How your sleeping position impacts your health

Font Size:

We spend nearly a third of our lives in bed, yet many of us don’t think twice about our favourite sleeping position. Seven per cent of people prefer to sleep sprawled on their stomach, 54 per cent like to sleep curled on their side and 38 per cent enjoy sleeping on their back.  

Once we get into a routine, few of us pay our favourite sleep positions much thought. But naturopathic sleep doctor Catherine Darley N.D. says that the position you sleep in can not only impact the quality of your sleep, but also your overall health.

Your breathing
The position you sleep in at night can determine how easily you can breathe, and how much air you can get into your lungs. Dr Darley warns that sleeping on your back can worsen snoring or the effects of sleep apnoea because gravity works against your airways. If you have sleep apnoea or snore at night, it’s best to sleep on your side.

Your back
Getting a good night sleep can become more challenging as we get older, especially for people with bad backs. There are expensive ranges of specialised mattresses designed for people with back and spinal pain, but how you sleep may have more to do with easing or intensifying pain than what you sleep on.

“If you have spinal alignment issues or pain, you want to sleep in a position that has your spine as aligned as possible,” Darley told Mind Body Green (MBG). To avoid strain, it’s important to support the natural curves of your spine, which can be difficult when sleeping in the foetal position.

“Sleeping on your back can be good and healthy, but your pillow should be really flat … so you can’t have your chin to your chest,” she told MBG. “When you’re lying on your side make sure you maybe have a pillow between your knees to keep your lower back in alignment,” she told MBG. 

“Maybe they have a really big pillow so their neck is cranked up to the side, or it’s maybe they have too flat of a pillow and their neck is sagging down, causing misalignment, and over the years that’s not good for your cervical spine,” Dr Darley continued.

Best positions
Sleeping on your stomach is generally not recommended, especially for people with bad backs. Having your head resting on a pillow with your stomach flat on the mattress can put strain on your neck and spine as it overarches, and having your head turned to the side can reduce blood flow and limiting airways.

Sleeping on your back can be beneficial to spinal alignment, but can worsen acid reflux, obstructive sleep apnoea and snoring.

The best sleep position for your health is sleeping on your side. It allows your spine to remain elongated and can help to prevent neck, back and shoulder pain.

What is your favourite sleeping position? Do you struggle with back pain or do you snore in your sleep?

If you enjoy our content, don’t keep it to yourself. Share our free eNews with your friends and encourage them to sign up.

Disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.

Join YourLifeChoices today
and get this free eBook!

By joining YourLifeChoices you consent that you have read and agree to our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy


How sleep plays a vital role in mental resilience

More Australians are sleeping poorly - and no prizes for guessing why.

Flash poll sleep delivers a wake-up call

Only eight per cent of respondents say they wake up feeling fresh.

Common sleep issue linked to 99 per cent jump in heart attacks

Common sleep issue raises your risk of heart attack by 99 per cent and stroke by 37 per cent

Written by Liv Gardiner


Total Comments: 3
  1. 0

    I’ve never heard myself snore so I’m sure I don’t.



continue reading


Friday Funnies: Short jokes for the shortest month

February flies by too fast, just like these short but sharp jokes. What is the recipe for Honeymoon Salad?Lettuce alone...


Succulent Spice-Roasted Salmon

These little salmon bites are something I've made time and time again over the years and this method of roasting...


How to take great pictures of gardens

If you've never been too good at taking pictures of your beautiful blooms, now's the time to brush up on...

Aged Care

Paid on par with cleaners: the broader issue affecting aged care

Paid on par with cleaners: the broader issue affecting the quality of aged care Ben Farr-Wharton, Edith Cowan University; Matthew...


Researchers fear diet produces ‘untoward effects on the heart’

The keto diet, lauded for its purported fat-burning capabilities, could be bad for your heart, according to new research. The...


Vaccine overdose cases raise questions over doctor training

Australia's vaccine rollout suffered a major hiccup, with health minister Greg Hunt revealing on Wednesday that two elderly residents at...

Retirement Income

Why middle-income Australians are the big losers in retirement

Australia's middle-income earners are losing out when it comes to retirement income. That's the view of Mercer's senior partner, David...


Nine food and heart health myths busted

Should you cook with butter or olive oil? Is that drink of red wine protecting your heart? Pink Himalayan salt is healthy, right? There...