The Best Sleep Positions for Everyone, Explained

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Changing sleep positions might feel like recalibrating your personality, but how you sleep can influence your health in significant ways. In your search for the best positions to sleep more soundly, you may be in for a surprise—there isn’t one sleep position that will solve all your problems. Have you ever noticed waking up tense after sleeping in a tight fetal position? Is your partner a staunch stomach sleeper with a perpetual crick in their neck? There’s a reason for that. Some of the most common sleep-related health problems can be relieved by adjusting how you sleep, not just the mattress that you sleep on. Choosing the best sleeping positions for couples depends on your individual health concerns and is as nuanced as adjusting your mattress setting.

We describe the four most popular sleep positions and explain which sleep styles could help you and your partner solve real-life problems, starting tonight. It may take some practice to form new sleeping habits, so we’ve included some practical tips to ease the transition.

The Most Common Sleep Positions

Fetal Position: The fetal position is the most common sleep style—41 percent of adults sleep in this position most of the time. When this is your sleep position, you sleep on your side with legs and arms bent. Some people hug their arms and legs tightly while others let their limbs rest gently to the side. If you tend to clench your muscles, try bedtime breathing exercises to release tension before you fall asleep.

Side Sleeping: The second most common sleep position is side sleeping. It’s similar to the fetal position, but only 15 percent of adults sleep on one side or the other and have their legs extended. This is one of the most recommended sleep positions, but hip and knee pain often stops people from sticking with it. Try placing a pillow between your knees for more support.

Back Sleeping: Back sleeping promotes proper spinal alignment and can be beneficial for several health concerns, but as few as 8 percent of adults sleep on their backs. If you are prone to rolling onto your stomach, try placing a pillow on each side of your body while you adjust to the back sleeping position.

Stomach Sleeping: Experts agree that in most cases, sleeping on your stomach is not a great choice, but it can be very comfortable if sleeping on your side or back puts weight on painful pressure points. You’ll most likely have to twist your neck to the side to breathe, causing misalignment of your spine and strain on your neck and upper back. So, if you do need to sleep on your stomach, try placing a pillow beneath your forehead so you can lie face down without obstructing the airflow.

Which Sleep Positions Are Best For You and Your Partner?

Now that you have the 411 on sleep positions and how to comfortably practice new habits, let’s take a look at the best positions to sleep better and relieve common health concerns. Don’t worry about finding the perfect position for both of you. Sharing a bed with someone who has a different sleep position won’t disrupt your sleep. In fact, when your partner sleeps soundly, you’re more likely to sleep well, too.

What Are the Best Sleep Positions for Back Pain?

Back pain is one of the main reasons couples choose an isense adjustable mattress. This makes sense, as 80 percent of adults experience low back pain at least once in their lifetime. Researchers at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke recommend sleeping on your side or in the fetal position to gently stretch the muscles in your lower back. If you hug your arms and legs tightly as you sleep, try to release those muscles by hugging a body pillow so that tension doesn’t end up aggravating your back pain.

Sleeping on your side makes it easy to achieve healthy spinal alignment, which is also great for reducing and preventing back pain. We give step-by-step instructions for checking your alignment and adjusting your mattress to support a healthy spine in our article about comfort and support.

What Is the Best Position to Sleep in During Pregnancy?

The right sleep position can solve many pregnancy problems. According to the American Pregnancy Association and other experts, the best position to sleep in pregnancy is on your left side. This is a healthy sleep position for just about anyone, but it’s especially comfortable in your second and third trimester. When you sleep on your left side, you increase blood flow to the placenta and take pressure off your digestive system, all while relieving back pain. Win, win, win. Plus, sleeping on your side helps prevent cutting off circulation to the vena cava, which many expectant mothers experience while sleeping on their back.

What Are the Best Sleep Positions for Sciatica?

Sciatica can knock you off your feet for several days with pain and inflammation. Fortunately, soothing a pinched sciatic nerve is easy to do at home and rarely needs invasive treatments. Sleeping in the right position will relieve pain while your body heals inflamed nerve tissues. Try sleeping on your back with a pillow beneath your knees. The sciatic nerve runs from the lower back down each leg to the feet, and gently lifting your needs with a pillow gives added support and comfort. Adjusting your mattress to a firmer support setting may also bring relief, according to several sleep experts. 

Which Sleep Position Aids Heartburn?

Heartburn and digestive discomfort can keep many couples up at night. Studies have shown that sleeping on your left side can prevent pain from heartburn while sleeping on your right side can make symptoms worse. Why? The stomach and descending colon are located on the left side of the body. When you sleep on that side, your organs are more settled and don’t have to fight gravity to do their job. Additionally, use gravity to your advantage and slightly elevate your head to prevent acid reflux from stealing your best night’s sleep.

What Are the Best Sleep Positions to Stop Snoring?

Snoring is very common in adults, especially in men over 40. Because snoring is caused by the muscles in your throat relaxing and collapsing while you sleep, doctors recommend sleep positions that allow airflow through these soft tissues. Sleeping in a fetal position and on either side is your best option, as your airways stay open, and you’re also less likely to experience nasal congestion. This is also one of the few conditions you can alleviate by sleeping on your stomach, but be careful not to twist your neck to breathe.

Are There Any Sleep Positions That Help Stress and Anxiety?

Stress and anxiety have a complicated relationship with sleep. Being well rested helps you process your emotions and experiences and relate to your partner peacefully. It can be hard to calm your body and mind enough to drift off to dreamland. While there’s no one sleep position that reduces stress and anxiety, you can fine tune your sleep style.

If you sleep in a fetal position, focus on relaxing your limbs, and use pillows to create space in your hips and shoulders. Do you lie awake on your back, staring at the ceiling while you think about tomorrow’s to-do list? Get out of bed and do some gentle stretching to release tension. Focus on your neck and shoulders where tension tends to build up. Winding down before you go to bed will help any sleep position feel more comfortable and reaffirming.

Start Sleeping Better Tonight

At isense, we believe identifying the best sleeping positions for couples is an important step in solving real-life problems. When you know which positions will help you sleep better as a couple, it’s much easier to adjust your support settings for amazing results. Try a better sleep position and rest easy in an innovative isense adjustable mattress to get your best night’s sleep tonight and every night. 

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