We talk a ton about sleep positions here at Coop, but we never really talk about which one is best. Well, let’s cut to the chase—that’s because there isn’t necessarily a clear winner. “There isn’t one definitive best position for sleep that fits everyone,” says Dr. Abhinav Singh, who serves on the Medical Review Panel of SleepFoundation.org. “Most of us change positions while we sleep. Some studies estimate the average person moves more than 20 times a night.”
This makes sense, but if we don’t know exactly where and how we’re sleeping throughout the night, what should we look for when, say, falling asleep? “The position that can support your neck and spine best is the best position for you,” says Dr. Singh. “There is a lot of individual variability in position preference. Sleeping on your back typically offers the best opportunity to support your head, neck, and spine.”
Dr. Singh advises not to put too much pressure on sleeping in the “best” position, though, especially if your sleep health is just fine! “Unless people are experiencing problems upon awakening that can be tied to sleep posture, they don’t have to change the position.”
If you find yourself waking up achy because your natural sleep position isn’t exactly conducive to bone and muscular health, don’t fret! Dr. Singh says we can train our bodies to sleep in a different position. “If people are looking to change position, they can try changing the side of the bed, changing their pillow style or firmness, or investing in a custom pillow solution that may keep them from shifting in the night. A good example of this is a pregnancy body pillow, which helps keep pregnant women on their left side while they sleep.”
Although there are no “good” or “bad” sleep positions, there are definitely positions that are healthier and more comfortable for people experiencing certain medical conditions. Dr. Singh weighs in on the big three:
Acid Reflux & Heartburn
Don’t: Sleep on the right side; it could make things worse.
Do: Try sleeping on the left side to extinguish the fire. Because of the human anatomy, gravity will work in your favor when you sleep on your left side. In this position, your esophagus is over your stomach, meaning acid won’t be able to escape from your tum nearly as easily as if you sleep on your right!
Snoring & Sleep Apnea
Don’t: Sleep on your back.
Do: Turn to your side. It’s all about anatomy again, here! Sleeping on your side, as opposed to your back, eases compression on your airways, allowing for much easier and fuller breathing.
Don’t: Sleep on your stomach or back.
Do: Sleeping on the left will be better. Why? Because the lack of compression on your blood vessels will improve your blood flow! Sleeping on the side also keeps your uterus off your liver, your body’s largest internal organ. The less pressure there, the better!
Don’t: Sleep on your side.
Do: Sleep on your back. According to an article in Real Simple magazine, “Not only does it prevent wrinkles due to the lack of wrinkle-inducing friction, it also stops the skin from feeling the pressure of your face ‘folding’ into the pillow.” Another essential element to preventing wrinkles during sleep is using a silk pillowcase. Sleeping on silk prevents creases and keeps your skincare on your skin—not your pillow!
Do what works for you
All-in-all, when it comes to sleep positions, it’s best to remain intuitive. There’s no magical fix and there’s no real fatal flaw when it comes to any position for sleeping. It’s best to keep yourself supported with the right tools (like a great Coop pillow, for instance).
Dr. Abhinav Singh, board certified in Sleep Medicine and Internal Medicine, is the Medical Director of the Indiana Sleep Center, which is accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. He is also a Clinical Assistant Professor at Marian University College of Medicine in Indianapolis, where he developed and teaches a Sleep Medicine rotation to medical students.