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June 17, 2022
From time to time, an image with many sleeping positions, from the most common to the most bizarre, goes viral on Twitter. People will comment how they sleep. It’s an image like this one.
But how about you? Which sleeping position is your favorite? And do you know which one is the best to ensure you sleep well and for your health?
The best sleeping position is the one that grants you the best sleep.
Just like the ideal shower temperature or the amount of ground coffee for a good cup, your sleeping position is a matter of personal preference.
All postures in bed have pros and cons that can change through life, depending on moments or health conditions.
For instance, did you know that pregnant women are not recommended to sleep on their back? You will soon understand why.
As happens with mattress hardness, the choice of sleeping position should consider your personal results. Waking up with back pain or a ‘locked up’ neck is a sign that something is wrong and that you need to make some adjustments.
This ‘something wrong’ could be, for example, your pillow. Rather than limiting the choice to a ‘too soft’ or ‘hard as stone’ one, your pillow must have the height to provide adequate support for your neck and for your sleeping position.
Yes, each position has a more suitable type of pillow. Softness is up to you.
The supine position is the popular ‘belly up’, with the back and the posterior part of the legs supported on the mattress. Many doctors consider it one of the best sleeping positions exactly because of this support.
When you lie down with your back on the mattress, gravity plays the role of keeping the body centered on the spinal column, which is less pressured and does not experience major contortions during the night.
The skin also benefits from this position, as it prevents the face from rubbing against the pillowcase, making skincare products be absorbed by the fabric.
The contraindication of sleeping on your back is for people with lower back pain or who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, which can intensify when you fall asleep like this. For this same reason, pregnant women should also avoid the supine position: it is associated with more oxygen desaturation events.
1. Look up. Avoid turning your head to the side when choosing this sleeping position. This strains the neck and can cause pain.
2. Pillows should support the neck and head well, avoiding uncomfortable positions.
3. Fill in the blanks. Do not hesitate to place a small cushion or pillow under your knees, lower back and other empty spaces between your body and the mattress. Comfort makes all the difference.
The pronated, prone, or ‘belly down’ sleeping position. Whatever name you use, we’re talking about the same thing.
It is estimated that only 17% of the population falls asleep this way, and doctors are grateful. They recommend most people to avoid this position, as it strains the spine and neck and puts pressure on the joints in these areas.
On the other hand, sleeping on your stomach can benefit people with a herniated disc or degenerative disc disease. This position can also reduce snoring and relieve mild sleep apnea symptoms.
Newborns and babies up to one year of age should never be placed belly down in the crib. Sleeping on your stomach speeds up your heart rate and increases the risk of sudden death in children. 85% of cases happen when the child is in this position.
1. Choose a thin pillow. It prevents you from increasing pressure and strain on your neck and shoulders.
2. Support is everything. To reduce spinal tension, the suggestion is to place a thin pillow below the abdomen and waist.
3. Legs down. The contortion of the waist and lower back needed for you to have one of your legs tucked in can cause pain on the next day.
You can, especially if it’s on the left side.
Sleeping on your side, with your legs stretched out and supported on the left side of the body, is excellent for people with gastric problems, as it reduces the incidence of heartburn and reflux. This is because the stomach and intestines face left, making it easier for food to pass through them thanks to gravity.
The left side is also good for your heart because it prevents aortic artery blockage.
Like pronated sleep, lateral sleep can also potentially reduce snoring and some signs of apnea.
However, sleeping on your side (and in this case either side) can strain the shoulders and cause pain in the jaw with ramifications throughout the head, in addition to ‘numbing’ the arm and potentially increasing wrinkles on the face.
1. If you can, choose the left side. The health benefits of supporting the body on the left side at night are clear.
2. Neck pillows. Choose taller models, which support the head without the neck hanging to the side.
3. And for the legs, place a small, thin pillow between your legs to increase comfort. If you want, supporting the column is also suggested.
Are you one of those people who sleep ‘shrunken’, looking like a gift package? That is called the fetal position.
It is highly recommended for people with a herniated disc because the sideways-and-tucked-in position reduces spinal sprain and relieves joint pain.
This adds to the same benefits of sleeping on your side. You just have to be careful not to ‘over-squeeze’ your body, which would end up straining your muscles too much. Instead of an energetic morning, you will have to deal with body aches.
1. Relax. Shrinking your legs relieves pressure on your spine, but it can strain your body more than necessary.
2. On the left side, preferably. All the benefits of sleeping supported on the left side also apply to those who choose the fetal sleeping position.
3. Don’t forget the neck. Look for a pillow that allows your head to be supported without it being tilted, which happens with very low pillows.
How do you know if you sleep in the right position?
Waking up feeling well, refreshed, and invigorated is a sign that the sleeping position you have chosen is the most appropriate.
Just make sure you are aware of the risks it can bring to your health and, if necessary, gradually adjust your posture.
For example, if you have been waking up with a lot of back pain, sleeping on your stomach is not recommended. But starting to sleep on your side is not a simple process. Start by placing pillows on both sides of your body, to simulate the security that the belly supported on the mattress provides.
If you are in doubt, talk to a healthcare professional. It could be a family doctor, an orthopedist, or a physical therapist. All of them can help you choose your best sleeping position.
Good night and, above all, good morning without body aches.
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