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A sleep scientist says this is the best sleeping position

Last updated: 03-14-2020

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A sleep scientist says this is the best sleeping position

How you sleep is just as personal as what kind of mattress and pillow you prefer. People fall into three categories: sleeping on your side, back or stomach (or a combination of positions). But if you find yourself tossing and turning at night, disturbing your partner by snoring, or waking up more than you prefer, it may be time to take a second look at how you are sleeping.

Some sleeping positions are better for helping ensure you have a good night's rest, especially if you suffer from complaints like snoring or other aches that can keep you up at night.

Dr. Ben Smarr is a sleep science adviser for Oura and an assistant professor of bioengineering and data science at UC San Diego. Through Smarr's research, he's seen that people who sleep in certain positions tend to report better sleep quality overall. Since personal preferences and health concerns are a big factor, it's important to consult your doctor on your specific situation.

Keep reading to find out more about the benefits of different sleeping positions and how they affect different sleep issues and health concerns.

Snoring can be a huge sleep complaint, especially if you sleep with a partner. Although not a medical concern on it its own, snoring is one sign that you may have sleep apnea -- a serious medical condition that causes you to stop breathing in your sleep. 

One of the best positions for snoring or sleep apnea is on your side. "While many people are most comfortable on their backs, side sleepers snore less, so that is usually recommended," Smarr says.

Whether you snore or not, side sleeping is the preferred position for most people according to The Sleep Better Council. Sleeping on your left side specifically is the best position if you suffer from acid reflux, heartburn or indigestion at night. If you do have back pain or hip pain while sleeping on your side, you can place a pillow between your legs or knees to relieve the pressure.

Sleeping on your stomach is better than sleeping on your back if you have sleep apnea since it still allows your airways to stay open, helping you breathe better. This is true for snoring too since keeping your airways as open as possible can help the issue.

The downside of sleeping on your stomach is that if you have neck pain or lower back pain, it could make it worse. This is because sleeping on your stomach can cause your neck to be positioned at an awkward angle. Also sleeping on your stomach takes your back out of a neutral position to one that's more arched, which can aggravate low back pain. If you sleep on your stomach and don't have issues, then don't worry about changing positions. 

Sleeping on your back is not a good idea if you have lower back pain or sleep apnea, according to The Better Sleep Council. And Smarr agrees, especially if you snore or have sleep apnea.

"When on your back, your airway can collapse more easily, as it has more flex front to back than side to side. Lifting your head up can help weight shift away from your neck and reduce the chance of nose or neck closing on themselves, but it's a compromise between verticality and breathing, which is a hard trade to come out on top of," Smarr explains.

That said, if you don't have sleep apnea, sleeping on your back has several benefits. Sleeping on your back is good for your spine since your weight is more centered and evenly distributed in this position. If you have acid reflux, sleeping on your back is helpfulsince you are facing up and less likely to experience indigestion. 

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.


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