How can sleep position affect health?

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
The one-third of your life that should be spent sound asleep can cause serious harm to your back and your overall health. Whether you're a side sleeper, stomach sleeper, or back sleeper, here's a breakdown of how to get in a prime position for better sleep.

Side Sleepers
This is the best position for a healthy night's sleep. It helps protect the alignment of your back's three major curves: the lower back, middle back, and lower neck. Improper side sleeping can result in the overconstriction of shoulder and neck muscles. To avoid pelvic rotation and lower spine contortion, place a fluffy pillow between your knees. A second fluffy pillow can also be used to fill the space between your ear and the outer edge of your shoulder to equally support both sides of the neck.

Back Sleepers
Never use a fluffy pillow if this your favored sleeping position -- it pushes the head forward in an uncomfortable reversal of your neck's natural curve, resulting in neck pain, headaches, and decreased breathing capacity. Use a thin pillow under your head and a lumbar pillow to maintain the natural curve of your spine. Money-saving tip: create your own lumbar pillow by rolling up a bath towel.

Stomach Sleepers
This is the worst sleep position for your spine. Turning your head to one side distorts the alignment of the spine and neck, leading to chronic lower back pain, neck pain, and headaches. In addition, your body weight compresses the lungs, impeding their ability to breathe fully and deeply. The best solution for stomach sleeping? Change to side or back sleeping if you can. If you can't, use a very thin, flat pillow to minimize the above side effects.
This content originally appeared on
Carol Ash, DO
Pulmonary Disease

The way you sleep can impact the way you look and feel. In this video, internist and sleep medicine expert Dr. Carol Ash reveals the best sleep position for your health.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.