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What’s the Best Sleep Position?

What’s the Best Sleep Position?

It makes sense that your sleep position can have an impact on your overall health, right? We’ve all woken up from time to time with a crick in our necks or a weird leg cramp, and it is no fun at all. Spending eight hours on your side or on your back puts pressure on nerves and muscles, and we can feel the effects of a wonky sleep position the next day.

Related: Yoga for Lower Back Pain, Yoga to Wake You Up, Natural Cold and Flu Remedies

If you deal with chronic pain or conditions like acid reflux, your sleep position can have an even more powerful impact on your comfort. Finding the best sleep position can make the difference between restorative rest and a night of tossing and turning.

So, what’s the best sleep position? It depends.

To alleviate back and shoulder pain, you can combine a beneficial sleep position with some strategic pillow placement to give your body extra support while you snooze. Pillows can help you sleep through bouts of acid reflux, too. And if foot pain is keeping you awake, just tucking your sheets more loosely can make a difference.

The graphic below looks at a handful of aches, pains, and conditions that can keep us from getting a good night’s sleep along with tricks to overcome them. You can click the image to view a full-sized version, if you’re having trouble reading the small text. You can also scroll down for a summary of this infographic’s helpful sleeping tips.

Best Sleep Position

Graphic via Best Infographics

Neck Pain
Keep the neck in a neutral position. Avoid sleeping on the stomach. Too many pillows can put your neck in a bent position. Keep your pillow above your shoulders. Some experts suggest using a rolled up hand towel to support the neck.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea & Snoring
Sleep on your side or stomach to avoid impaired breathing. One way to keep from rolling onto your back is to sew a tennis ball into the back of your pajama top.

Acid Reflux
Use pillows to elevate your head or use bricks to elevate the front legs of the bed. Otherwise, sleep on your side.

Shoulder Pain
Don’t sleep on the shoulder that causes you pain. Or, if you do, place a pillow next to you and place your arm over it — almost as if you’re hugging another person.

Back Pain
The best sleep position for back pain is generally on your back with a pillow under your knees or a rolled up towel under the small of your back.

On your side, put a pillow between your knees for extra support. This is also good for people with hip and knee problems. A fetal-like position can help with lumbar spinal stenosis.

Sleeping on your stomach can be hard on your back and neck. But if you must, put a pillow under your back and lower abdomen to relieve strain.

Plantar Fasciitis
Plantar Faciitis is an inflammation of the tissue on the bottom of the foot caused by running or poor arch support. Keep your ankles and feet in a relaxed position. Avoid tucking in the sheets too tightly.

Read more: Conditions, General Health, Health, Insomnia, Natural Remedies, , , , ,

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Becky Striepe

Becky Striepe is a freelance writer and vegan crafter living in Atlanta, Georgia. Her life’s mission is to make green crafting and vegan food accessible to everyone! Like this article? You can follow Becky on Twitter or find her on Facebook!


+ add your own
3:47PM PST on Feb 8, 2015

Great chart

8:47AM PST on Feb 8, 2015

Shouldn't hospitals and hotels provide extra pillows?

4:49AM PST on Feb 8, 2015

For what it's worth when I was diagnosed with Barrett's esophagus my doctor told me to sleep on my left side because sleeping on your right side forces the stomach acid into the esophagus.

2:10AM PDT on Oct 27, 2014

Ok: Jane r, do not give up! I do so much Feldenkrais that I move and adjust in my sleep thus never awake w/a crick. Relax the tight muscle patterns and let the weight of your bones work with gravity for you. There are fantastically comfortable soft velcro plantar fascitis sleeping boots/splints that work. And we sleep on the floor. Use loads of pillows. We also use earplugs and Power to Sleep P.M. herb formula if necessary. Walk away from the screens & read a couple of pages of a book. Ceiling fan, warm epsom salts bath. Sleep is too important to ignore or lose. And if you have a safe roof and room you are so blessed. Do the other 25% necessary. You are your responsibility.

1:08PM PDT on Oct 25, 2014

Sounds reasonable

1:25PM PDT on Oct 24, 2014

Sleeping on your side requires a knee pillow to cushion your knees (pressing against each other), and keep your spine in proper alignment. I learnt this through my own experience. The problem is, not any pillow between your knees will do. Too big, and it's difficult to turn over. Too small, and you'll lose it during the night.
I worked on it for over 2 years, and believe I have come up with the perfect solution: Sleepy Kneez

11:10PM PDT on Oct 22, 2014

I sleep better once I've had a good read - It's best for my eyes get tired, then I can drift off to slumberland easily ....
Doing deep breathing or relaxation exercises also works - 95% of the time..

2:49PM PDT on Oct 22, 2014

I think the best position to sleep in might also depend on the room within which one sleeps. If it's dark and quiet, really pitch dark and quiet, then sleeping on one's back might be fine as you've no distractions. Sometimes sleeping one's side, is to reduce the "view" you have if you happen to wake/open your eyes.

6:05AM PDT on Oct 20, 2014

thanks for this helpful article

9:45PM PDT on Oct 18, 2014

This all makes sense but I have problems no matter which way I sleep. I usually sleep on one side, wake up with shoulder and hip pain, then switch to the other side and it goes on all night. I can't sleep on my back because of spine curvature, it's too uncomfortable. I used to sleep on my stomach (my favorite position) but now it hurts my neck since I can no longer turn it all the way from side to side. I never get a good nights sleep and don't think I ever will.
These tips are for younger to middle aged people, not for seniors. When you get older there's nothing that will help.

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