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Health and Fitness News

Sleep Position and Your Health

The position you sleep in can affect your health. Here’s how.

It’s recommended you get seven to nine hours of sleep each day. Getting that many hours means you’re sleeping away roughly one third of your life. And that’s okay! Your body and mind need sleep for health and wellness. However, you may be interested to learn getting sleep isn’t a one-size-fits-all event. Studies reveal interesting connections between your favored sleep position and your health.

How do you sleep—sprawled on your back, curled on your side, or snuggled on your stomach? Maybe you toss and turn all night in a combination of positions, but your body likely has a preferred comfort zone. Based on research, it may be time to change the way you sleep. You be the judge.

Back to Back

Rated by many experts to be the best sleep position for your health, sleeping on your back is beneficial for several reasons. For starters, it may help prevent back and neck pain. With a low pillow and a firm mattress, your spine, neck, and head are kept in a neutral position rather than curved. On your back with your head slightly elevated may also help reduce the unpleasant symptoms of acid reflux that can worsen at night. Some people like the idea of sleeping on their backs because it may lessen the likelihood of facial wrinkles. Unlike side or stomach sleeping, there’s no pillow pushing against your cheek to potentially cause wrinkles.

What back sleepers do struggle with is snoring and other breathing problems. Folks who regularly sleep on their backs experience more episodes of obstructive sleep apnea (loud snoring with periodic lapses in breathing) and hypopneas (abnormally shallow breathing). When you’re on your back, the tongue and soft palate relax and cover the back of your throat, making it difficult to breath. Without a continuous flow of oxygen, your sleep is interrupted, which affects your quality of life.

Side to Side

Curled on your side in the fetal position is the most popular sleep position, especially for women. But like sleeping on your back, it comes with health risks and benefits. Side sleeping is good for your back, especially when you’re stretched out with a pillow between your legs, as it lets your spine rest in natural alignment. It’s also a good position for people who snore, but not so good at possibly preventing wrinkles. Pregnant women are advised to sleep on their left side to allow adequate circulation to the baby.

That said, highly curious preliminary research shows side sleeping may reduce your risk of diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Why is this? Compared to sleeping on your back or stomach, sleeping on your side allows the brain to clear its waste more efficiently.

If you suffer from acid reflux, you may find your symptoms improve when sleeping on your left side. Reflux seems to be worse when lying on your right side compared to any other position. Sleeping on your right side relaxes your esophagus muscles, leading to higher acidity in your esophagus.

Face Down

You won’t snore as much when sleeping on your stomach, but you may wake up with a hurting neck. Stomach sleeping forces you to lie with your head twisted to the side, putting pressure on your muscles, spine, nerves, and joints. Folks who prefer their stomach are prone to neck, shoulder, or low back pain. If you do primarily sleep on your stomach, make sure you use a flat pillow, if any pillow at all.

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