The truth behind your sleeping position

Hyber Nation might very well have you covered — quite literally — with a quality weighted blanket aiding you to sleep and scientifically proven to reduce stress. However, is the way you’re sleeping playing a part in how rested, and therefore how healthy, you are? 

We all have a favourite sleep position. The one we happily settle into, without even thinking about it at the end of a long and perhaps tiresome day. It is such a routine habit that many of us don’t consider the health effects of sleeping one way or another. Why should we, after all, sleep position is a matter of preference, right? Appears not. A good few sleep researchers and doctors say that our sleeping position truly matters and shouldn’t be disregarded.

Firstly, what might affect it though?

Like many other aspects of life, men and women have different preferences and different needs when it comes to sleeping. And Studies suggest that women are twice as likely to prefer sleeping in a foetal position as men are and men much prefer to sleep on their backs (supine) as opposed to women. As far as physiology is concerned there is no medical information to suggest women and men should or should not sleep in any particular posture.

You spend roughly one-third of your life asleep — if average life expectancies are anything to go off that equates to over 27 years.

Sleep postures can have a great effect on how well we sleep and therefore our health. For healthy individuals, “it’s just a matter of preference,” says Alcibiades Rodriguez, medical director of the Sleep Centre at NYU Langone Health and assistant professor of neurology at NYU School of Medicine. But for a person with pain or certain medical conditions, the right position can become vital, Rodriguez says, especially as we age.

It’s well documented, as we age, we’re inclined to gravitate towards a side sleeping position. Studies show that in particular, a preference for right-side sleeping emerges during older adulthood. There are indications that this preference for right-side sleeping in older adulthood may be an unconscious way of protecting heart function during sleep.

Positions explored

If you like to sleep on your stomach, you are not alone, but you are certainly in the minority. About 8% of adults sleep on their stomach, otherwise known as the prone position. It may help decrease the sound of snoring and feel like your idea of extreme comfort but as a rule stomach sleeping does not recommended.

Sleeping on your stomach puts unnecessary strain on the back and neck as your head is raised on a pillow it makes it impossible to keep the spine in a neutral position. By turning the head also to one side whilst on your stomach can severely limit blood circulation and reduce the size of your airway.

If this is the position for you, and no other will do, you can try to modify it. Do so by keeping your neck straight and prop just your forehead on the bottom edge of the pillow. By doing this the spine will be in a more neutral position whilst allowing space for you to breathe.

The supine position is the second most common sleeping position. Sleeping with your back flat on the bed clearly means the spine stays in a more natural position. This prevents some of the nasty neck, shoulder and back pain experienced with other postures.

This position does have a drawback by way of snoring and obstructive sleep apnea. This is because as the tongue and soft tissues in the throat relax, gravity does its thing and pulls them down into the airway. Sound familiar ladies?

If you enjoy sleeping on your back but find that it can lead to lower back pain, again try modifying it. Use a small pillow to support the neck and a medium-sized pillow for propping up the knees. Elevating the legs slightly is a sure-fire way to reduce discomfort and strain on your lower back.

The majority of people find sleeping on their side to be the most comfortable, and for good reason. This lateral posture is favoured by physicians and sleep specialists the world over. And with the right mattress, the spine can remain nicely elongated and relatively neutral while on your side. Helping keep all of those niggly prevent neck, back, and shoulder pains at bay. There is very little if at all anything to say negatively about sleeping on your side — just so long as you get to wake up looking at something nice!