Sleep is something we all need to rest our minds and bodies, but finding the most comfortable sleeping position can be difficult. Check out the healthiest sleeping positions.
Sleep is important for us, both mentally and physically to help us rest and regenerate. But did you know that the way you sleep can affect your health? Humans spend a lot of time sleeping, and all that time lying down can hurt your back and spine if you sleep in a bad position.
We’ll discuss the different sleeping positions, which are healthiest, and which ones should be avoided to reduce back pain or stiffness in the shoulders or neck. We’ll also look at what pregnant women can do to get some well-needed sleep.
The Healthiest Sleeping Position: On Your Side
Sleeping on your side with your knees bent a little is the healthiest sleeping position as it helps to keep your spine aligned and reduce back pain, therefore giving you a better night’s sleep. Side sleeping can also help to reduce acid reflux or GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), as well as assist in reducing snoring. It is better to sleep on your left side as it can assist the circulation of the blood to the heart. Use a good pillow and firm mattress to reduce strain on your neck — sleeping on your right can put pressure on your internal organs.
This is the best position for those with lower back pain. Sleeping on your side with a thick pillow between your knees can significantly help to reduce lower back pain when sleeping. Also, ensure that you have a thick pillow for your head, to keep the neck and spine in a straight position.
Some people suffer from sciatica. The sciatic nerve stretches from your spinal cord down to your hips and both legs. Sciatica is when people experience pain in this nerve, most commonly in the lower back. Certain sleeping positions can increase the pain associated with sciatica, therefore it is important to choose the best one for you. Most sufferers report that sleeping on their side is the least painful position. Sleeping with the most painful side up is the best option, with a pillow between slightly bent knees.
Conversely, there are some negative effects of sleeping on your side, such as shoulder pain — so those with this problem should sleep on their back (which we’ll discuss next). Positioning yourself with a pillow between your legs or one on both sides of your body can make side sleeping more comfortable. Some experts believe that side sleeping can increase the appearance of wrinkles on your face, due to the pressure on the pillow. If this is a concern for you, choose back sleeping instead.
The Second Healthiest Sleeping Position: On Your Back
Sleeping on your back is the next healthiest option as it helps to keep your spine straight and helps to avoid backache and neck pain. If you use extra pillows for your head, sleeping on your back can also assist in reducing congestion in your nose. Make sure you invest in a new, firm mattress to improve your overall sleep health. Back sleeping also helps to distribute your weight evenly and avoid pressure points on the side of your body.
This is the best sleeping position to avoid neck pain. You can do this by using a supportive pillow or even using a rolled-up towel under your pillow to help elevate your head. Alternatively, you could raise the top end of your mattress by placing some blocks of thick books under it. Don’t put your arms above your head as this can make them go numb and increase shoulder pain.
On the other hand, back sleeping can be bad for some conditions. A classic example is sleep apnea, which is when your breathing is irregular during sleep — sufferers usually have poor-quality sleep. If your mattress is too soft, back pain can occur in the lower back due to a hollow being created between the mattress and your lower back — this can be resolved by buying a new, firm mattress, or putting a small pillow under your lower back. This position should also be avoided by those suffering from acid reflux as it increases the frequency of reflux episodes.
The Worst Sleeping Position: On Your Stomach
Stomach sleeping puts pressure on your neck and back, as your spine is not in a straight line, but it is a good position for snorers as it opens up the airway. Research carried out in 2007 found that when stomach sleepers changed their sleeping position to one of the others, 74% of participants reported improvements in their back pain. This position can also cause aches in your groin when you wake up, as most people tend to have one leg bent all night, causing it to overstretch.
If you find that stomach sleeping is the only way that you can get comfortable, you may want to use a small, flat pillow, to avoid misaligning the spine.
Best Sleeping Positions for Pregnancy
Sleeping on your side is recommended for all stages of pregnancy. Bend the knees and put a pillow between your legs for comfort. Sleeping this way reduces the pressure from an expanding belly and helps the heart to easily pump blood around the body. Pregnant women also benefit from reduced pressure on the liver and improving blood flow to the uterus and other organs when sleeping on their left side.
You may want to switch to your right side occasionally to reduce hip pain and then switch back again to the left. Use pillows under the belly during the final trimester to support it and at the small of your back if suffering from pregnancy-related back pain.
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