Which is the best position for sleeping?
Finding a comfortable sleeping position can help you get a good night’s rest. So is it better to sleep on your back, side or front?
More than half of adult Australians have at least one chronic sleep symptom that affects their quality of life.
A Sleep Health Foundation report found almost 60 per cent of people regularly have difficulties falling or staying asleep, waking too early and not being able to get back to sleep.
The effects of poor-quality sleep can include feeling fatigued, irritability, low concentration, hyperactive, lack of motivation and having little interest in doing things you usually find enjoyable.
- Real story: What happened when I started prioritising sleep
Lying in a comfortable position can help improve your sleep quality. So, what are the benefits and disadvantages of sleeping on your back, front or side?
Pros and cons of sleeping on your back
Sleeping on your back reduces pressure on your hips and shoulders, so it suits anyone who has had hip replacement surgery or who wakes with sore shoulders or hips, according to pain physiotherapist Marelle Wilson.
But it can increase the likelihood of snoring or sleep apnoea as it can block airways in people who have a tendency to snore.
Back sleeping is also linked to increased bruxism, or teeth grinding.
On average, people spend about a third of the night sleeping on their back.
“If you want to sleep on your back but can feel strain in your lower back, place some support under your knees by using a small pillow or bolster,” says Marelle.
Pros and cons of sleeping on your front
Most people spend less than 10 per cent of the night on their front, says Sleep Health Foundation chair Professor Dorothy Bruck.
But a major downside of sleeping on your tummy is the strain this can place on the neck.
“Your neck has to turn almost 90 degrees and some people can’t tolerate that,” Marelle explains.
“If your neck bothers you, I suggest people try a position that is halfway between sleeping on the side and the tummy.”
Pros and cons of sleeping on your side
“The side position is generally the best option,” says Prof Bruck.
“Most people sleep on their sides for more than half the night.”
Marelle adds that side sleeping supports the spine and neck, but it can place pressure on the side you sleep on.
“About one in four or five women over the age of 40 experience problems with hip pain and this can be improved with a softer mattress topper or overlay,” she says.
“If you have back or hip pain, placing a pillow between your knees when laying on your side can also provide good relief.”
Prof Bruck says we move throughout the night, which helps stop aches and pains developing in one particular area of the body.
“But if you have ongoing pain and stiffness after waking, see your GP to identify any underlying issue,” she says.
More tips to help you sleep soundly:
- 4 drinks that will help you get a good night’s sleep
- How to get a good, safe night’s sleep when you’re pregnant
- Could a sleep divorce save your relationships?
- The importance of good sleep hygiene
Written by Sarah Marinos