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This Sleep Position Is Recommended By Experts, Yet Only 10% Of Us Are Doing It

You probably don’t give much thought to your sleep position. By the time we get into bed after a long day and our heads hit the pillow, all we’re thinking about is getting those blissful hours of restful, uninterrupted sleep. Hell, we could be sleeping standing up for all we care.

But actually, our sleep position can have a very real impact on our health, impacting everything from how well we actually sleep to the tension we hold at different points in our bodies, often leading to joint and muscle pain. Considering we spend around one third of our lives resting or sleeping, making sure we’re sleeping in the most supportive and comfortable position should be a top priority for our wellbeing.

So, what is the best sleep position? 

“Sleeping on your back is the most recommended position because the vertebrae in your back can align naturally in a neutral position without any kinks or curves,” says sleep expert Kiera Pritchard from Eachnight Mattresses. “Sleeping on your back may be healthier for your spine whereas sleeping on your right side is beneficial for your heart. Stomach sleeping is the only position that is considered unhealthy as it is very stressful on your spine.”

It’s this proper spinal alignment that experts believe can help prevent back and neck pain. “Back pain and sleep can exist in an ongoing cycle,” says Kiera. “If you have existing back pain, you might be getting less sleep because you are being woken by the pain, and the lack of sleep can also contribute to back pain because your body does not have enough time to restore its tissues while you sleep.” 

She continues: “Everyone’s body is different, and some positions may be better for you based on your height, weight, or previous injuries, but back sleeping is the most recommended position for those with back pain.”

Sleeping on your back is also said to prevent heartburn, acid reflux and wrinkles, and helps to promote drainage of the fluids in the sinuses (making it ideal for those with colds or allergies).

Despite it being the most recommended sleeping position, a vast majority of us don’t sleep on our backs – in fact, only 10% of us do. 74% of people are side sleepers and only 16% sleep on their stomach, which is good news, because it’s the one position experts recommend we avoid because of the pressure it puts on our spines, chest and lungs. “It forces your neck to rotate to either the right or left side and this position can compromise the flow of blood, lymph, and spinal fluid and may cause joint pain,” explains Kiera.

You can try training yourself to sleep on your back by the following process:

  • It may feel unnatural to sleep on your back at first, so try doing something enjoyable in this position for several nights, for example, listen to your favourite album or podcast while lying comfortably on your back. These exercises will help train your mind to associate this position with comfort. 
  • Use pillow props. Many people feel vulnerable when sleeping on their backs, but you can counteract this by recruiting an array of pillows to support you. Most people feel supported with one pillow under each arm and one under the knees. 
  • Persistence. Even if you fall asleep on your back, you will likely wake up in a different position. When you wake up, just flip back to your back and try again. Eventually, you will spend most of your time sleeping on your back. 

If you’re experiencing pain during or after sleep, please speak to your GP.

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