Is There a Best Sleeping Position?

What's the best sleeping position for you? Well, that depends. (Photo: Barang/Shutterstock)

People are surprisingly feisty about their favorite sleeping positions; I'm a back-sleeper myself and I think it's definitely the most comfortable; I have never been able to sleep on my stomach for more than a few minutes, but my partner loves it. And since back-sleepers are known for snoring, I'm probably happier with him on his stomach too.

It turns out that no matter what your personal opinion (or how strongly you hold it!) all sleeping positions have pros and cons. Since getting enough sleep is a problem for so many people, I'd say sleeping whichever way is most comfortable to you is likely what matters most, but if you are having trouble, or waking up in pain on a regular basis, you might want to look at changing the position you fall asleep in. For certain positions, you might even want or need an extra pillow specially designed for it (see ideas below).

Back sleeping

Pros: This position is good for minimizing acid reflux. Be sure to incline the body with the head higher than the stomach to have the most positive effect. It's also best for reducing or minimizing face, neck and decolletage wrinkles, since there's no pressure on that skin as you sleep.

Cons: This position can cause your tongue to block your airway, making it especially dangerous if you have sleep apnea, where your breathing pauses or is shallow while you sleep. Back sleeping can also lead to a sore lower back, says WebMD. And, as mentioned earlier, people who sleep on their back often are more prone to snoring.

Tip: To avoid back issues, place a pillow or rolled-up towel under your knees to help support the natural arch of your spine.

Side sleeping

A woman sleeps in gray sheets as dawn breaks
Side sleeping can be comfortable and healthy with the right pillow. (Photo: Vera Petrunina/Shutterstock)

Pros: Reduced or eliminated snoring, and it's good for blood circulation. When you're on your side in a loose fetal position, it allows your spine to relax in healthy alignment. Pregnant women, especially, find it the most comfortable position.

Cons: Side-sleeping can cause fine lines on the side of the face you most often sleep, as well as on the neck and chest. It can also cause shoulder or hip pain in some people.

Tips: When side-sleeping, you should always aim to have the neck in the same plane as the rest of your spine. It's easy to wake up with neck pain from sleeping on your side, specifically when your head is tipped up (forehead higher than the chin). Try to keep this from happening, you need to fill the gap between your neck and the mattress with the right pillow.

To reduce the effects of sleeping on your side on wrinkles, consider a silk pillowcase, which is less drying, pulls at skin less — and musses hair less — than cotton ones.

If you suffer from heartburn, sleeping on your right side can make symptoms worse, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. Turn onto your left side instead.

Stomach sleeping

man sleeping on his stomach
Stomach sleeping puts stress on your lower back and neck. (Photo: Prostock-studio/Shutterstock)

Pros: Less snoring, as it keeps airways more open

Cons: This position is the worst for wrinkles as your face is pressed against a pillow all night. It can also put stress on the lower back and neck.

Tips: Avoid using a firm pillow, suggests WebMD. Instead, placing a thinner pillow under the hips can help keep the back on the same plane as the spine and be less stressful on the spine. Or, try sleeping on your stomach without a pillow or with one on your forehead so your head doesn't turn to the side.