Sleeping Positions 101 (Your Sleep Kama Sutra)

You spend roughly a third of your life doing it between the sheets. In fact, most of us have our go-to position. So which is it—on your side, your stomach or your back? 

We’re talking sleep. When is the last time you woke up feeling refreshed, leapt out of bed, and ripped open those curtains to greet the day? That’s what we thought…and you’re not alone.  

When it comes to a healthy lifestyle, most people focus on their waking hours. We know we should get about 8 hours of shut-eye, ideally in a comfortable and technology-free space. But did you know that how you sleep can be just as important as your hours logged? 

Obviously, since you are unconscious most of the night, it might be tricky to identify your primary snooze-style. But give it your best guess and let’s get into the pros and cons of each position. It’s time to shake things up in the bedroom!  

Back

Argued by many as the ‘ideal’ sleeping position, experts attest that less than 10% of people clock this position as their go-to. With a quality pillow and mattress, sleeping on your back provides spinal support and even weight distribution, overall. There is a small caveat for those with lower back pain, who may need to put a small pillow beneath their knees to enjoy the benefits of this pose. And for those of us who are (ahem) cosmetically inclined, an expensive eye cream can only do so much when swallowed in the folds of a pillow. Back sleepers allow their skin to breathe in the open air, potentially reaping the reward of fewer facial wrinkles over time.    

However, if you’re prone to snoring, back-sleeping may get you a rough midnight shove from your partner (or nearby neighbors, yikes). Gravity goes to work on your tongue when laying face-up, thereby obstructing your airways. Those with sleep apnea, a serious disorder that can stop airflow to the lungs, should avoid back-sleeping altogether and opt instead for their... 

Side

The oh-so-soothing fetal position is favored by three-quarters of the population for a slew of reasons. Sleeping on your left side can improve circulation to your heart, which is a boon for mothers-to-be. Although the reasons aren’t crystal clear, The Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology claims that the left side is also better for those who suffer chronic heartburn and reflux, preventing acid rise up the esophagus.  

Those without pre-existing conditions would do best to alternate sides during the night, abstaining from putting too much pressure on one set of organs over the other. If you suffer shoulder pain or wake up regularly with a limb pinned and numb (a sign that circulation is obstructed), you may want to reconsider your slumber style.

Stomach

This rogue position can be ultra-comforting in the moment and may help with snoring and apnea-related issues, but is a less than ideal long-term shape. The spine gets zero support if you go belly-down, which can exacerbate lower back pain. Unless you sleep on a massage table (alternative!), sleeping on your stomach means tweaking your head in one direction, thereby straining your neck for morning-after pain. If you can’t seem to shake this position, forgo the pillow under-head and place it beneath your pelvis. This will help air flow to your lungs and better support your spine.   

Get Your Snooze On 

Sleep habits are hard to break. So if you find yourself tempted to switch it up, enlist the help of an accessory or two. If it’s side-sleep you’re after, a contour pillow will do wonders to support your head and neck. The same goes for a softer pillow if you want to sleep on your back. A fortress of pillows on either side, or eye pillow on your face, can help remind you to stay supine through the night.

And remember, change doesn’t happen overnight, so be kind to yourself and listen to your body. If all else fails, maybe trade in your bed for that massage table idea? (We’re joking. Please don’t.)