Dreaming the Right Way: Common Sleep Positions

The average person spends a third of their life sleeping. However, studies suggest that about 48% of the American population suffers from sleep deprivation. Less than half of those people actually take a specific action to sleep better.

Sleep deprivation has been shown to:

  • Impair concentration
  • Contribute to symptoms of depression
  • Age your skin
  • Impair judgment
  • Increase stress
  • Contribute to strokes, heart disease, and diabetes

Sleeping Positions Infographic

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While medicine and therapy are possible solutions, getting better sleep may be as easy as finding the right position.

1. On Your Back

Pros

  • Helps your neck, head, and spine maintain a neutral position
  • Fights acid reflux by elevating your head, keeping your esophagus above your stomach
  • Prevents wrinkles and breakouts caused by having your face against a pillow
  • Recommended by doctors as the best sleeping position

Cons

  • Exacerbates sleep apnea
  • Promotes snoring as gravity forces the base of your tongue to collapse into your airway

For your consideration: Sleep with one puffy pillow to keep your neck and head supported. Propping yourself up with too many pillows can make breathing more difficult.
Added support: Place a pillow under the arch of your spine.

2. On Your Side

Pros

  • Reduces snoring
  • Elongates your spine
  • Good for acid reflux

Cons

  • Can cause wrinkles and breakouts
  • Constricts neck and shoulder muscles as your shoulder supports most of your bodyweight
  • Restricts blood flow to your arms, adversely affecting nerves and muscles

For your consideration: Invest in a thick pillow to support your head and neck. The side you sleep on also matters.

  • Sleeping on your left side can put strain on your stomach, lungs, and liver, but for pregnant women, left-side sleeping improves circulation for both mom and baby.
  • Sleeping on your right side can exacerbate heartburn and acid reflux.

Added support: Place a pillow between your knees.

3. Fetal position

Pros

  • Prevents snoring
  • Good for sleeping during pregnancy

Cons

  • Causes joint pain from pulling up your knees and tucking your chin into your chest
  • Worsens arthritic pain
  • Restricts diaphragmatic breathing
  • Causes premature wrinkles

For your consideration: Simply straighten yourself out. Sleeping comfortably on your side is much healthier than curling yourself up into a ball.
Added support: Use one thick pillow for your head and neck along with one pillow between your legs.

4. On your stomach

Pros

  • Eases snoring and sleep apnea by keeping your upper airways more open
  • Can help digestion

Cons

  • Flattens your spine’s natural curves, potentially causing lower back pain
  • Puts pressure on joints and muscles
  • Irritates nerves, leading to pain, numbness, and tingling
  • Strains the neck when turning your head to one side

For your consideration: While this position comes with many drawbacks, if you don’t suffer back or neck pain, it’s fine to try. Just make sure you use a thin pillow or none at all.
Added support: Stick a pillow under your hips and lower abdomen.

5. Sitting up

Pros

  • Helps breathing for the obese or those suffering chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Alleviates allergies by draining your nose and throat of congestion
  • Prevents snoring

Cons

  • Can potentially lead to the development of deep vein thrombosis from sitting motionless with your limbs bent for several hours (e.g., sleeping in an airplane)
  • Causes neck strain

For your consideration: You should only really need to sleep this way if you’re traveling. Get as comfortable as you can and recline your seat slightly.

Resources:
• http://bettersleep.org/better-sleep/the-science-of-sleep/sleep-statistics-research/better-sleep-survey
• http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/excessive-sleepiness-10/10-results-sleep-loss
• http://www.cnn.com/2011/HEALTH/04/19/healthiest.sleep.position/index.html
• http://greatist.com/happiness/best-sleep-positions
• http://www.collective-evolution.com/2014/07/06/the-best-worst-sleeping-positions/
• http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/explainer/2011/11/sleeping_while_sitting_how_restful_is_it_.html
• http://www.womansday.com/health-fitness/sleep-your-way-to-better-health-118491

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