Dreaming the Right Way: Common Sleep Positions
The average person spends a third of their life sleeping. However, studies suggest that about 48% of the American population suffers from sleep deprivation. Less than half of those people actually take a specific action to sleep better.
Sleep deprivation has been shown to:
- Impair concentration
- Contribute to symptoms of depression
- Age your skin
- Impair judgment
- Increase stress
- Contribute to strokes, heart disease, and diabetes
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While medicine and therapy are possible solutions, getting better sleep may be as easy as finding the right position.
1. On Your Back
- Helps your neck, head, and spine maintain a neutral position
- Fights acid reflux by elevating your head, keeping your esophagus above your stomach
- Prevents wrinkles and breakouts caused by having your face against a pillow
- Recommended by doctors as the best sleeping position
- Exacerbates sleep apnea
- Promotes snoring as gravity forces the base of your tongue to collapse into your airway
For your consideration: Sleep with one puffy pillow to keep your neck and head supported. Propping yourself up with too many pillows can make breathing more difficult.
Added support: Place a pillow under the arch of your spine.
2. On Your Side
- Reduces snoring
- Elongates your spine
- Good for acid reflux
- Can cause wrinkles and breakouts
- Constricts neck and shoulder muscles as your shoulder supports most of your bodyweight
- Restricts blood flow to your arms, adversely affecting nerves and muscles
For your consideration: Invest in a thick pillow to support your head and neck. The side you sleep on also matters.
- Sleeping on your left side can put strain on your stomach, lungs, and liver, but for pregnant women, left-side sleeping improves circulation for both mom and baby.
- Sleeping on your right side can exacerbate heartburn and acid reflux.
Added support: Place a pillow between your knees.
3. Fetal position
- Prevents snoring
- Good for sleeping during pregnancy
- Causes joint pain from pulling up your knees and tucking your chin into your chest
- Worsens arthritic pain
- Restricts diaphragmatic breathing
- Causes premature wrinkles
For your consideration: Simply straighten yourself out. Sleeping comfortably on your side is much healthier than curling yourself up into a ball.
Added support: Use one thick pillow for your head and neck along with one pillow between your legs.
4. On your stomach
- Eases snoring and sleep apnea by keeping your upper airways more open
- Can help digestion
- Flattens your spine’s natural curves, potentially causing lower back pain
- Puts pressure on joints and muscles
- Irritates nerves, leading to pain, numbness, and tingling
- Strains the neck when turning your head to one side
For your consideration: While this position comes with many drawbacks, if you don’t suffer back or neck pain, it’s fine to try. Just make sure you use a thin pillow or none at all.
Added support: Stick a pillow under your hips and lower abdomen.
5. Sitting up
- Helps breathing for the obese or those suffering chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
- Alleviates allergies by draining your nose and throat of congestion
- Prevents snoring
- Can potentially lead to the development of deep vein thrombosis from sitting motionless with your limbs bent for several hours (e.g., sleeping in an airplane)
- Causes neck strain
For your consideration: You should only really need to sleep this way if you’re traveling. Get as comfortable as you can and recline your seat slightly.
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