Which Sleeping Position Is Best For You?

By Sarah Vates
Peaceful man sleeping in bed at home in the bedroom

Considering the average American spends about a third of their life sleeping, sleeping is pretty important business. And there are so many different ways people try to get the best snooze possible, from sleeping on the floor to using technology for better sleep. We here at House Method began to wonder, is one sleeping position better than another and is there a best sleeping position for you?

We had a chance to talk to Dr. Eric Gish, DO, Associate Dean of Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine Integration & Associate Professor at Campbell University School of Osteopathic Medicine to get the scoop on sleeping positions.

Unless there is a medical condition that requires a particular sleeping posture, there does not seem to be a sleeping position that is optimal for all people,” Dr. Gish says. “For some people, sleeping of their stomach may produce lower back pain and neck pain. However, once you are asleep, you really don’t have control over your sleep position or how many times you will change sleep positions. This is why many patients report that they wake up in a different posture than when they fell asleep.”

When it comes to recommending the best sleeping position, Dr. Gish says that he takes a more pragmatic approach: “Find a position that will allow you to relax and fall asleep and don’t worry too much about what position that is. Chances are, you are not going to stay in that position for too long. During restful sleep, the average person will unknowingly change positions about every 15 to 30 minutes or so to prevent discomfort produced by muscle stiffness, joint aches, or pressure on the tissues due to inactivity.”

Sleeping positions breakdown

So if there’s not one perfect sleeping position, what about the pros and cons of each?  We developed these sleeping position profiles to help you determine what is the best sleeping position for you.

Side sleeping

Sleeping on your side is one of the most common sleeping positions, with 41% of people reporting sleeping on their sides. One of the major benefits associated with this sleep position is  increased circulation to the heart, resulting in reduced heartburn and acid reflux.

However, one  of the downsides to side sleeping is that this position can put pressure on the stomach and lungs. Side sleeping can also lead to the dreaded “dead arm” (that tingly feeling when your arm “falls asleep”) and even possible nerve and muscle damage. Snoozing on the side also puts a lot of weight and strain on the shoulder as it is supporting the main weight of your body.

Back sleeping

It’s estimated that only 8% of people sleep on their backs. This number is incredibly low considering all of the benefits that come with sleeping on your back, like good alignment and support for your back and neck. In a perfect world, we’d all be sleeping on our backs with no pillow (many medical professionals believe that this is an “ideal” position), as this position creates a great situation for spine alignment. But, this is not a perfect world, rather a more comfortable world, so we understand that this just isn’t realistic. 

Sleeping on your back is also the best position for reducing wrinkles. Sleeping with your face pressed against a pillow can lead the formation of wrinkles known as “wrinkles of influence”. So if you’re looking to avoid those fine lines and wrinkles, sleeping on your back is the way to go.

The downside? Sleeping on back can lead to a lower quality of sleep due to the increased likelihood of snoring and sleep apnea.

Stomach sleeping

Stomach sleepers fall into the rarest group of sleepers, with only 7% of sleepers reporting sleeping on their stomach. While this position is the least common,  many consider it one of the least beneficial  positions to snooze in because of the alignment problems stomach sleeping often creates. Sleeping on your stomach alters the natural curvature of the spine. Changing this curvature puts a great deal of pressure and stress on the lower back.

While this position is often criticized as being the “worst sleeping position” there are some benefits to sleeping on your stomach. Reduced sleep apnea symptoms, less snoring, and alleviated digestive discomforts are the benefits of stomach sleeping.

If you’re sleeping on your stomach, consider changing your mattress to support a better night’s sleep.

Fetal position

It’s so good even babies do it! The fetal position is a sleeping pose that will help you feel young again as you curl up to the side and dose away. When it comes to sleeping like a baby, the fetal position definitely has its benefits (to you and your partner), like decreasing your chances of snoring. Sleeping in the fetal position can be good for pregnant women because it can increase circulation to the mother  and the baby.

Like all sleeping positions, there are some downsides to the fetal position, such as possible restriction of breathing. This restriction can result in shallow breathing because of a tightening of your diaphragm. Sleeping in the fetal position should also be avoided if you have arthritis or joints issues, as this position can leave you feeling stiff.

The final verdict on the best sleeping position

Whether you’re sleeping on your back or snoozing on your tummy, there are pros and cons to each position. As long as you’re comfortable and not experiencing any discomforts or sleeping problems, the best sleeping position for you is the one that’s most comfortable to you.

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