If you’ve been paying attention to all of the news about the importance of getting enough sleep, or the negative impacts of sleep deprivation, and you’re focusing on all of the things that the articles say that you need to do, then you’ve probably established a set bedtime, started exercising during the day, cut out late caffeine and alcohol and even adjusted your room for light and sound. Good for you! Now all you have to do is throw yourself into your bed and you should be good to go, right?
Unfortunately, wrong. It turns out that even the way that we sleep once we’ve gotten ourselves in bed is important to not only our sleep quality but our overall health. Take a look at the list below and see whether you recognize yourself. If so, and if your sleep position isn’t one of the ones that experts say is optimal, you may want to take some time to train yourself to sleep in a healthier way.
- On your side with your arms at your side
Sleep experts say that this position is one of the top ones for your spine health, as it allows your back to be fully supported in the position that is most natural. It also will be of great benefit to people who snore or who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, as it is less likely to evoke closure of the airway. The problem with the position is that dermatologists and beauty experts say that when you sleep on your side, your skin hangs down as a result of gravity, and that can lead to premature wrinkles and droopy breasts for women. For myself, it also leaves me wondering about the arm on the bottom – doesn’t the circulation get cut off?
- In any position with a pillow for support
I was one of those kids who had to bring my pillow with me on every overnight. Whether we were traveling across the country or I was heading to a friend’s house for a sleepover, no pillow but the one I was most familiar with would do, and as it turns out I may have been on to something. Sleep scientists say that sleeping with a pillow can benefit sleepers in whatever position they prefer. For those who sleep on their back, putting a small pillow under the arch of the spine will provide much-needed support. Side sleepers can put a pillow between their needs to support the hip joints, and even stomach sleepers should put a pillow under their hips in order to prevent the back from arching improperly. Pillow support ends up providing a pain-free morning.
- On your right side? Your left side?
How’s this for getting into the nitty-gritty … not only does the position you lie in matter, but if you’re a side sleeper it even makes a difference whether you sleep on your right side or your left! If you sleep on your right side you are much more apt to suffer from heartburn. Alternatively, sleeping on your left side may minimize acid reflux, but it will put more strain on your internal organs. And if you’re a woman expecting a baby, it is advisable to sleep on your left side, as this opens up blood circulation to the placenta.
- On your side with arms out
Getting back to the issue of how uncomfortable it appears (to me) to sleep on your side with arms down, experts say that sleeping on your side with your arms out has the same benefits but can actually bring on shoulder and arm pain because of nerve impingement.
- On your back, arms at your side
Of all of the sleep positions, sleeping on your back with your arms at rest, aligned at your sides, is said to be the healthiest sleeping position of all — at least for your back and your neck, especially if you put a small pillow at the small of your back. That being said, it is also the position that is most likely to make a person snore, or to worsen sleep apnea for those who suffer from the condition.
- Fetal position
Fetal position is really a variation of sleeping on your side, though it is done with your knees drawn up into your chest and your head tilted down so that you look like a little ball. Many people think that this position is good for them, and that it stretches out the muscles in the back, but it actually can cause damage because the position is so extreme. Not only does it overstretch the muscles, but it can also actually restrict breathing. That being said, if this is the position that you feel most comfortable in and is most likely to allow you to fall soundly asleep, you should continue it, especially if you are a snorer or pregnant.
- Face down on your belly
A lot of people sleep on their stomach, and it is one of the things that pregnant women complain about missing, but the truth is that it can be very hard on your back. Though sleeping on your stomach may make you feel better if you’ve eaten too much food, as it aids digestion, it also forces you to turn your head either to the left or the right in order to breathe, and that can put tremendous strain on the muscles of your neck. Stomach sleepers are the ones most likely to wake up with pain radiating down from the head to their shoulders, not only because of the awkward turn but also because of the lack of support for their spine.
- On your back, arms up
This most vulnerable-looking of all positions goes by the name the ‘starfish,’ and it is notably bad for your back, though it is good for preventing wrinkles. It is also not advisable for those who snore or who have acid reflux, and the arms up position can put pressure on the nerves in your shoulders.