The Naturally Nestled guide to the best sleeping positions for health and comfort
You probably already know that getting a good night’s sleep is good for you. While you might not remain in the same position throughout the night, chances are you tend to prefer one position over others, such as on your side or back. But did you know that some sleeping positions are potentially better for you than others?
The truth is, there are a finite number of sleeping positions–on the back, stomach, or side–with some variations among them. The best sleeping positions according to science tend to be geared toward accommodating specific health conditions. Here’s our breakdown of the five most common sleep positions and ways to adjust them to maximize your sleep comfort.
Back sleeping positions
There are two common back sleeping positions, according to WebMD in an article describing common types of sleep positions. In the “soldier” position, a person sleeps on their back with legs straight and arms at the sides, like a soldier standing at attention. The starfish sleeping position is on the back with legs apart and arms overhead.
According to a Popular Science analysis of sleep positions, sleeping on your back is best for people with chronic hip, neck, or shoulder pain. However, only eight percent of people sleep in this position. Back sleeping can also ease acid reflux symptoms. However, this works best if the head is slightly elevated via an adjustable bed base or specially designed incline pillow.
However, back sleeping can aggravate lower back pain. Putting a pillow or rolled-up towel under the knees can help better position the spine. Back sleeping is also not great for people who snore or have sleep apnea.
If you’re a back sleeper, a latex mattress topper with a medium or firm level of firmness can add a good balance between flexibility and support. This level of firmness helps you maintain optimal spinal posture while sleeping in this position. If you prefer a firmer sleeping surface, try the firmest level of latex mattress topper support, which is also great for making a solid base layer for a DIY mattress.
Side sleeping positions
A Dutch study found that side sleeping is the most common sleeping position. There are two common side sleeping positions: one with legs straight (the log) and one with legs bent (the fetal position). Sleeping on your side is beneficial for several reasons, but primarily, it just feels best for most people.
If you’re pregnant, sleeping on your left side encourages blood flow to your growing baby. Side sleeping is also good for snorers or people with sleep apnea.
Side sleeping is not great for people with shoulder and/or hip pain or, in some cases, people with heartburn or acid reflux disease.
As we wrote in our post about mattress topper firmness, people who sleep on their sides tend to experience hip and shoulder pain. For this reason, adding a soft or medium latex mattress topper can alleviate pain on those pressure points.
Stomach sleeping position
Also known as the freefall sleeping position, this is the least-recommended sleep position according to science. This is because of the potential strain to the neck and shoulders.
But sometimes, the sleeping body wants what it wants. If you prefer sleeping on your stomach, use pillows to better align the neck to avoid strain. You can also work to adopt a new primary sleeping position if stomach sleeping is causing neck pain.
In addition to using pillows to support the neck, stomach sleepers can benefit from a latex mattress topper with a medium or firm level of firmness. A firmer topper can help you maintain a neutral spinal posture while sleeping in this position. Opt for the firmest mattress toppers if you prefer the way that feels or if you want to use a topper as a solid base layer for a DIY mattress.
Experiment to find your best sleeping position
When it comes to sleeping positions, what’s considered “best” for most people might not work for you. If you’re waking up feeling achy or cranky due to a lack of rest, talk to your healthcare practitioner to make sure that you don’t have an underlying health condition that’s keeping you from getting good sleep.
Also, feel free to experiment to see which sleeping position leaves you feeling refreshed each morning. Try some of these sleep alignment tips from the University of Rochester Medical Center or this brief slideshow from The Mayo Clinic on reducing back pain while sleeping. It might also be time to upgrade your pillow or to add a latex mattress topper to a mattress that doesn’t feel quite right.
Wherever you land on this issue (or on your mattress), the ultimate goal of understanding the science of sleeping positions is to ensure a good night’s rest every night.