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The Benefits And Drawbacks To Your Preferred Sleep Position

The Benefits And Drawbacks To Your Preferred Sleep Position

You probably have one or two preferred sleep positions you use to get comfortable and maximize your chances of getting a restful night’s sleep. Obviously, that’s normal. Even animals do it. Unfortunately, for humans (of course) there has to be all this depressing scientific research on the sleep positions people tend to have and all sorts of unwanted effects they can cause on the neck, back, skin, limbs, or other body parts that get in the way.

I’m a stomach sleeper. According to the National Sleep Foundation, this is pretty much the absolute worst position to put your body through when it comes time to catch some Zs. However, in my personal situation, it’s actually super comfortable. I feel awesome, and I usually can’t seem to fall asleep quite the same when I’m on my back or on my side.

It’s said that sleeping on your stomach can screw up your neck (because it’s turned to the side all night) and can also cause back pain due to contorting the natural C curve of your spine. Women who are stomach sleepers also have to deal with their lungs and breasts and uterus getting smooshed, so that’s no fun at all. With that said, I should be a crippled mess of a person right now because of the way that I sleep every night, yet somehow, I’m not.

Spoiler alert: There is no ideal “one size fits all” position for sleep.

Obviously, we’ve all got arms, legs, a torso, a neck, and all that other stuff that comes with being physically human; however, we don’t all suffer from the same aches and pains or airway problems that can rob us of proper sleep and make us feel super groggy during the day. Therefore, it would be silly for someone to recommend that every single person should sleep in one preferred position for the rest of their lives.

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Dr. Steven Park says that you really shouldn’t have to change your preferred sleep position unless you’re experiencing pain or any other health problems because of it.

If you absolutely need to sleep on your back, surrounded by 57 pillows, with calming frog sounds playing in the background, while one leg is bent and the other leg is propped up on the other — and you feel GREAT in the morning — then why stop doing something that’s working so well for you?

Trying out different positions when you sleep is effective for relieving pain or finding a way to get a better quality of sleep, but if you don’t suffer from any muscle or joint pain during the day, and you’re happy with the way that you sleep, then there’s probably no need to change anything. Congratulations! You found your perfect position! Besides, it should feel natural.

So, what should you do if you’re a stomach sleeper like I am, knowing that’s still basically the worst position to sleep in? Well, it makes me feel good, so I’m sticking with it. However, if you experience neck pain, back pain, aching muscles, snoring, pins and needles, sleep deprivation, or anything else that may be unpleasantly related to how you sleep, then it may be time to try something new.

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The general consensus is that sleeping on your back or on your side is best because you’re less likely to suffer from neck and back pain.

The National Sleep Foundation says that sleeping on your back keeps your spine pretty neutral, and sleeping on your side elongates it. The fact that your spine isn’t curved in any unnatural way makes these two preferred positions the real winners.

If you’re a back or side sleeper, then good for you! You’re doing it right… although there’s always room for a little improvement.

If you sleep on your side, go for a thick pillow that fills up all that space between your shoulder and head — and try placing a pillow between your knees as well.

You need a nice thick and puffy pillow to make sure your head and neck are supported in a neutral position while lying on your side. Placing a pillow between the knees keeps the pelvis straight, preventing your legs from falling to either side and causing any awkward twists in the body.

Try a body pillow if you’re a side sleeper. They’re great if you need to hug something for better upper body stability, and they’re long enough that you can wrap your legs around them too.

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The one thing you actually need to avoid as a side sleeper is the fetal position. Bringing your knees and legs way up toward your chest forces a bigger curve in your spine, which can spell out pain for your poor back and neck by morning.

If you sleep on your back, go for a puffy pillow that’s not too thick so it doesn’t prop your head up too much — and place another pillow under your knees and calves.

While sleeping on your back, your head will need to be supported by a proper pillow that prevents it from falling too far side to side, but not so much that it lifts your head way up so that your neck is out of line with rest of your body.

It’s also a good idea to try placing a pillow directly underneath the knees so that it kind of props up the natural curves in your legs, creating support for them and keeping your spine in a flatter neutral position. Placing your arms over your head can force a bigger curve in your back, so try to keep them down by your side.

If you sleep on your stomach, go for an extra thin pillow and avoid using one that’s too thick or puffy.

In fact, if you sleep on your stomach, it might be best to use no pillow at all.

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When sleeping on your stomach, the natural curve in your back is flattened out, and your neck is twisted to the side, so propping your head up with a massive pillow is going to just make things worse.

You can also reduce any lower back pain you might have by placing a pillow underneath your hips or abdomen while sleeping on your stomach.

Do what feels comfortable and natural.

There is no perfect position.

I repeat: there is NO perfect position for sleep.

Back pain sufferers should try sleeping on their sides, snorers should try sleeping on their stomachs, and people with stiff necks should try sleeping on their backs. Experiment a little, maybe track your sleep progress as you go, and settle with what feels right.

This article was originally published on Slothstorm.com. Sign up to get your free list of 28 Daily Must-Do Habits for Getting Sh*t Done and Becoming a Better Person.

