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    What’s The Best Sleeping Position?

    What’s The Best Sleeping Position?
    14 February 2023 Phoebe Lund
    What is the best sleeping position

    What’s The Best Sleeping Position?

    In today’s digital world where ‘hustle culture’ influencers glorify overworking and portray sleep as a sign of weakness and self-indulgence, sleep might seem like a waste of time. This couldn’t be further from the truth; science continually highlights the importance of sleep for immunity, mental health, stress recovery, cell growth and repair. Getting the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep a night is crucial, but did you know that your sleeping position can either help or hinder these processes?

    An unhealthy sleep position can lower the quality of sleep by causing pain or stiffness in the back, arms, and shoulders, and can even trigger acid reflux or breathing difficulties. Therefore, it’s not only important to prioritise getting in the hours, but also to choose the best bodily position for you to drift away in. Different positions have different benefits: here are some of the most common sleeping positions, and who they are most suitable for.

    Sleeping on your side

    Most adults show a clear preference for side sleeping, with research showing that we spend the majority of our time in bed in this position (1). Not only is it the most comfortable position for many of us, but research also reveals that side sleeping promotes healthy spinal alignment making it the sleep posture least likely to provoke neck and lower back pain (2). To boost the benefits of side-sleeping, bending your knees and placing a pillow with a thickness that matches the distance between your neck and shoulder will help maintain spinal alignment throughout the night.

    Research also reveals there may be implications of side-sleeping for brain health. The glymphatic system is a waste clearance system used to eliminate soluble proteins, e.g amyloid β (Aβ) (a protein whose build-up has been found to contribute to Alzheimer’s disease) from the brain. Glymphatic transport is increased during sleep, and analysis shows that it’s most efficient in the side-sleeping position (3). This has lead scientists to speculate that the popular side sleeping position has evolved to optimise waste removal from the brain during sleep.

    Evidently, side sleeping optimises our health in several ways. The question now is: does it matter which side you sleep on?

    Sleeping on the left

    Snuggling yourself up on your left side might provide relief for people with constipation, bloating or gastrointestinal problems. The stomach is positioned on the left side of your body. By sleeping on your left, you enable gravity to do some of the work in helping waste move more easily from the small intestine into the large, supporting the digestive process.

    Positioning the body and stomach on the left also lowers the risk of experiencing acid reflux (4). This is when the contents of the stomach work their way back up the oesophagus, causing an uncomfortable burning sensation that can be disruptive during the night. Sleeping on the left can therefore provide relief and a better night of sleep for people prone to acid reflux and is recommended by experts to people with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Left side sleeping also aids the intestinal transit of gas, leaving you with a happy tummy for a restful night (although I can’t promise your bed partner will feel the same…)

    Pregnant women are also advised to sleep on their left side with their knees bent. This position provides the most comfort and facilitates the flow of nutrients and oxygen via the bloodstream to vital organs and the baby.

    Sleeping on the right

    While sleeping on the left is a great choice for people with gastric problems, right-side sleeping is recommended for people who experience sleep apnoea, a disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts while you are trying to sleep. This can cause loud snoring and restless sleep due to frequent waking during the night. A team of researchers assessed the severity of breathing difficulties of people with sleep apnoea sleeping on either the left or the right side, finding that sleeping on the right significantly decreased the prevalence of obstructive respiratory events during the night (5).

    Sleeping on your back

    There are also numerous advantages to sleeping on your back, such as keeping your spine aligned whilst evenly distributing your body weight. This protects against the development of aches or pain in the neck or back.

    Opting to get comfortable on your back in bed is also a good option for when you have a cold or allergy-induced stuffed nose. Propping yourself slightly more upright than usual with an extra pillow allows gravity to do some of the work for you in clearing your airways. When we’re ill this position also prevents mucus from accumulating in the throat. This post-nasal drip can otherwise cause a sore throat and trigger a cough, leading to disruption at night.

    Sleeping face upwards also prevents premature or the deepening of facial wrinkles or ‘sleep lines’ by avoiding pillow and mattress friction on the face. So, if beauty sleep is what you’re after, then this might also be the most attractive sleep position for you.

    Sleeping on your stomach: avoid this

    While there are several benefits to side-sleeping and sleeping on your back, the same cannot be said for sleeping on your stomach. On the wrinkle front, it’s worse than side-sleeping for the development of sleep lines due to the face being constantly pressed into a pillow. It also makes sleep less restful due to the extra energy your ribs have to use to work against gravity to breathe in this position at night.

    This position also provides the least back support. To sleep on our front we have to twist our necks and heads to the side, misaligning them with the rest of our spines. Additionally, our hips tend to sink into the mattress if it isn’t firm enough, causing further issues with spinal alignment and discomfort and pain upon waking. There’s also evidence to suggest that stomach sleeping contributes to a significantly higher increase in the fluid pressure in the eyes, known as intraocular pressure: a well-established risk factor for glaucoma, an eye condition whereby the optic nerve becomes damaged (6).

    The Bottom Line

    While scientists would perhaps discourage you from sleeping on your stomach each and every night, there is no single best sleep position that can be prescribed for everyone. The best sleep position for you is the sleep position that enables you to drift off into a night of peaceful and uninterrupted sleep so that you can get the most out of this crucial period of rest. If you feel like you’ve tried every position and you’re still struggling to doze off at night, there are a number of other sleep-inducing techniques to try, such as changing the temperature of your bedroom or taking 1 or 2 SNOOZE tablets an hour before you wind down for the night. You can read more about them HERE.

    Happy snoozing!



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