ShortList is supported by you, our amazing readers. When you click through the links on our site and make a purchase we may earn a commission. Learn more

This is how your sleeping position affects your health

On your side? Your back? Face down?

This is how your sleeping position affects your health
30 January 2018

It’s been estimated that we spend around a third of our lives in our beds on average - and while we’re catching up on rest, it’s important to get the best quality sleep possible.

According to Brightside and the National Sleep Foundation, it turns out that the way you sleep can have a big impact on your health. That’s right, your preferred sleep position can affect everything from back pain to acid reflux to breathing. So here’s what your sleep position says about you… 

1. On your back (soldier position)

This position is probably the healthiest option for most people because sleeping on your back lets your head, neck and spine rest in a neutral position. It’s also great for keeping acid reflux to a minimum.

One thing you should be aware of, however, is that sleeping on your back can cause the tongue to block your breathing, meaning it’s not a good position for those with sleep apnea. This position can also make snoring worse so avoid if (like me) you’re a very heavy night-time breather. 

2. On your side

This position can be good for combating back and neck pain because your spine is elongated. It’s also great for snorers because this position helps to keep the airways open. For that reason, it’s also the best option for people who suffer from sleep apnea.

3. Foetal position

The foetal position is particularly good if you’re pregnant because it can help to boost circulation – and it can be a good position for snorers.

But be aware that curling up too tightly can restrict your breathing and can even leave you feeling sore in the morning – especially if you have arthritis in your joints or back. 

4. On your stomach

Sleeping in this position can sometimes lead to back and neck pain because it’s hard to keep your spine in a neutral position. And it can also lead to excess pressure being put on muscles and joints.

However, in some cases it’s been found to reduce snoring. 

Now for some expert analysis on how to improve your sleep…

Sleep expert Dave Gibson told ShortList: “Over half the population claim to lie on their side to sleep, with most in the foetal position with the top knee bent. However, whilst we start on our side we end up moving around and often end up slightly face down as we roll in the night. 

“To prevent this place a pillow between your knees which helps keeps your pelvis in alignment with your lower back, and also helps prevent you rolling onto the stomach. Ideally the pillow should bring your knee up to parallel level with your hip, but should at least be the width of your fist. Also make sure you use a medium/firm main pillow which keeps your neck in alignment with the rest of your spine.”

(Images: iStock / Dominik Schroder)