Some days, we wake up feeling limber and well rested, and other days we wake up with aches and pains. These differences can be attributed to our sleeping positions. While it’s difficult to control our sleeping habits once we’re asleep, it’s possible to prime yourself for a good night’s sleep by starting out in the right position. Similarly, bad positions can have a negative effect on your health and the quality of your sleep.
Here are the 5 most common sleeping positions, ranked from best to worst by award-winning Colorado chiropractor Dr. Aaron Casselman.
1. On your side
Many specialists consider sleeping on your side to be the best option. It doesn’t strain any parts of your body, and is comfortable for people who experience pain in their joints throughout the day. The most common variation of this sleeping style is to sleep with the legs bent slightly, bringing the knees in towards the chest. Curling slightly like this is especially comfortable for people who have a bad back, because bringing the knees up and in can help stretch the muscles in your back. As long as the position isn’t overdone (see item number 4!), this slight stretch can ease an aching back without contributing or adding to any pre-existing back problems.
2. On your back with your arms at your sides
This position alleviates tension in the spine and neck (as long as you don’t overdo it with the pillows). Make sure, when you’re on your back, that your head is supported but not tilted too much. Too much of an angle can cause neck pain, which defeats the purpose of this sleeping position! The downside to this position is that it is often accompanied by snoring. This sleeping position is also not recommended for people with sleep apnea. Sleeping on your back also has beauty benefits. For instance, sleeping on your back keeps your face away from your pillow, which can have dirt and oils from your skin on it, which can contribute to acne. Also, sleeping with your face away from the sheets can help keep wrinkles at bay.
3. On your back with your arms raised
Also known as the “starfish position,” this has the same benefits as sleeping on your back with your arms at your sides. However, it can lead to snoring, and having your arms raised above your head for a considerable length of time can lead to shoulder pain in the morning. If you often sleep like this, you might attribute aches in your shoulders and upper back to the way you’re sleeping.
4. Curled up
Some people prefer sleeping on their sides, but instead of slightly bending their legs, they bring them all the way to their chests. This fetal position can feel comfortable at first, but it can cause neck pain and restrict breathing throughout the night. This can also be too much of a stretch in your back, which could lead to back pain in the morning. If you do like to stretch your back out, consider doing some stretches before bed. This might help you stay away from this sleeping position.
5. On your stomach
This is widely considered to be the worst position to sleep in. It strains the neck and can cause serious pain in the morning. Sleeping on your stomach can also restrict breathing because the mouth and nose are both partially covered by the pillow. This position can also strain the vertebrae at the base of the neck after just a few minutes — imagine what hours of sleeping in that position can do!
BY MAGGIE HEATH