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Is Your Sleep Position Impacting Your Health?

Did you know that the way you sleep plays a large role in how you feel and even your performance during the day? You probably never think about it, but how you sleep plays a major role in sleep quality that impacts your waking hours, too.

Most of us are either back or side sleepers. Back sleeping is beneficial in its own way, but it can cause pressure to build along the lower back and hip area, as well as impact the airflow as you sleep, cause snoring, increase the chances for sleep apnea, and cause the brain to hold onto waste instead of filtering it out.

While side sleeping is good, it’s also got its own issues, including problems with alignment. This article can help you improve that side sleeping position and your overall sleeping habits.

Photo: Shutterstock/New Africa

Why It Matters How You Sleep

It’s been a hot topic for many years, but it’s generally agreed upon that you should not sleep on your stomach, as it can make your spine move into weird positions, compress the joints in the cervix in women, and can cause major back and neck pain.

So you’ve got two options: either sleeping on the side or on the back. Both of these have their benefits and drawbacks. The way you sleep can seriously impact everything from pain management to how you move and even the brain health and digestion, so it’s something to consider when choosing the right sleeping positions.

Photo: Shutterstock/Ladanifer

The Truth About Back Sleeping

Back sleeping is beneficial for a few reasons. It keeps the neck and back properly aligned, so you don’t have to worry about pain as much. It also creates even pressure distribution throughout the body, so you won’t wake up with your shoulder, arms, or hips tight the next day.

However, there are a couple of issues. First, it can cause hip and back tightness along with pain, along with tight hamstrings. This mostly happens if you cross your ankles and feet at night. If you cross your ankles all day, this can also create problems during the night too, as it’s a habit you may not even realize you’re doing. The solution is to put a pillow underneath the thighs and knees to keep them apart.

The second thing back sleeping does is put you at risk for sleep apnea since the jaw can sink backward and affect your airway, thus preventing you from breathing properly while asleep. If you notice you snore a lot, chances are sleeping on your back is not good.

Finally, back sleeping can age the brain faster since the brain is unable to clear out the waste.

Photo: Shutterstock/Gorodenkoff

Side Sleeping Might Be Your Answer

While you may be a notable back sleeper, side sleeping is much better. However, you need to be careful with how you sleep, as this can create pinched nerves and alignment problems. This is because of how your digestive tract works since if you sleep on the wrong side, it can create bad acid reflux.

The solution to proper side sleeping may be a couple of things. First, try to sleep on the left, as it can help get rid of heartburn that can be caused by sleeping on the right. Second, make sure that you have some shoulder support. Putting pillows by your neck is a good way to keep the spine aligned and also improves shoulder alignment. Finally, have a pillow and place this between the thigh area to prevent the collapsing of the top of your hip from going over the bottom, a common cause of back tension and pain.

A few more things that you can do is to have your room stay at a cold temperature overnight, as a hotter room can keep you awake. Also, aim for sleeping in pitch black, as light like blue light from our devices can negatively affect your production of melatonin, which is a chemical that makes you sleepier. Blackout curtains will help this.

The right way to sleep matters, and while you might not see drastic changes or pain relief at first, over time, you’ll notice you’re sleeping soundly and pain-free.