Sleep comes naturally to us all. It’s a basic instinct, telling our brain and body that it’s time to turn off the Netflix and get some sleep. But what about the actual physical act of sleeping? Some of us sleep on our side, others on our back. It’s normal to pick the most comfortable position and simply fall asleep, but just because it comes so natural, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t re-think your sleep position.
Re-evaluating your sleeping position can play a huge role in determining not just the next day, but your long-term health. Chances are you already have a sleep position that works best, but what you may not know is that each sleep position has its own long-term benefits and harms. Check out which position you belong to, and whether you should change:
GOOD: For health purposes, most people agree that sleeping on your back is the best position. Here are some of the major long-term benefits:
– Preventing skin problems: Simply put, your face isn’t against your pillows, meaning less skin breakouts, and best of all, less wrinkles.
– Preventing Acid Reflux: Since your head is elevated, your stomach sits well below your esophagus, making it less likely for digested substances to come back up.
– Spine/neck health: By lying on your back, you’re not forced into any contortions. This means your back is straight and your mattress is supporting the spine. Of course, the best scenario would be to sleep perfectly straight, without even using a pillow to elevate your neck. This might be asking too much, but doctors agree, you’ll be glad you did.
BAD: People who snore or suffer from sleep apnea don’t always have the best night’s sleep. When lying on your back, the force of gravity causes your tongue to fall against the back wall of your throat, causing you to make that wonderfully annoying sound that keeps your housemates form falling asleep.
Also, elevating your arms while sleeping on your back can cause shoulder pain. For instance, resting your arms on your stomach can add pressure on the nerves of your shoulders. It might seem awkward and totally undoable at first, but it’s always best to sleep with your arms along your.
GOOD: There are practically a million different variations of the side position, and it’s precisely why a majority of people prefer sleeping on their sides. Whether you’re curled up in the fetal position or holding onto your pillow for dear life, most people will tell you it’s the easiest, most comfortable way to fall asleep.
– Pregnancy: Doctors strongly recommend sleeping on the left side during pregnancy to improve circulation to the heart. In fact, sleeping on your back during pregnancy causes heavy pressure on the lower body.
– Less snoring, avoiding sleep apnea: Doctors can sometimes encourage sleeping on the left side if snoring and sleep apnea become a major problem.
BAD: Sleeping on your side can cause unwanted pressure on organs such as your stomach, liver, kidneys and lungs. While alternating from left and right sides can prevent strain, you’re still putting pressure on some part of your body, which can lead to nerve damage, or random aching the next morning. Also, your neck and shoulder muscles will thank you in the morning if you try sleeping on your back.
No one would argue that stomach sleepers look like they’re getting the best sleep ever. When movies or TV shows want to show someone truly “passed out”, they’re always face-down in a deep sleep. Sometimes when you’re exhausted after a long day of work, there’s no other possible position, but all doctors agree that sleeping on your stomach has little to no benefits.
GOOD: While sleeping on your back can cause the most snoring, sleeping on your stomach gives you the best chance of easing the snores, as well as certain instances of sleep apnea.
Sleeping on your stomach means that the curve of your spine has no support. It can cause back pain, and since your head is turned to one side all night, this can cause unwanted straining and can eventually distort the alignment of your back and neck.