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4 min read January 10, 2022
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Does the Best Sleeping Position Exist?

Contents show Types of Sleeping Positions Side sleeping Stomach Sleeping Back sleeping What is the best sleeping position? Best Sleeping Position for...

What do you think the best sleeping position is? Think about how you fall asleep at night. Do you prefer resting on your side? Your back? Your stomach? Do you think your sleeping position is the best sleeping position? Researchers have been fascinated by the differences in sleep positions and what these differences may say about one’s personality. However, the findings are scattered, and it’s challenging to figure out what information comes from valid research and what is made up to intrigue people. We’ve scoured the research to find information on how sleep positions impact health and what it may say about your personality.

Types of Sleeping Positions 

Side sleeping

There are a variety of ways one can sleep on their side. Approximately 47% of Americans sleep on their side in the fetal position, and just 6% sleep in a stretched-out side position. Side sleeping is the most popular sleeping position, and it provides a plethora of benefits, including:

  • Alleviation of lower back pain
  • Improvement in spinal alignment
  • Reduction in snoring 
  • Improvement in digestion

However, there are some consequences of sleeping on one side compared to the other. Agargun et al. (2004) found that left-side sleepers reported more nightmares than those who slept on their right side. Conversely, when administered the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, participants who slept on their right side reported poorer sleep quality than those who slept on their right side. Additionally, people who suffer from acid reflux have said that they experience worsening symptoms when sleeping on their right side due to the stomach being over the esophagus. These data show that there are pros and cons to sleeping on either side!

There are various ways someone can sleep on their slide, and research has found interesting traits for different forms of side-sleeping. For example, the fetal position, or the position of lying on your side with your knees bent towards your chest, is the most common sleeping position. Nearly 47% of Americans report sleeping in this position, which is more common in women than men. Sources say that there is a general trend of introversion among people sleeping in the fetal position.

Another common side-sleeping position is the “Yearner,” a side-sleeping position where both arms are stretched out in front of you. Researchers have found this sleeping position common in the Baby Boomer population, linked to slow decision-making and open-mindedness.

The best sleeping position infographic shows three common sleep positions.

Stomach Sleeping

People who sleep on their stomachs make up about 17% of all sleeping positions, making stomach sleeping the second most popular position. Interestingly, despite being the second most popular, approximately one-quarter of Americans rated stomach sleeping as the most uncomfortable position. Despite its popularity, stomach sleeping is linked with several health concerns. Dr. Dhingra (2020) noted that stomach sleeping could cause harmful effects on the cardiovascular, ocular, respiratory, and nervous systems. Specifically, she stated the stomach sleeping position could cause compression on the thorax (i.e., throat), increasing the risk for stroke and potentially compressing the airway.

Moreover, researchers speculate that stomach sleeping causes increased intraocular pressure (i.e., the fluid pressure inside the eyes), resulting in the progression of glaucoma. Stomach sleeping is most commonly associated with back and neck pain due to poor spinal support, and those who sleep on their stomachs are at a much higher risk for unexpected death due to the increased pressure on important parts! 

Despite these worrying health concerns, many people still prefer to sleep on their stomachs, so what can be done to mitigate some of these potential consequences? Stomach sleepers should place a thin pillow under their pelvis to help keep their spine in a more neutral position during the night, potentially cutting down on back and neck pain. A t-shaped pillow can support the head without constricting the thorax. Finally, if you are sore in the morning, some simple stretching may alleviate the discomfort. 

One of the most common stomach sleeping positions is the “Freefall,” which is when you lie on your stomach and keep your hands up by your pillow with your head turned to the side. This sleeping position is more common in Gen X and Millenials. Some sources claim that those who sleep in this position are likely to be more bold and outspoken.

Back sleeping 

While back sleeping has many benefits, only about 8% of the population prefers this position. Back sleeping allows the body to rest in a neutral position, improving spinal alignment and reducing aches and pains. Additionally, back sleeping can improve oxygen levels due to the lungs being unobstructed, which results in better respiratory processes overall. Finally, back sleeping can optimize digestion by putting the intestines in the best position to work throughout the night. 

Back sleeping seems like an excellent option, but there are some downsides to the position. While back sleeping improves oxygen levels, it can also change the upper airway shape as the mouth tends to fall open. As a result of the mouth opening, the jaw can compress the upper airway, which can cause snoring. In worst-case scenarios, the tongue can cause a blockage leading to sleep apnea.

The most popular back sleeping position is called the “Soldier,” and both arms are to the side in this position. Despite this being the most popular sleeping position, only 11% of Americans prefer this position; still, 62% of people start in this position before switching to something else during the night. Sources state people who like the solider position are often quiet and reserved.

The least popular back sleeping position is called the “Starfish.” In this position, the legs are spread out and the arms are raised above the head and spread out. Experts state that this position is not the best sleeping position for those struggling with sleep apnea. However, this position does reportedly help with acid reflux. Some sources claim people who sleep in this position are described as supportive and loyal.

What is the best sleeping position?

With all of this information about sleeping positions, you may be wondering what the best sleep position is. Sleeping in a way that promotes healthy spine alignment is ideal. However, sleep experts agree that the best sleep position is one that is most comfortable. Someone who has neck or back pain will want to sleep in a position that won’t aggravate the pain, and that may mean back or side sleeping. 

Best Sleeping Position for Weighted Blanket

Weighted blankets are popular sleep supplemental tools to help reduce stress and improve sleep quality. Additionally, weighted blankets have the mechanism of action to reduce pain, so they are a popular tool to enhance sleep. Is there an ideal sleeping position for weighted blankets? Similarly to the question above, the best sleeping position when using weighted blankets is one that is comfortable. Some sources state that sleeping on your back can optimize results because it covers the entire body with even pressure. Still, if back sleeping is uncomfortable and not something you are used to, it may be counterproductive.

Veronica

Veronica is a mental health professional who is pursuing a doctorate in Clinical Psychology. She has earned her master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and now provides therapy to children and youth in the community agency setting. She has been a part of several studies withiфn the field of psychology, including cognitive psychology, sports psychology, and health psychology. Her current research interests revolve around utilizing mindfulness meditation techniques and how they can impact the health of individuals in various socio-economic settings. She also has research interests revolving around developing and implementing interventions to aid in recovery from substance abuse within the primary care setting.

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