How Should You Sleep? Best And Worst Sleep Positions For Restful Nights

How To Find The Best Sleep Positions For A Good Night’s Sleep

September 7, 2020 Updated October 7, 2020

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It happens to the best of us — you close your eyes fully expecting to awake feeling refreshed, but you don’t. Instead, your body feels like the victim of a battering ram the next morning. Unless your a.m. routine involves Kellogg’s classic crisped rice cereal, you shouldn’t be hearing any snaps, crackles, and pops at the breakfast table. So, how should you sleep to avoid such a fate?

Although some people can sleep or get that nap time beauty rest practically any way, certain sleeping positions could lead to a marked improvement in sleep quality. However, determining which side to sleep on isn’t as simple as picking one in your mind and plopping onto your mattress. And since sleep deprivation can lead to undesirable side effects like a reduced sex drive and memory loss, well, it’s definitely something you want to figure out.

Ahead, we take a look at the pros of certain sleeping positions. After all, everyone deserves a good (and crick-free) night’s sleep.

What is the best sleeping position for snorers?

If you tend to saw logs, you might want to consider sleeping on your left side and/or in the fetal position — the latter of which, for the record, is the most popular sleeping position. Either way, you want to make sure your spine is elongated enough to keep your airways open. Curling up too tightly in the fetal position can restrict breathing in your diaphragm and exacerbate snoring. Sleeping on your stomach may also minimize snoring, but it comes with a whole host of other issues (more on that in a minute).

How about for back pain?

The answer to this question may depend on your current level of back comfort. If you don’t suffer from back pain and simply want to avoid it, sleeping on your back could be the healthiest option. This keeps your head, neck, and spine in a neutral position. According to the National Sleep Foundation, doing so eliminates extra pressure on those areas and therefore minimizes the chance of back pain.

However, if your goal is to reduce back pain (as in, you already have it), it might be more comfortable to sleep on your side with your torso and legs relatively straight. The fetal position can also alleviate lower back pain in particular. If you do lie on your side, though, try placing a thin pillow between your lower legs to help better align your hips.

What if you have acid reflux?

For those of us who suffer from acid reflux, dealing with it in and of itself is the worst — we certainly don’t want to do anything that could potentially make it worse. If this sounds woefully familiar, there are two sleeping positions you can try. First, sleeping on your back might ward off acid reflux, according to the National Sleep Foundation. The caveat? You need to choose a quality pillow that keeps your head elevated and supported. Otherwise, your stomach may end up above your esophagus, which can cause food or acid to come up from your digestive tract.

So, maybe side sleeping sounds more appealing? Some research suggests that lying on your left side is great for digestion and can lead to a reduction in heartburn/acid reflux.

Is there a preferred pregnancy sleep position?

The idea of getting good sleep while pregnant might seem laughable, depending on where you are in your pregnancy. Still, Mama needs to get her shut-eye, so anything that could help improve your odds is worth a shot. The Mayo Clinic advises against sleeping on your back, which places the weight of your uterus on your spine and back muscles. The optimal sleeping position for pregnant women is actually on your left side. This position improves circulation in your body and in the fetus, and it also keeps your uterus from squishing against your liver (which is on your right side).

But it’s not just what side you sleep on that matters during pregnancy, hip alignment is just as important. Side sleeping can exacerbate pressure on your joints and hips which is why a pregnancy pillow or wedge is such a lifesaver for moms-to-be, especially those in their second and third trimester. Placing the pillow between your knees can alleviate that discomfort and pain.

How should you sleep during your period?

Here’s the sucky reality: It might not be possible to get truly comfortable during sleep while on your period. It’s your period. Ya know, it’s the definition of discomfort. For that reason, The National Sleep Foundation recommends experimenting with different sleeping positions to find one that feels the best.

Need help figuring out where to start? In an interview with Glamour, gynecologists Lisa Lindley and Jennifer Wider both agreed that the fetal position could be your best bet. “Sleeping in the fetal position takes pressure off the abdominal muscles,” said Lindley, with Wider adding, “Many women report that the fetal position can help relieve cramps.”

What is the worst sleep position?

Le sigh. If you’re anything like this writer, you gravitate toward your tummy at night time. Unfortunately for those of us who prefer this sleeping position, though, snoozing on your stomach is generally considered the worst of the lot. While it can reduce snoring, it effectively aggravates everything else.

Since it moves your spine out of a neutral position, it can lead to neck and back pain. It also puts undue pressure on your muscles and joints, meaning you’ll definitely be snapping, cracking, and popping in the a.m. Sleeping on your stomach can also leave creases in your skin. “Over time, that can lead to breakouts or cause chronic changes to the skin,” explained Dr. Rachel Salas, an associate professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins Medicine. “If you’re concerned about wrinkles, it’s another reason to sleep on your back.”