What is the Best Sleeping Position?

Written on June 14, 2011 by Dr. Tom Whittington in Blog

Updated: October 27, 2016

image of best sleeping position
Not a good position for sleep!

What is the best sleeping position, is probably one of the most frequently asked questions I get in the office. Sleeping position, whether side, tummy or back can influence pain, how you sleep or a myriad of health issues as well as can cause or prevent premature aging.

The #1 Best Way to Sleep: On Your Back

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Getting comfortable for a good night’s sleep.

According to Sleep.org, sleeping on your back is the healthiest position to sleep. Sleeping on your back can prevent neck and back pain, reduces acid reflux and can minimize wrinkles. It is the worst though, for causing snoring.  Also troublesome if  you have sleep apnea. Sleeping on your back can cause apnea and snoring to worsen. (Sleep apnea can be dangerous and you should consult a professional if you suspect sleep apnea) Although back sleeping is the most healthy generally, it is actually the least favorite position to sleep. Most people prefer side or fetal position sleeping. If you use a pillow when you sleep on your back, make sure it is not pushing your head forward on your shoulders or your chin down towards your chest. This will cause neck and back problems. It can cause or worsen Thoracic Outlet Syndrome or headaches. Sleeping without a pillow at all is best when sleeping on your back. But, this is not comfortable for most. A nice thin pillow that gently lifts the head, but not too far is the next best way to approach back sleeping with a pillow. Fancy neck pillows? Optional but not necessary.

Next Best Sleeping Position: On Your Side 

image of best sleeping position
This is almost the best position for sleeping. On your side.

Sleeping on your side prevents neck and back pain and reduces acid reflux, it can also cut back on  snoring or apnea, mentioned above. It’s truly the best position for sleeping during pregnancy. (more on that later) Sometimes people with heart problems have difficulty sleeping on the left side.  Most side sleepers use a “fetal position” when sleeping. In fact, this is probably the most used sleeping position. If you must use the fetal position when side sleeping, be sure to only bend your lower body. Do not bend your neck and shoulders forward. Bending the head and shoulders forward into a “chin down position” when side sleeping can lead to Cervical disc problems and headaches. This position, with the head curled forward is second worst only to tummy sleeping.

When you sleep on your side, your neck and shoulders should be in mostly a straight line with your shoulders. Curling into a fetal position while on your side can cause undue stress on your neck and shoulders. Downside of side sleeping? It can cause facial wrinkles!


The Worst: Avoid Sleeping on Your Stomach

The position puts pressure on your joints and muscles, which can irritate nerves and lead to pain, numbness, and tingling. Usually stomach sleepers must turn their head one side or the other which puts a great deal of stress on the neck joints and the spinal cord. Sleeping face down also arches the low back in an unhealthy fashion which often leads to chronic backache.

There you have it. The most common and most healthy sleeping positions and the least. Feel free to contact our office if you have any questons.

For more information on health and wellness, tips on better sleep and how to wake up more refreshed, contact our office at 828-298-0011

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