The importance of sleep posture

Different sleeping positions suit different needs, but some are definitely more beneficial than others. (Courtesy of Unsplash)

We’ve all heard the information and reminders in regards to the importance of a strong standing posture. But with the average Canadian spending seven hours of their day sleeping, one’s posture while resting is equally as important, but nowhere near as talked about.  

The position you sleep in is likely playing a part in many of the commonly reported sleeping issues one could have, including back and neck pain, snoring, sleep apnea, acid reflux, heartburn, and skin issues.

So, without further ado, let’s dive into the most common sleeping positions and figure out which ones provide us with the most optimal rest. 

The fetal position is reported as being the most common sleeping position, and for good reason.  

The position is great for lower back pain as it recreates the natural curve of the spine. It’s also been shown to improve circulation, and is ideal for pregnant women as it aids in allowing nutrients to reach the baby. 

The downside though, is that most people are unable to maintain this position loosely, which will likely lead to soreness in the morning due to the muscles having been tightened the whole night. Additionally, curling your knees all the way up to your stomach is a recipe for constricting deep breathing — a component that is essential to not only a healthy sleep, but a healthy life. 

“Sleeping on my side leads to a good day since I’m usually well rested.”

Next up is sleeping on your side. This is similar to the fetal position, except with the torso and legs elongated as opposed to curled up. Side sleeping can be very beneficial for treating back pain that bothers you during your waking hours, as your body maintains a straight and long posture. It’s also been shown to aid in digestion and control acid reflux. For people suffering with snoring or sleep apnea, this should be your go-to position as the airways are more stable and less likely to collapse or restrict air in this position. 

The disadvantage of this position, however, is that it is very difficult to actually do correctly and maintain through the night. Ideally, one’s legs would be stacked while laying in this position, because if they aren’t, the spine could rotate and cause hip pain upon waking. A fairly thick pillow is also required to adequately support the head in this posture. 

“I tend to sleep on my side, with one hand under the pillow, and usually with my back facing the door. I’ve noticed that it’s a lot more comfortable for me to sleep as it feels secure in a way. Overall, sleeping on my side leads to a good day since I’m usually well rested,” says first-year computer science student Armani Araujo. 

Next on the list is sleeping on your stomach. Much like sleeping on one’s side, this is a great position if you have trouble with sleep apnea or any snoring issues. Unfortunately, this is where the advantages end. 

Stomach sleeping leaves much to be desired in all other areas and is the least recommended position. With the majority of your body weight focused around the abdomen region, the mattress will sink beneath you, causing your spine to dip out of healthy alignment, which could cause issues like anterior pelvic tilt

Breathing would also be constricted since your abdominal region pressed against your mattress inhibits a full range of motion. In this position, you’ll likely also turn your head to the right or left on your pillow to breathe, which contributes to neck and shoulder pain. 

“If I wake up sleeping on my stomach, I get mild lower back pain, sometimes, neck cramps and an occasional body ache. Hence, I prefer to at least consciously try to go to sleep lying relaxed on my back.”

Lastly, we arrive at the ideal position for sleeping, which is…you guessed it, sleeping on your back! This position uses gravity to balance your spine without putting any excessive pressure on any joints. Placing a pillow behind your knees can further support this natural curve. 

It also prevents wrinkles as it is the only position where nothing is rubbing against your face as you rest. This position is ideal, and should only be avoided in those who have sleep apnea, snoring issues, or pre-existing back pain. 

As you may have guessed, a big part of the equation is being able to stay in one position the whole night. Most of us move around during sleep and perhaps find ourselves alternating between a few of the postures on this list, as first-year environmental studies student, Jui Joglekar, can identify with. 

“I’ve noticed that I normally sleep on my back, but occasionally I wake up sleeping on my stomach. I’ve noticed that I sleep the most comfortably when I lie on my back. However, if I wake up sleeping on my stomach, I get mild lower back pain, sometimes, neck cramps and an occasional body ache. Hence, I prefer to at least consciously try to go to sleep lying relaxed on my back,” says Joglekar. 

The bottom line is, with 40 per cent of our lives spent in bed, we are only cheating ourselves by not giving our resting body posture a second thought. Take some time to reflect on how you currently sleep, what position would be best suited for you, and implement it. You may find that your life improves a lot more than you’d think! 

About the Author

By Shivam Sachdeva

Health Editor

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