Your sleep position affects your health

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?

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

Written by Liv Gardiner


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