As you fluff your pillow, grab your blanket and prepare to drift off to sleep, you may not realize your nightly sleep position may affect your health.
Whether you prefer stomach, back, side or the fetal position, the way you curl into your bed may affect everything from your breathing patterns, neck and back pain, as well as circulation.
Here are some of the pros and cons of four go-to nightly postures, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
- Back: Lying on your back and assuming a neutral body position typically results in the least amount of strain on your head, neck and spine. But studies show links between back sleepers and snoring, so if this is something you are prone to, try turning to your side. Also, sleeping on your back is not a good choice if you have sleep apnea, because your tongue can fall back, narrowing the airway.
- Side: Side-sleeping is the most common position for adults. If you snore or have sleep apnea, this may be the best choice for you. However, because your face pushes against the pillow, side-sleeping may cause wrinkles. It may also cause shoulder pain. Switching from side-to-side throughout the night may help prevent putting too much pressure on one side of the body.
- Fetal position: The fetal position helps improve circulation and is a good bet for people who tend to snore or are pregnant. However, be sure not to curl too tightly as you drift off because it may cause difficulty breathing or soreness in the morning if you have arthritis.
- Stomach: Sleeping on your stomach could be challenging because it may require the body to exert more energy on breathing compared with other positions. Some may experience neck pain or tingling in joints and muscles, due to poor circulation. To help avoid putting pressure on the spine, tuck a pillow under your pelvis to keep a neutral lumbar position.
While changing your default sleeping position is no easy task, you can help optimize your night’s rest by supporting your head and neck with pillows designed for your ideal position.
Regardless of your go-to sleep position, getting adequate rest is important to all aspects of your health, as hours of slumber enable our bodies and minds to recharge.
"Sleep plays an essential role in our physical health," said Dr. Ravi Johar, chief medical officer at UnitedHealthcare. "It also allows our body and mind to recharge so you can be refreshed and alert after you wake up. It is important to remember that insufficient sleep is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke and depression."