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Everybody knows how important it is to get a good night’s sleep. It is not only for keeping your body healthy but also for ensuring that you are mentally fit.
The importance of a good night’s sleep is known around the world and its benefits are proven by various studies. If a person is not able to get good sleep, they may suffer from diseases such as heart issues, premature aging, and obesity.
Many factors affect sleep quality. They include: (1)
- The room you sleep in – A dark room promotes good sleep. If possible, make sure your bedroom is only for sleeping and not for watching TV or spending time on your laptop.
- Your mattress
- Sleep schedule
- Caffeine intake
- Sleep disorders
- Stress levels
- Health issues
- Environmental factors
- State of mind before sleeping
- Health issues – In conditions such as schizophrenia and the manic phase of bipolar disorder, sleep disturbances may occur and the patients may not sleep for days. (2)
Use of prohibited drugs or what is known as “party drugs” – These stimulant drugs (such as amphetamine and cocaine) can cause sleeplessness for multiple days. (3)
Does Sleeping Position Affect Sleep Quality and Health?
Yes, sleeping position, or the posture you sleep in, is one important factor. It usually affects your overall sleep quality and, thereby, your health.
People sleep in a posture that they feel comfortable in. This can include sleeping on either side, sleeping on the back, or sleeping on the stomach. All these postures affect health; therefore, you should know their pros and cons.
Best Sleeping Positions
Here are some sleeping positions and how they affect your health. (4)(5)
1. Sleeping on your back
Sleeping on your back is a very famous position to sleep in. When you lie down on your bed on your back, your spine remains aligned and your body weight is evenly distributed throughout. This prevents backaches.
Lying down on your back with your arms on the side is called sleeping in a soldier position. This is a good position if you suffer from back or spinal issues because your back remains straight. This position may also be helpful in promoting gastric health and relieving congestion from a runny nose or allergies.
Drawbacks to sleeping on your back
A few cons are associated with this position, such as snoring and trouble breathing at night, also known as sleep apnea. (5) Thus, sleeping on the back is not recommended for those who suffer from sleep apnea because it can leave the patient prone to airway collapse.
Moreover, patients have observed an increase in their sleep apnea symptoms when they sleep on their back.
This position is also not recommended for pregnant women as it can add pressure to the mother’s heart.
2. Sleeping on your side
More than 50% of people sleep on their side. This can be because as you age, the flexibility of your spine decreases, which is why sleeping on the side may be more comfortable for the elderly.
Sleeping on your side with your arms on the side and using pillows for support is good for reducing back and neck pain and also improving sleep apnea symptoms. This position has also been linked to reduced snoring and has been considered the best position for pregnant women. (5)
According to a study, people who suffer from or are at risk of carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) experience nighttime paresthesias and thus require early intervention to prevent the future development of CTS. Sleeping on your side is associated with a decrease in nighttime numbness and tingling and should be the go-to sleep position as you age. (6)
To sum up, side sleeping is the best for:
- Pregnant women
- People with acid reflux
- People with backache
- People suffering from sleep apnea
- The elderly
Drawbacks to sleeping on your side
Sleeping on your side may restrict the flow of blood to your arms and cause pain in the shoulder. The solution for this is turning to the other side and alternating between the two sides. (5)
3. Sleeping in a fetal position
The fetal sleeping position is defined as curling up as you lie on your side with your knees brought up to your chest. As the name suggests, this is the same position the infant is in inside the womb.
The pros of this position include a reduction in snoring and prevention of acid reflux or heartburn because gravity does not allow the flow of acid to the esophagus.
The fetal position is best for the following people:
- Pregnant women
- People with heartburn
- People with backaches
- People with sleep apnea
Drawbacks of the fetal position
The fetal position can put pressure on your back and lead to neck pain or back pain. Curling your knees close to the chest can also strain the joints. You can alternate it with other positions to prevent muscle pain. (7)
Worst Sleeping Position
Sleeping face down on your stomach is the least favorable position to sleep. It does not support the natural curve of the spine, which can lead to back pain.
This position is also painful for your neck and is not good for your blood flow and circulation. Moreover, it puts extra pressure on their internal organs. (5)
This position may reduce snoring because it keeps your upper respiratory system more open. However, breathing in this position requires added force and uses more energy, which can make your sleep less restful. (5)
The Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India (8) defines sleeping face down on the stomach (proning) as the technique of turning a person with precise, safe, and gentle motions from their back on their abdomen, so the person is lying face down.
Proning is a medically verified position as it enhances breathing comfort levels and oxygenation. It is incredibly useful in COVID-19 patients with restricted breathing comfort, primarily during home isolation. (9)
However, proning is not recommended:
- Immediately after eating
- In pregnancy
- In deep venous thrombosis
- In major cardiac conditions
- Unstable spine
- In femur or pelvic fractures
- In people with back or neck pain
Most-Asked Questions About Sleep Positions
How do I make side sleeping better?
You can make sleeping on your side better by:
- Using a comfortable pillow that fits your needs
- Placing a pillow between your knees or under your neck for support
- Keeping a pillow right next to you if you want to support your arm
- Placing your arm below your face for support
Which sleeping position is good for brain health?
Sleeping on your side is helpful in clearing waste from the brain, which is known as interstitial waste. This can further reduce the chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases. In fact, sleeping on your left side is linked to improved brain health. (10)
Sleep posture is an example of a persistent physical risk factor that is adjustable.
Which sleeping position is recommended during pregnancy?
Sleeping on the side is good for pregnant women as it avoids pressure on the uterus from the liver. This position also promotes blood circulation to the fetus and also inside the mother’s body.
Moreover, it helps prevent back pain, which is a major problem for pregnant women. (11)
How do I sleep better?
Reduce your mobile phone use and TV viewing time before bedtime as these are stimulants that keep you awake.
For roughly 45 minutes to 1 hour before sleeping, keep your mobile phone away from your eyes and avoid watching anything on the television. This will calm your mind and brain extremely, making it effortless to sleep smoothly as soon as you lie down in your bed. (12)
How well you sleep every night has a substantial effect on how active and fresh you’ll be the following day because an adequate shuteye is important in starting your day the right way.
Furthermore, a scarcity of sleep negatively affects your mood and increases your risk of a wide range of health problems.
Many factors can affect your sleep, from what you eat to the medicines you are taking, the quality and quantity of your sleep, and your stress levels. What most people tend to neglect is the basic aspect of sleep, which is the sleeping position.
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