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The Best and Worst Sleep Positions for Your Health

Should you snooze on your side, back or stomach?

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By Olivia DeLong

It depends on your body, but the way you sleep at night can have a huge impact on your health. For example, sleeping on your back keeps your head, neck and spine in a comfortable, neutral position, while sleeping on your side can decrease acid reflux. And sleeping on your belly? Well, it’s just not a good idea for your joints.

On the hunt for the best sleep position, we took a look at the options, and the pros and cons of each. Here’s what we found.

Fetal position

2 / 6 Fetal position

The most popular way to sleep is the fetal position. In fact, a whopping 41 percent of adults slumber this way. We have to wonder if it’s because that’s how we slept as infants!

The fetal position is especially beneficial to pregnant women. Sleeping on your left side can encourage good blood flow throughout your body and to the growing fetus. It can also keep your uterus from putting pressure on the major blood vessel that returns blood back to your heart. The fetal position is helpful for snorers, too, since it allows your airways to stay open so you breathe better.  

Be careful, though: curling into a ball too tightly could cause backaches and joint soreness.

How to do it: Instead of curling into a tight ball, try to keep your body a little bit straighter, and your neck and knees less bent. You can also put a pillow in between your knees if you notice any discomfort in your hips.

Side

3 / 6 Side

You’ve probably slept on your side at one time or another—15 percent of adults prefer to sleep this way. The good news is, it’s a great position for those with acid reflux and those who snore. Sleeping on one side of your body elongates your spine and helps keep your airways clear.

How to do it: While sleeping on one side, keep your torso and legs straight as you drift off. Every so often, switch sides to prevent one side of your face from getting more wrinkles. 

Stomach

4 / 6 Stomach

You may find sleeping on your stomach will make your partner happy because you won’t snore as much, but other than that, there aren’t a lot of benefits to this position. It may put unnecessary pressure on your muscles and joints. It forces your neck to extend backwards, constricting your spine which can cause numbness, tingling and aches, and can aggravate your nerves in those areas.

Back

5 / 6 Back

Did you know that only 8 percent of people sleep on their backs? Funny thing is, according to the National Sleep Foundation, it’s the best sleep position for most everyone. When you lie on your back, your head, neck and spine are able to rest in a neutral spot, minimizing the amount of pressure on those areas and reducing pain. And if you have acid reflux, it can help reduce the symptoms.

However, if you have sleep apnea, a disorder where you experience pauses in breathing for at least 10 seconds, resting on your back may make breathing problems worse. And if you snore or have back pain, resting on your back may give you some trouble.

How to do it: Your head and neck should be well-supported by your pillow. If you have back pain and find sleeping flat on your back isn’t comfortable, try putting a pillow under your knees to align your spine and relieve pressure.

So, what’s the best sleeping position for you?

6 / 6 So, what’s the best sleeping position for you?

The truth is, for most people, the side sleeping position is the healthiest. But varying your form isn’t the worst thing in the world—in fact, it may prevent you from developing problems due to prolonged pressure, like blood flow issues, sores and pain. For example, when you snooze on your right side, your right shoulder may begin to hurt after awhile, and if you doze on your back, you may notice backaches over time.

Worried about how you're going to move positions as you sleep? Good news: your body likely shifts positioning on its own through the night.

Bottom line? It’s best to find a sleep position that keeps your spine, neck and shoulders in proper alignment. If you have pain each morning, you may want to reevaluate your sleep posture.