BistroMD Health Library

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Health Tips

From tips on how to lose weight effectively to ways to combat boredom eating, this collection of informative articles covers a wide range of health topics that matter to real people, like you.

The Best Sleep Position for Better Health: What Suits You Best?

Naturally, we all prefer to snooze a certain way when it comes to a sleeping position. After a grueling day at the office, combined with all of the daily stresses that can wreak havoc on our lives, there is nothing we love more sometimes than to curl up in our beds for a good night’s sleep.

“Sleep is an essential part of good health,” says Tessa Prior-Pullins, one of the lead dietitians for BistroMD. “A minimum of 6-8 hours is ideal, but most people don't realize that the position you sleep in during that time can have just as much of an impact on your health.”

With input from our expert, Tessa, we reveal some of the “perks” to sleeping in certain positions, and what it can actually mean for your health.

Listed below are the best sleep positions for better health—plus some positions you may want to try and avoid when snoozing during the night.

The Best Sleep PositionThe Best Sleep Position: Your Back

“Your back is probably the best position for your body to sleep in,” says Tessa. “Sleeping in this position can actually prevent neck and back pain, can minimize wrinkles, and can even help reduce acid reflux.”

The sleeping scoop for sleeping on your back is that this position helps your head, neck, and spine maintain a neutral position.

Unlike sleeping on your side or in the fetal position, your back isn’t forced to curve, which takes a lot of pressure off your spine.

If you suffer from acid reflux, your back may be the best sleep position due to the fact that your stomach will be below your esophagus.

“When you sleep on your back, your head is elevated, and your stomach will be below your esophagus," says Tessa. "This prevents food from coming back up."

If you are a woman and looking for a good way to prevent wrinkles, sleeping on your back may be a good investment.

“Sleeping on your back can help prevent wrinkles simply because there is nothing pushing against your face,” says Tessa.

To increase the perks of sleeping on your back, make sure you have the right pillow—the fluffier the better!

If you tend to rattle the walls with snoring during the night, sleeping on your back is not recommended—fluffy pillow, or not.

The Best Sleep PositionThe Next Best Sleep Position: Your Side

“As with sleeping on your back, sleeping on your side has a lot of perks too,” says Tessa. “For starters, it can help prevent neck and back pain, it can help reduce acid reflux, it can help reduce snoring, and it is one of the best, and most comfortable ways, to sleep during pregnancy.”

If you don’t prefer to sleep on your back, sleeping on your side can actually reward you with a number of health benefits.

If you are a noisy sleeper, and tend to disturb others with your snoring, sleeping on your side can help you quiet down.

“Sleeping on your side is great for your overall health,” says Tessa. “It helps reduce snoring, and will actually help keep your spine elongated.”

Even though sleeping on your side may be one of the best sleep positions, it has a downside.

“Sleeping on your side can actually cause you to get wrinkles,” says Tessa. “This is because your pillow is literally smushing your face while you sleep.”

If you are pregnant, though, sleeping on your side is probably best.

“If you’re pregnant, you should consider sleeping on your left side,” says Tessa. “It’s ideal for blood flow.”

As far as pillows go, a thick one is usually best if you choose to sleep in this position. This will help your neck and back maintain a neutral position.

The Best Sleep PositionA Bad Idea: Sleeping in the Fetal Position

Well, you’ve been out of your mother’s womb for a while, which means it’s time to stop sleeping in the fetal position as an adult—it's not a good idea.

“Sleeping in the fetal position is not a very good idea,” says Tessa. “It has some benefits, like reducing snoring, but overall, the effects it can have on your health are negative.”

Unless you snore a lot, or are expecting to give birth, the fetal position can actually seriously damage your neck and spine over time.

“When you sleep with your knees pulled high and your chin tucked under, there is a good possibility that you will feel some pain first thing in the morning,” says Tessa. “Sleeping in the fetal position is not good, especially if you have arthritis pain in your back and joints.”

If the fetal position is your absolute best chance of getting a good night’s sleep, consider straightening out just a bit—try to minimize the curling of your body as much as possible.

“If the fetal position is how you prefer to sleep, choose a really plump pillow to lay your head on,” says Tessa. “This will help support your neck and back.”

The Best Sleep PositionThe Worst Sleep Position: Your Stomach

“The absolute worst position for you to sleep in is definitely on your stomach,” says Tessa. “This sleep position makes it difficult for your spine to stay in a neutral position.”

Sleeping on your stomach also puts a lot of strain on your joints and muscles, which can irritate nerves and lead to pain, numbness, and tingling sensations.

“A good way to prevent yourself from sleeping on your stomach is to think about how uncomfortable it would be to turn your head to the side, and to leave it there for 15 minutes while you are awake,” says Tessa. “Now, consider sleeping on your stomach at night—your head is actually in that uncomfortable position for at least six hours.”

If you tend to snore a lot at night, then sleeping on your stomach may not be such a bad idea.

“Sleeping on your stomach can help keep your upper airways more open,” says Tessa. “If you don’t suffer from neck or back pain, sleeping on your stomach may be something to consider if you consistently snore every night.”

If you choose to sleep on your stomach, make sure your pillow is very thin, or that you don’t use one at all. A big, fluffy pillow, or a thick one can put even more strain on your neck and back.

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