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Elise Moreau

Elise helps desk workers lead healthier lifestyles. Visit her website on her profile to get a free list of health hacks.

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Last Updated on December 2, 2019

10 Powerful Ways to Stop Worrying and Start Living Today

10 Powerful Ways to Stop Worrying and Start Living Today

Plato knew that the body and mind are intimately linked. And in the late 1800s, the Mayo brothers, famous physicians, estimated that over half of all hospital beds are filled with people suffering from frustration, anxiety, worry and despair. Causes of worry are everywhere, in our relationships and our jobs, so it’s key we find ways to take charge of the stress.

In his classic book How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, Dale Carnegie offers tools to ditch excessive worrying that help you make a worry-free environment for your private and professional life.

These are the top 10 tips to grab worry by the horns and wrestle it to the ground:

1. Make Your Decision and Never Look Back

Have you ever made a decision in life only to second-guess it afterwards? Of course you have! It’s hard not to wonder whether you’ve done the right thing and whether there might still be time to take another path.

But keep this in mind: you’ve already made your decision, so act decisively on it and dismiss all your anxiety about it.

Don’t stop to hesitate, to reconsider, or to retrace your steps. Once you’ve chosen a course of action, stick to it and never waver.

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2. Live for Today, Package Things up in “Day-Tight Compartments”

You know that feeling: tossing, turning and worrying over something that happened or something that might, well into the wee hours. To avoid this pointless worrying, you need “day-tight compartments”. Much as a ship has different watertight compartments, your own “day-tight” ones are a way to limit your attention to the present day.

The rule is simple: whatever happened in the past or might happen in the future must not intrude upon today. Everything else has to wait its turn for tomorrow’s box or stay stuck in the past.

3. Embrace the Worst-Case Scenario and Strategize to Offset It

If you’re worried about something, ask yourself: “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” Could you lose your job? Be jailed? Get killed?

Whatever the “worst” might be, it’s probably not so world-ending. You could probably even bounce back from it!

If, for example, you lose your job, you could always find another. Once you accept the worst-case scenario and get thinking about contingency plans, you’ll feel calmer.

4. Put a Lid on Your Worrying

Sometimes we stress endlessly about negative experiences when just walking away from them would serve us far better.

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To make squashing that worry easier, try this strategy, straight from stock traders: it’s called the “stop-loss” order, where shares are bought at a certain price, and then their price development is observed. If things go badly and the share price hits a certain point, they are sold off immediately. This stops the loss from increasing further.

In the same manner, you can put a stop-loss order on things that cause you stress and grief.

5. Fake It ‘Til You Make It – Happiness, That Is

We can’t directly influence how we feel, but we can nudge ourselves to change through how we think and act.

If you’re feeling sad or low, slap a big grin on your face and whistle a chipper tune. You’ll find it impossible to be blue when acting cheerful. But you don’t necessarily need to act outwardly happy; you can simply think happier thoughts instead.

Marcus Aurelius summed it up aptly:

“Our life is what our thoughts make it.”

6. Give for the Joy of Giving

When we perform acts of kindness, we often do so with the expectation of gratitude. But harboring such expectations will probably leave you disappointed.

One person well aware of this fact was the lawyer Samuel Leibowitz. Over the course of his career, Leibowitz saved 78 people from going to the electric chair. Guess how many thanked him? None.

So stop expecting gratitude when you’re kind to someone. Instead, take joy from the act yourself.

7. Dump Envy – Enjoy Being Uniquely You

Your genes are completely unique. Even if someone had the same parents as you, the likelihood of someone identical to you being born is just one in 300,000 billion.

Despite this amazing fact, many of us long to be someone else, thinking the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. But living your life this way is pointless. Embrace your uniqueness and get comfortable with who you really are: How to Be True to Yourself and Live the Life You Want

8. Haters Will Hate — It Just Means You’re Doing It Right

When you’re criticized, it often means you’re accomplishing something noteworthy. In fact, let’s take it a step further and consider this: the more you’re criticized, the more influential and important a person you likely are.

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So the next time somebody talks you down, don’t let it get to you. Take it as a compliment!

9. Chill Out! Learn to Rest Before You Get Tired

Scientists agree that emotions are the most common cause of fatigue. And it works the other way around, too: fatigue produces more worries and negative emotions.

It should be clear, therefore, that you’ve got to relax regularly before you feel tired. Otherwise, worries and fatigue will accumulate on top of each other.

It’s impossible to worry when you are relaxed, and regular rest helps you maintain your ability to work effectively.

10. Get Organized and Enjoy Your Work

There are few greater sources of misery in life than having to work, day in, day out, in a job you despise. It would make sense then that you shouldn’t pick a job you hate, or even just dislike doing.

But say you already have a job. How can you make it more enjoyable and worry-free? One way is to stay organized: a desk full of unanswered mails and memos is sure to breed worries.

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Better yet, rethink about the job you’re doing: What to Do When You Hate Your Job but Want a Successful Career

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Featured photo credit: Tyler Nix via unsplash.com

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