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The position we sleep in has a lot to do with our overall health and well-being. Whether you sleep on your back, or your stomach, or your side, each has its pros and cons. Discover how sleeping positions and health are related.
Snooze time may be your favourite time of the day or night, but are you sleeping right? That can be answered with how you feel when you wake up in the morning; fresh, happy, and ready to take on the world – OR – moody, cranky, and feeling like you’ve aged overnight with aches and pains in places you didn’t expect! The time that’s supposed to rejuvenate you may be adversely affecting your health because of one seemingly insignificant thing – an incorrect sleeping position!
How Does Your Sleeping Position Affect Your Health?
There are a number of different sleeping positions that can all be categorised into 3 broad groups. And as it happens, each position has an effect on your health. Learn how different sleeping positions can affect your health, and make the right choice even as you slip into slumber. Each has their own pros and cons, so read on to figure out what’s right for you!
1. Flat on your back
- Sleeping on your back is the best position for preventing neck and back pain because your back remains straight. Same goes for any shoulder issues too.
- It keeps all your internal organs aligned and balances your body weight.
- One of the best sleeping positions for your digestive system too, sleeping on your back helps decrease your chances of acid reflux, especially if you keep your head a little elevated.
- For colds and nasal congestion, sleeping on your back is the best way to relieve yourself – especially arranging your pillow length-wise, so that your entire back is supported and your head is also elevated.
- For those who consider their ‘beauty sleep’ important, sleeping on your back is recommended for cosmetic advantage. This is because it causes fewer wrinkles since your face is not pressed against pillows or your hands.
- For those who suffer from snoring (which results in their co-sleepers’ suffering too, for that matter) or sleep apnea, sleeping on your back will result in those glorious sounds that can leave you with heavy or interrupted sleep, and your partner glaring at you groggily all night long.
2. On your tummy
- Sleeping on the stomach can help snorers.
Yup, that’s pretty much it. Sleeping on your stomach is not seen as a healthy option at all; in fact, it has more cons than pros, which are…
- Don’t be totally fooled by the fact that sleeping on your tummy provides temporary relief to people who suffer from lower back pain, because it eases pressure on discs. The keyword here is ‘temporary’. In the long run, this position can adversely affect your spine, because it’s hardly in a neutral position.
- It also puts a lot of pressure on your muscles and joints, leading to those tingling aches and pains that make you wonder why you’re not rested after your textbook-recommended 8 hours of sleep.
- Sleeping on your stomach can also hurt your neck as your head has to be turned towards one side, maybe even for hours on end. Waking up to a sharp and persistent pinch is really not something you want! So, unless you intend napping for just a few minutes, try not to sleep on your tummy.
- If you absolutely must sleep on your tummy, the best thing to do is lie face down, but with your forehead propped up on a pillow so that you can breathe! This ensures that your neck isn’t strained for hours and hours on end.
Sleeping on your side is generally the best sleep position in many people’s opinion, which is why it’s the most common. Well, one type is, at least, and that’s the fetal position, which is when you curl up all comfortably with your knees bent and upper body hunched up. The other is when you lie on your side with your torso and legs straight.
- Doctors often recommend sleeping on the left side during pregnancy because it improves circulation to the heart. It puts less pressure on the lower back too.
- This sleeping position affects your health positively by reducing snoring, heartburn and acid reflux as well.
- It keeps the spine elongated and puts less pressure on the lower back.
- Sleeping sideways also helps to reduce snoring, because the airways are open.
- Sleeping on the side can put pressure on the stomach and lungs because the stress is on one side for a while. For this, keep alternating sides so that one side doesn’t bear all the brunt – the very common can’t-feel-my-arm-when-I-wake-up syndrome being the first sign of trouble.
- Shoulder pain is another common thing you’ll notice while sleeping on the side.
- Cosmetically, this doesn’t do your face much good because half of it is pressed against a pillow, leading to the formation of wrinkles.
To make sleeping on the side more comfortable, switch sides often; it prevents blood circulation from getting restricted, and helps reduce the strain on the limbs on that side. If you’re curled up in the fetal position, tuck a pillow in between your legs to relieve the strain on your hips.
So, which sleep style is healthiest? Is it on your back or on your side? The fact is, it’s difficult to know how you sleep at night since you’re unconscious! The best solution is to try and sleep in the position you think is the most suitable and comfortable for you. Experiment with different ways to see what the healthiest sleeping position is for you. Unless medically recommended, you don’t have to alter your sleep position much. Just take care of key factors such as the way your back and neck are placed, especially if you’re pregnant.
But if you see a marked change in the way you feel when you wake up, you may be doing something right!