Sleep Posture 101: Best, Decent and Worse Sleeping Positions

Let’s agree, there’s nothing quite like that moment you plop down onto the bed at the end of a long, tough day. For just a moment, all is right in the world. You wriggle into your favorite position, pull the covers up, lay your head down and gently sink into your favorite pillow. Pure bliss.

And then it happens. You’ve barely closed your eyes- you haven’t even started counting sheep- and the urge hits to change your posture in bed. It’s almost involuntary; the restlessness in your legs prompts you to turn over, then to your side, and then back again. The nightly gymnastics are as predictable as they are frustrating. Pounding the pillow, you toss-and-turn, wondering what is the best posture that will make you sleep better.

On Your Stomach

Sleep experts agree this position is the least likely to help you get to sleep. After all, you can’t count sheep while you’re lying on your stomach, right? As if that’s not reason enough, this posture does a poor job of supporting the curvature of your spine by placing pressure on joints and muscles. It also puts your neck in a compromised position, affecting your breathing and circulation. In spite of this, there are noted benefits for chronic snorers, as this posture helps open the nasal airway.

If you are inclined to sleep on your stomach, place a medium-firm pillow under your hips or beneath your stomach to add cushion and realign your lower back. You can also use a thin pillow under your chest, below the neck. Rest your head on your crossed forearms to cradle your head and eliminate awkward neck rotations.

Pillows to use: A soft, thin pillow or no pillow at all when sleeping on your stomach.

On Your Side

While this is the most common sleep position, it isn’t the best. According to a recent sleep study conducted by Professor Chris Idzikowski, Director of the Sleep Assessment and Advisory Service, 41% of people sleep on their side. Of all the recognized variations, sleeping in the fetal position is perhaps the most problematic but not entirely without benefits. In certain situations it can contribute to a sound night’s sleep for people who suffer from apnea and snoring. As well, it elongates the spine which can ease certain back pain.

Surprisingly side-sleepers are prone to unwanted and premature skin aging, since laying your face on the pillow can cause wrinkles. There’s even evidence it contributes to saggy breasts. Who knew?

There are a couple tricks for side sleepers to get the best night’s sleep possible. Bend your knees between 45-90 degrees and place a medium-soft leg pillow between your legs. This helps prevent hip and sacral discomfort. Reduce direct pressure on the shoulder joint by tucking the shoulder that is in contact with the bed slightly forward in front of your body. 

Pillows to use: A soft, medium-thick pillow works best if you’re a side sleeper. The medium thickness allows you to rest and support your head sideways. 

On Your Back

Sleeping on your back produces the least amount of pressure on your head, neck, spine and back, as it distributes your body weight evenly across the spine. It combats acid reflux because the stomach is positioned below the esophagus. As such, it’s widely accepted as the very best sleep posture. Place a pillow beneath your knees to elevate them ever-so-slightly. This simple adjustment complements the natural curve of your spine and reduces additional stress to your low back.

Pillows to use: A soft, thin, but well-cushioned pillow works best in this position. The thin pillow prevents your neck from being bent at an awkward angle while sleeping, while the cushion provides support for the back of our neck. Contour pillows work very well too.

Do Some Sleeping Experiments

We love a good night’s sleep, here at HipFit. We took an office poll and found- not surprisingly- that we run the gamut when it comes to our sleep postures. One thing we agreed on, is there’s no reason we can’t experiment with different positions. There’s nothing to lose and everything to gain. As well, we agreed to take inventory of our pillows. It may be time to invest in a new or different type of pillow, and perhaps a supportive mattress. We encourage you to do the same.

Consult with your Doctor for any recommendations especially if you have sleep apnea or other preexisting health issues. At the end of the night, do what feels right for you.

Team Hipfit

We're the team that brings you micro-workouts, stretches and physical therapy inspired exercises for everyday life situations. Improve your Posture. Prevent Repetitive Strain Injury. Live Pain-Free. Have fun doing so!

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