What is the Best Side to Sleep On?
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Sleep is a key part of your overall wellness. How well you sleep, how much you sleep, and even the way you sleep can all affect your health.
While choosing the best side to sleep on is largely a matter of preference, your choice can impact your well-being in several ways (like easing aches or supporting digestion). Here’s what you need to know about finding the right sleep position for you.
Why Does Your Sleep Position Matter?
From how much you snore to how well you digest, your sleep position can influence many aspects of your health.
For example, sleeping on your side can make your shoulders tight and sore if you don’t switch sides throughout the night or if your mattress isn’t soft enough to provide good support. And although many factors can contribute to morning stiffness and discomfort—like stress or an old mattress—sleeping on the wrong side of your body can exacerbate the problem.
Even the side you choose to snooze on can have an impact. Staying planted on your right side can make it more likely for stomach acid to reach your esophagus, especially for those with acid reflux.
There are downsides to other snoozing styles, too. Sleeping on your stomach forces your spine into an unnatural position that can lead to back and neck pain. And sleeping on your back isn’t recommended for pregnant women as it can impair blood flow to your uterus.
So, there isn’t one best overall sleeping position. The best side for you to sleep on really depends on your individual needs and preferences.
Sleeping On Your Right vs. Left Side
Sleeping On Your Left Side
If you’ve heard before that sleeping on your left is healthier than sleeping on your right side, it’s likely because of one or more of the reasons listed below.
It helps with digestion. Sleeping on your left side may encourage the digestive process because it allows gravity to more easily move waste out of the small intestine and into the large intestine. This can help ease the discomfort of bloating and stomach pain.
It can mitigate the effects of acid reflux. In order to reduce the amount of stomach acid that comes in contact with the esophagus doctors recommend sleeping on your left side.
Sleeping on your left side can help prevent snoring. While sleeping on either side can help open your air passages, thereby making it easier to breathe and making you less likely to snore, doctors believe that it’s more effective to sleep on your left side.
It’s recommended if you’re pregnant. Because your heart more efficiently pumps blood when you’re on your left side, doctors suggest pregnant people rest in this position. For more information, check out our article on sleep during pregnancy.
Sleeping On Your Right Side
At a glance, sleeping on your left side is much more beneficial than sleeping on your right. However, that doesn’t mean sleeping on your right side is bad for you. In fact, it may have a benefit of its own.
Sleeping on your right side may help people with heart conditions. It’s been suggested that this position can help lower blood pressure and heart rate because there is less pressure placed on your heart. That said, if you are dealing with a heart condition we always recommend speaking with your doctor about the best course of action.
Best Sleep Position for Pain Management
When you’re asleep, your muscles should be able to relax. And yet so many people are working their traps even when they’re supposed to be at rest. That’s because the way you sleep can put undue pressure on different areas of your body. That tension can lead to pain.
If you’re dealing with back or neck pain, try sleeping on your side. Avoid folding into a fetal position to help keep your spine in a neutral position. You can also place a pillow between your legs to take some pressure off of your lower back and hips.
Sleeping on your side isn’t ideal if you wake up with shoulder pain. Instead, try laying on your back and placing a pillow under your knees to help align your spine. If you’re still feeling discomfort, it might be time to replace your mattress with one that can provide better support.
Best Sleep Position for Snoring and Sleep Apnea
If you snore, you know how disruptive it can be to a good night’s rest. (And your bed partner does, too.) Snoring occurs when your airway is obstructed, causing the tissues in your throat to vibrate and create that annoyingly loud grumble and snort sound.
There are a few things you can do to lessen the impact of your snoring, including sleeping on your side. This position helps keep your airway open so you can breathe more easily. Side sleeping can also help if you have sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is a disorder in which your breathing is repeatedly interrupted throughout the night. Snoozing on your side can help ease symptoms for those with mild cases, but more severe cases may require further treatment. Talk to your doctor if you suspect you have sleep apnea as it can lead to serious health issues.
Best Sleep Position for Acid Reflux and Digestion
Heartburn, indigestion, and acid reflux are all unpleasant things to wake up to in the middle of the night. Studies show that sleeping on your left side with your head and neck elevated can help keep your stomach acid where it belongs. This position keeps the stomach below the esophagus, so gravity can do its thing and prevent food and stomach acids from coming back up.
Sleeping on your right side, however, does the opposite. So, if you’re struggling with indigestion, it’s best to switch to your left side, ideally with your head elevated, and see if that makes a difference.
Best Sleep Position for Pregnancy
If you’re expecting, avoid sleeping on your back as this position can reduce blood flow to the uterus. It may also cause backaches, low blood pressure, and even hemorrhoids. Stomach sleeping is also a no-go for expectant mothers as it can put extra pressure on the abdomen.
Instead, side sleeping is a great choice for pregnant women as it improves circulation and allows the baby to get the nutrients it needs. Try keeping your knees and legs bent, placing a pillow between your legs for added comfort, if needed. You can also prop your upper body with pillows if heartburn is an issue during your last trimester.
Best Sleep Position for Preventing Wrinkles
Looking to sleep your way to smoother skin? Sleeping on your back is the way to go. This position prevents your face from being pressed into the pillow, which can cause creases and lines. It won’t do much for existing wrinkles, but it might help prevent new ones from forming.
The bottom line is that there’s no one “right” way to sleep. It all comes down to what works best for you and your body. If you’re dealing with pain, experiment with different positions until you find the one that gives you the most relief. You can also reach out to your doctor for personalized recommendations.
Best Sleeping Positions During Pregnancy. (2022). https://americanpregnancy.org/healthy-pregnancy/pregnancy-health-wellness/sleeping-positions-while-pregnant/
Best Sleeping Positions for Back, Neck and Shoulder Pain. (2021). https://health.clevelandclinic.org/best-sleeping-positions-for-pain/
Choosing the Best Sleep Position. (2022). https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/choosing-the-best-sleep-position
How Sleep Affects Your Health. (2022). https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/sleep-deprivation/health-effects
O’Brien LM, et al. (2014). Typical sleep positions in pregnant women. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24661447/
Person E, et al. (2015). A Novel Sleep Positioning Device Reduces Gastroesophageal Reflux: A Randomized Controlled Trial. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26053170/
Snoring. (2021). https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/15580-snoring
Wake Up Stiff and Sore Every Morning? Try These Adjustments to Make Sleep Swell Again. (2019). https://health.clevelandclinic.org/wake-up-stiff-and-sore-every-morning-try-these-adjustments-to-make-sleep-swell-again/
What Is Sleep Apnea? (2022). https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/sleep-apnea
Zenian, J. (2010). Sleep position and shoulder pain. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20036076/
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