What Sleeping Positions Mean for Your Health

As you drift off to sleep, how does your nightly position affect your health? Whether you prefer stomach, back, side or curled into a fetal position, the way you snuggle into the pillow may affect your breathing patterns, neck and back pain, and circulation. A less-serious effect, but one most people would like to avoid, is an increase in facial wrinkles.

Here are some of the pros and cons of four go-to nightly postures, according to the National Sleep Foundation.

  1. 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 flipping 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.
  2. Side: Side-sleeping, which is the most common position for adults, helps to open our airways to allow for steady airflow to the lungs. 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. 
  3. Fetal Position: The fetal position helps improve circulation and is a good bet for people who tend to snore or are pregnant. Be sure not to curl too tightly as you drift off, however, as it may cause difficulty breathing or soreness in the morning if you have arthritis.
  4. Stomach: Sleeping on your stomach may make breathing regularly a challenge because airway passages could be compromised. Others 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 the process by supporting your head and legs 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.