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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.

More by this author

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 March 13, 2019

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on the small tasks.

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

2. Take a break from your work desk.

Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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3. Upgrade yourself

Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a friend.

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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6. Paint a vision to work towards.

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

7. Read a book (or blog).

The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

8. Have a quick nap.

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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9. Remember why you are doing this.

Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

10. Find some competition.

Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

11. Go exercise.

Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

12. Take a good break.

Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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