Getting a good night’s sleep is one thing everyone craves! And it is vital, too, for your physical as well as psychological health.
The importance of a good night’s sleep has been supported by countless studies. Lack of sleep has been linked to many health problems, from obesity to heart disease, from dementia to diabetes and from hair loss to premature aging signs.
Still, many people do not get the required sleep. According to a 2014 report by the National Sleep Foundation, 45 percent of Americans reported suffering from a lack of sleep at least once in the past 7 days.
Many factors can affect your sleep, including the room environment, the mattress, your stress level, your diet and so on. But often, body position is overlooked, even though it is actually a key contributor to a good night’s sleep.
You will be amazed to know that sleeping posture has a major impact on your slumber plus your overall health.
Sleeping on your side, back or stomach– all the positions greatly influence your health and demeanor. They not only affect how you feel physically the next morning or throughout the day, but may also affect your brain health and contribute to brain disorders like dementia, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s.
Not only this, sleeping posture plays a key role in snoring, acid reflux, heartburn, sleep apnea and even wrinkles!
Here are the best and worst sleeping positions and their effects on your health.
1. On Your Back, Arms at Sides
Position: Lying down on your back with your arms resting at your sides. This position is also known as the ‘soldier pose’.
Pros – Sleeping on your back is usually considered the best position for your spinal health, as the back remains straight. It reduces pressure on the discs, thus preventing pain in the neck and back.
Also, sleeping on your back reduces acid reflux, helps maintain perky breasts and minimizes facial wrinkles.
Cons – Sleep apnea and snoring are common issues associated with back sleepers.
When you sleep on your back, gravity forces the base of the tongue to collapse into the airway. This obstructs breathing and causes snoring that can keep your partner up at night.
If sleeping on your back causes snoring and breathing problems, you can combine this position with a side sleep pose. The combination of the two positions will help you sleep soundly and wake up more refreshed.
Try to sleep on your back without a pillow to keep your neck in a neutral position. Make sure not to use too many pillows, as it can make breathing more difficult. It is best to use a large pillow under the back of your knees to support the natural curve in your lower back. You can also use a buckwheat pillow under your head to support your neck when you lie down.
2. On Your Back, Arms Up
Position: Lying down on your back with your arms resting beside your face and above your head. This is also called the ‘starfish’ position.
Pros – Back sleeping is considered the best position in terms of your spinal and neck health. This particular pose places less pressure on the discs, thus preventing spine and neck pain.
In addition, it helps reduce acid reflux because the head is elevated and the stomach is able to sit below the esophagus. This prevents the digested substances from coming back up into the esophagus.
This starfish sleeping posture also prevents facial wrinkles and skin breakouts.
Cons – On the downside, this position can result in snoring issues. Also, having your arms raised above your head can cause pain due to pressure on the nerves in the shoulders.
Avoid using a pillow while sleeping in this posture to allow your head, neck and spine to rest in a neutral position. This means there’s no extra pressure on those areas during your sleep.
3. On Your Side, Arms at Sides
Position: Sleeping on your side with both arms positioned downward in a straight line. This is also referred to as the ‘log’ posture.
Pros – This is an ideal sleeping position for the spine, as it receives complete support in its natural curve. The straight spine not only prevents back and neck pain but also reduces sleep apnea.
In addition, sleeping on your side also reduces snoring. This is the best sleeping position for pregnant women.
Cons – As the top leg does not get enough support in this sleeping position, chances are high that you may develop back or hip pain in the future. Also, side sleeping can lead to skin aging (facial wrinkles and sagging breasts) due to gravity. It can even cause neck pain.
As this position can cause neck pain, use a thick pillow to support your neck. For your pillow, always use a satin pillowcase to prevent facial wrinkles.
Also, place a pillow between your thighs to support your top leg.
4. On Your Side, Arms Out
Position: Sleeping on your side, with your legs slightly bent, arms outstretched and head slightly angled off center. This is also known as ‘the yearner’ position.
Pros – This sleeping position prevents back and neck pain. In addition, it helps reduce snoring and ease heartburn and acid reflux.
Not only this, this sleeping posture even allows the body to clear waste from the brain more efficiently and reduce the risk of developing brain disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Plus, people who sleep in this posture are less likely to wake up in the middle of the night. This is mainly due to the comfort your body gets during sleep.
Cons – Sleeping on your side restricts the proper flow of blood and puts pressure on the nerves, which may cause pain in the shoulders and arms. Nerve compression may place strain on internal organs like the stomach, liver and lungs, which can cause discomfort.
Side sleeping may also cause saggy breasts and premature skin aging, as placing one side of your face on the pillow results in facial wrinkles.
Sleep on a satin pillowcase to reduce the chance of facial wrinkles. To support your top leg, you can place a pillow between your knees. However, to reduce upper arm discomfort, it is recommended to switch to the log position, where you put your arms by your sides.