How Your Sleep Position Affects The Rest Of Your Body, According To Science

sleep position facts

Reshot/infiniteseas photography

When you signed up for dance classes, you learned where to position your feet for ballet. When you enrolled in driver’s ed, you learned where to position your hands on the steering wheel. But where was the class on how to position your body during sleep? Let’s fill in some gaps. Here are the most common sleep positions and what they do for your body (for better and for worse).

The Big No-No: Stomach Sleeping

sleep position facts

Unsplash/Vladislav Muslakov

If you sleep on your stomach, now is the time to make a change and save yourself from a lifetime of neck and back pain.

When you lie chest down, you stretch your spine into an unnatural position. Straining your spine night after night can lead to major back problems that could make everyday tasks painful. And if you ever plan to get pregnant, you’ll have to stop sleeping on your stomach anyway. If you sleep on your stomach, consider switching to one of the other positions below.

The Digestion Enhancer: Side Sleeping

sleep position facts

Reshot/Anna O

During the day, the simple act of standing enhances digestion. Gravity acts as a free power source that helps pull your food through your digestive tract and out again so that you can, once again, fit into your skinny jeans. At night, your body needs an assist. Because of the arrangement of your internal organs, sleeping on your left side helps ease digestion and reduce heartburn.

If you aren’t sleeping on your side, or, if you sleep on your right side, try the left for a few nights. Pay attention to your digestion during the experiment and see if you experience a “lighter” feeling.

Side sleeping does have its drawbacks. Some people experience shoulder pain or a “dead arm” from the pressure of sleeping on their sides. Sagging breasts can also be a side effect. With that said, all of these problems can be lessened with proper support from a quality mattress and pillows.

The Beauty’s Sleep: Back Sleeping

sleep position facts

Reshot/Jordan Vanderzalm

If you invest a lot of time and money in taking care of your skin before bed, you don’t want to then mash it all into a pillow, right? So, for purely cosmetic reasons, back sleeping may be your best bet. But it’s good for your inner appearance, too. Back sleeping is a natural position for your spine and puts less pressure on your shoulder and elbow joints than other forms of sleeping.

Sadly, there’s one big, loud drawback to back rest: snoring. When you’re on your back, gravity pulls your tongue to the back of your throat, partially blocking your airway. When your breathing is obstructed, your throat and other respiratory structures vibrate, which is a fancy way of saying you snore.

And snoring isn’t good. Your sleep quality is worse when you snore, and snoring is associated with a higher risk of heart attack and stroke. The airway obstruction that causes snoring can also cause a more serious problem called sleep apnea. Sleep apnea sufferers can legitimately suffocate in their sleep.

The occasional snorefest isn’t anything to worry about. But if you snore every night, talk to a doctor about it, who may recommend steps like switching your sleeping position, changing your diet or experimenting with a different mattress or pillow setup.

Changing Your Sleeping Position

sleep position facts

Unsplash/Alexandra Gorn

Swapping your current sleeping position for another isn’t easy, but it’s worth it in the long run. To change sleeping positions, change a few other things about your sleep setup, too.

  1. Banish light from your sleeping area, including the light from devices like cell phones at least an hour or two before bed.
  2. Sleep on the other side of the bed while you change. Your body may be less likely to revert back to the old position.
  3. Consider upgrades to your mattress and pillow. Poor support could be making your body choose an unnatural position.

Your sleeping position has a significant impact on your inner health and your outward beauty, so put in the time to find one that will maximize both.

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