Our bodies are working even at night while we're sleeping.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on March 25, 2022. It has since been updated.
The moment your head hits the pillow, your body and mind have the chance to rest up and recharge so that you can tackle the next day. But did you know that the position in which you sleep, whether voluntary or involuntary, can have an effect on your health?
According to Healthline, your sleep position can affect your sleep quality. “The most popular sleep positions are on our side, stomach or back, and whilst all have benefits, some positions offer more benefits than others,” says Dr. Verena Senn, a sleep expert at Emma Mattresses, as quoted by Woman And Home.
However, “It’s important to remember we are all mixed sleepers and tossing and turning all night isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Moving around whilst sleeping helps to relieve pressure from the body, allowing for maximum regeneration," she adds.
So here's how your favorite position can affect your health:
According to the National Sleep Foundation, only about 7.3% of people enjoy sleeping on their stomach. However, this is not a good position to sleep in. As per Cleveland Health Clinic, sleeping like so and keeping your head turned in one direction for a long period of time can cause pain. “Imagine standing and looking one way for two or three hours at a time. Stretching your neck muscle for that long creates soreness,” says Dr. Andrew Bang, a chiropractor. It can also extend your neck backward which in turn can compress your spine. This can lead to nerve issues and with your neck turned in one direction, you could end up limiting blood circulation and reducing the size of your airway, as stated by Sleep Health Solutions.
Cleveland Clinic explains that sleeping in a supine position like this is actually good for your spine as gravity keeps your body weight distributed evenly. With the right neck support, you'll be able to maintain the regular banana-like curve. “This can help some — though not all — back sleepers with sleep apnea,” says Dr. Bang. Additionally, keeping your feet raised above your heart while in this position could help relieve peripheral edema (swelling of the feet and ankles) and reduce the risk of congestive heart failure, as stated by Very Well Health. However, for those suffering from respiratory problems, this position could make the condition worse with some finding themselves snoring even louder.
Sleeping on your side while curling your legs into your body mimics how you used to be in the womb. According to a BBC News article, Professor Chris Idzikowski, director of the Sleep Assessment and Advisory Service, found that 41% of people sleep in this position and it is mostly women who adopt this pose. As for how it affects your health, this position is great for relaxing your throat and nose area which can also aid in reducing the frequency of sleep apnea breathing irregularities. However, sleeping like this for too long can also cause back and neck pain, as per Sleep Health Solutions, while also restricting breathing. Dr. Guy Meadows, from Sleep School app says, “While it comes with many of the same benefits as sleeping on your side, it takes your spine out of neutral alignment, increasing the chance of pain-related sleep disturbance."
This is one of the most popular sleep positions with around 54.1% of Americans sleeping on their side and it's a good thing too, as per National Sleep Foundation. This position is the best for your body as it ensures that your spine remains elongated yet neutral, thus preventing you from suffering unnecessary neck, back, and shoulder pain. It can also help reduce snoring, aid in digestion, and could even reduce heartburn, especially if you sleep on your left side, according to Healthline. However, those suffering from cardiac conditions automatically switch to their right side as it eases the pressure on their diaphragm. It's best to keep switching sides when sleeping in this position to get the best sleep quality. In some cases though, when sleeping on your side, you could find yourself struggling with stiffness in your shoulder as well as jaw tightness on the side you sleep. To prevent this, a good pillow is a requirement.
It is important to note that you should choose whatever position feels comfortable to you. If you feel uncomfortable or are still unable to get good sleep, reach out to a medical professional who can guide you to better sleep.
Cover image source: Getty Images | Photo by viyadaistockDisclaimer : This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.