Sleeping on the side, back or your stomach?

Sleeping is at a first glance something simple… but more and more often it becomes a fairly complicated thing. Excess or lack of this needed activity can cause health problems. Same way can sleeping position often play a role, especially in problematics of snoring. Lets look together on all the good but also wrong aspects of various positions, because we spend in our beds basically two fifths of our lives.




Some specialist agree that this position is the best. Sleeping on the back can be a „blessing” for your back and neck, because the spine is in good position and is not exposed to any cramps (placing a small pillow below your knees will secure a more natural position). Similarly it also helps the mattress to function correctly, which is supporting the spine. In an ideal world everyone would sleep on the back without a pillow, or just with a small pillow, because such position is the most natural for your neck. Using too many pillows can result in breathing problems.

This position is also the most economical towards the skin - if the skin is exposed to air and is not covered by pillows, wrinkles won’t form as quickly as they would otherwise.


Cases of snoring and sleep apnea (intervals during sleep, when we stop to breath) are far more common than by any other positions. Sleep apnea is related so much to the position on the back that doctors prescribe their patients to sleep on the side as one of the options of the treatment. It is necessary to note that sufficient support for the spine doesn’t automatically mean quality sleep. Studies comparing the quality of sleep have proved that people with worsened quality of life were spending bigger amount of time during the night on their backs.


CLTehotenstvi 2


Most people in researches note that they sleep on the side. Exact numbers will of course never be known, because people are during sleep unconscious. Doctors recommend pregnant women to sleep on the left side, because it increases perfusion of the heart, which helps the future mother and her child. Sleeping on the side is a natural choice for future mothers, because sleeping on the back can cause nausea (the spine is pressing on its lower part) and sleeping on the stomach is of course not possible. People who suffer from heartburn can by sleeping on the left side lower their problems.


Sleeping on the left side can also involve pressure on the stomach and lungs (switching the sides helps). And nearly every person who sleeps in this position knows that it can lead to sleeping limb, if you sleep with your hand below your head. Resting on one shoulder restricts blood flow, and it puts pressure on the nerves which causes painful tingling.


CLwoman sleeping


This position lowers snoring and some cases of sleep apnea, but that is probably the only positive thing about it.


Sleeping on the stomach is considered as one of the worst positions. It definitely does not contribute to a natural curvature of the spine and it leads to pain in the lumbar area. Overnight sleep with head turned to one side also burdens your neck. If this is your favorite position, try to train with pillows position on the side and teach your body more beneficial position.


Regardless the health benefits, people choose the position according to which one is the most comfortable one for them. Experimenting with each position won’t hurt you, therefore don’t hesitate and try them all for few nights. You will find out which one is ideal for you. If your doctor explicitly does not recommend you other position, it is probably good to sleep in a position in which you feel comfortable.

Author: FYZIOklinika physiotherapy Ltd., Prague, Czech Republic
Source: Clinical experience from a private practice in physiotherapeutic field, FYZIOklinika

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