The Best Sleep Positions and Their Health Benefits

Your favorite sleep position may feel comfy when you first lie down, but if you wake up with new aches or feeling fatigued, consider switching up how you slumber. Sleeping the wrong way can lead to a number of health issues, from neck and back pain to sleep apnea. The best sleep positions support natural spinal alignment, from your hips to your head. Which position is right for you depends on your health situation and needs. Read on to learn about the top sleep positions and how you may benefit from them.

Sleeping on Your Side

In addition to promoting healthy spinal alignment, sleeping on your side can help reduce heartburn and snoring. This sleep position is also the least likely to result in back pain, and strategic pillow placement can add additional support for an optimal night’s rest. Pregnant women and older adults may especially benefit from side sleeping, but people with shoulder pain should try to avoid it.

Fetal Position

The fetal position — a side sleep position with bent knees — is the most popular way to sleep. It’s not only comfortable, but also considered “healthy,” as it allows your spine to maintain its natural alignment. Research on animals also suggests that the brain more effectively clears waste that can lead to neurological diseases, like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s, when side sleeping (compared to back or stomach sleeping).

Sleeping on Your Back

Sleeping on your back provides a handful of health benefits as well. This sleep position allows you to keep your spine in alignment and evenly distribute your body weight, helping to prevent neck and back pain. If you keep your head propped up with pillows, back sleeping can also help relieve nasal congestion. Back sleeping is not recommended for pregnant women, older adults and people with certain conditions like sleep apnea and acid reflux. 

Sleeping on Your Stomach

This sleep position is last on the list for a reason. While sleeping on your stomach can help with snoring or sleep apnea, the cons usually outweigh the benefit. Stomach sleeping provides the least back support and puts pressure on the spine, which can be painful. That said, if you must sleep on your stomach, choose a soft, thin pillow and try facing the mattress instead of turning your head to one side. You want to keep your airway open as you sleep.

As you consider which sleep position is best for you, remember to balance your health needs and comfort. We recommend you read through the Sleep Foundation and WebMD articles to understand all of the benefits, drawbacks and adjustments you can make to improve your sleep position. 

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