Death from epilepsy
- Acid reflux
- Nighttime tooth-grinding
- Debilitating back or neck pain
- Sudden death for infants
If you’re at risk for (or already have) one of the conditions listed above, do a little of your own research, or ask your doctor for more information on the possible effects of sleep position. If you suffer from more than one condition correlated with sleep position, be forewarned; a better position for one of them may prove to be worse for the other.
What Is The Best Sleep Position?
While sleep experts say there’s no single best sleep position for everyone, most agree that sleeping on your stomach is the worst position of all.
Sleeping on the stomach strains the neck and spine, which in turn may lead to joint and muscle pain, or numbness and tingling. (There’s one notable exception: sleeping prone may be the best position for people with sleep apnea.)
How to Change Your Sleep Position
Experts have two things to say about changing your sleep position:
- It’s difficult to change the way you sleep. One recommendation for avoiding either the prone or supine sleep position, involves strapping or taping an object to your back (tennis ball) or front (dried pea) to provide enough of an irritant to prevent sleeping that way. There are also various devices on the market and bed/mattress manipulations intended to “train” sleeping posture.
- Most of us don’t stay put while we sleep anyway, changing position on average about a dozen times each night.
I didn’t find any research suggesting a correlation between sleep position and concussion. But after years of sleeping on my back (first necessitated by a broken collarbone, later by knee-replacement surgery), I seem to have returned to mostly left-side sleeping.
And yes, I seem to have many more nightmares than usual, especially in the early morning hours. Since looking into the medical literature on sleeping position, my own sleep continues to improve slowly, so I think I’ll stay put.
What have you learned about your sleep position? Please do share below. We’re always learning.