Nighttime, the blinds are drawn, the lights are off, you’re in your favourite PJs and ready for some well earned shut eye. You try to drift off into sleep, but you can’t seem to find that perfect position. You start to get restless. Sound familiar?
The position you sleep in can affect your health. While there are many factors that go into getting a good sleep—silence, darkness, quality of mattress and bedding—today, we’re going to focus on your sleep position. A proper rest is needed for good health, and therefore you might as well optimize your sleep to make it the best you can.
There are basically three positions you might find yourself sleeping in: on your back, side, or stomach.
Let’s start with the back. It’s said that sleeping on the back is the best position for your body, but there are a few things that affect this position, like the quality of your mattress and the height of pillows you use. If you have a high quality mattress that provides support for your spine, hips and head, you are on the right track. Ideally you will also have a relatively flat pillow so that your neck and spine can stay in a neutral position. The benefits of sleeping on your back will be undone if you sleep with too many pillows and your neck is strained.
One of the downfalls of sleeping on your back, however, is that it can increase the likelihood of sleep apnea and/or snoring. Since gravity is working against your air passageways, you might find that you are snoring or being startled awake due to breathing abnormalities. If you find this is the case, try sleeping on your side. It’s also recommended that pregnant women don’t sleep on their back as it causes too much strain on the body.
Next up: side sleeping. The majority of people claim to be “side sleepers”. Side sleeping can be both bad and good for the internal organs, either putting pressure on them or relieving them of pressure. For example, sleeping on the left side puts pressure on the stomach and lungs but can ease acid reflux. Ideally, side sleepers would switch from side to side throughout the night, but we don’t always have that kind of control.
Pregnant women are encouraged to sleep on their sides, and it’s most likely that they will regardless since sleeping on their stomachs is next to impossible and sleeping on their backs is uncomfortable.
Finally we have stomach sleepers. While is stomach sleeping can be good for snoring and sleep apnea, that’s about all it’s good for. It’s not great for the spine and neck, since the head will be twisted to one side all night, causing strain. This position also straightens out the natural curve in the spine, leading to lower back pain. And, because the face is squished into a pillow all night, it can be bad for the skin and lead to premature wrinkles.
If you are a stomach sleeper, you can try training yourself. Start on your back or your side and use pillows to prevent yourself from flipping over onto your stomach in the middle of the night.
There you have it. For the most restful sleep, sleeping on your side or your back, depending on your breathing, is the way to go. But there are other things you can control to help you make the most of your sleep time. Make sure that your bed is your sleep sanctuary, avoid bringing screens along with you, and keep it dark and quiet. Just remember, investing in sleep is an investment in your overall health.