A good night’s sleep is important because it allows your body to function at its best. Sleep recharges your energy reserves, so when you’re well-rested, you can focus better and feel more energized. Sleep also helps your brain process information and store memories. Therefore, a good night’s sleep can help you better remember things from the day before. It’s also important for long-term brain health.
According to the National Institutes of Health, during sleep, your brain empties toxins and misfolded proteins through a specialized lymphatic system called the g-lymphatics. The g-lymphatics are a system of lymphatic vessels that drain the brain and spinal cord. They’re part of the lymphatic system, which helps to transport lymph fluid and immune cells around the body. The g-lymphatics help remove pathogens and toxins from the brain and spinal cord and regulate the level of immune cells in the central nervous system.
Despite the importance of sleep, it’s not always easy to get that sleep–you might have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, or you wake up too early in the morning and feel tired for the rest of the day. Almost half of all adults experience insomnia on occasion while around 10% experience chronic problems falling asleep.
You might also wonder what the best sleep position is to maximize the quality of your sleep and your health. Let’s look at the pros and cons of each sleep position – back, stomach, and side sleeping.
Sleeping on Your Back
Sleeping on your back is the best sleeping position for your spine, according to the National Sleep Foundation, as it helps keep your spine in proper alignment. If you suffer from arthritis and joint pain, sleeping on your back helps ease pressure on your hips and knees too. Back sleeping doesn’t always feel natural, though, so it might take some time to adjust to this sleep positioning.
If you suffer from back pain or stiffness, here are some tips for back sleeping:
- Adjust the firmness of your mattress by adding another layer of foam under it or removing some layers. The softer a mattress is, the more likely you’ll experience back discomfort due to a lack of back support.
- Use pillows under your head and neck as needed to keep your spine in a neutral position. This will help with alignment while also providing support when you sleep on your back. Be sure the added pillow stays within arm’s reach, so you can easily adjust its height throughout the night if necessary.
- To avoid compressing areas around pinched nerves, place one small pillow between each shoulder blade instead of directly behind them; this allows circulation while keeping pressure off sensitive areas like sciatica points.
- Place a large pillow underneath your knees for added support.
Are there downsides to sleeping on your back? If you sleep on your back, you’re more likely to snore. For some people, switching from back sleeping to stomach sleeping is enough to curb snoring. Back sleeping is also risky if you have sleep apnea since it can increase the blockage of your airway. On the plus side, sleeping on your back with your head propped up by pillows can reduce the symptoms of acid reflux.
Is your preferred sleep position on your tummy? When you sleep on your stomach, your torso sinks into the mattress and that can cause your back to arch. This makes tummy sleeping an unhealthy way to sleep if you have back or neck pain.
One advantage of tummy sleeping is it reduces the risk of snoring and is healthier if you have sleep apnea. Sleeping on your stomach can also trigger or worsen acid reflux. So, it’s not a healthy position if you have back/neck issues or acid reflux.
If you can’t break the habit of sleeping on your tummy, place a pillow under your torso to keep your spine in a more neutral position. If you use a pillow, make sure it’s a flatter one. A high pillow will distort your body’s natural alignment and cause your back to arch. Stomach sleeping, with your face pushed into the pillow, can also cause creases or wrinkles to form on your face.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, 6 out of 10 people sleep on their side. One benefit is side sleeping can help reduce snoring. If you sleep on your back or stomach, snoring is more likely because these positions allow the tissue in the throat to collapse and block airflow during sleep. However, when you sleep on your side, the soft tissue in your tongue and throat relaxes enough to reduce obstruction of your airways, making it easier to breathe.
Sleeping on your side can also decrease acid reflux but only if you sleep on your left side. However, side sleeping can worsen shoulder pain on the side you sleep on. Like stomach sleeping, side sleeping can cause wrinkles on the side where your face touches the pillow.
The truth is that when you sleep, your body does a lot more than just rest. It’s also repairing cells, fighting off infections, growing new tissue–and so more! It’s important to get a good night’s sleep for many reasons.
Getting enough sleep helps improve mood, alertness, and focus. It also helps your body repair and rejuvenate. Plus, not getting enough sleep can lead to some health problems, including obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.
But take note of how you position yourself when you sleep. If you have back pain, acid reflux, or snore, certain sleep positions are better than others for your health and well-being. Keep that in mind when you decide how to sleep.
- “What Are the Best Positions for Sleeping? | Sleep Foundation.” 18 Mar. 2022, sleepfoundation.org/sleeping-positions.
- “Choosing the Best Sleep Position | Johns Hopkins Medicine.” hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/choosing-the-best-sleep-position.
- “The Best Sleeping Position for Good Health – Sleep Research Foundation.” 16 Aug. 2022, sleepresearchfoundation.com/2020/07/28/the-best-sleeping-position-for-good-health/.
- “How Sleep Clears the Brain | National Institutes of Health (NIH).” https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/how-sleep-clears-brain.
- “Insomnia – Symptoms and causes – Mayo Clinic.” 15 Oct. 2016, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/insomnia/symptoms-causes/syc-20355167.
- “Types of Insomnia: How to Tell Them Apart and How to Treat Them.” 07 Feb. 2019, https://www.healthline.com/health/types-of-insomnia.
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