With every new year, there are new obstacles to tackle or overcome. We often decide to “eat healthy” or “exercise more.” But what about how you sleep? This year, make a resolution to get a better night’s sleep by switching your sleeping position. 

Some people sleep on their backs while others on their stomachs. Then there are those who sleep in the fetal position and others who spread across the entire bed. While your sleeping position can vary throughout the night, you might want to think again about your favorite position because it can have repercussions for your health. 

Side sleeper. One of the most common sleeping positions is on your side. If you lay on your right side it has been shown to increase the risk of indigestion and heartburn. However, if you sleep on your left side, it allows trapped air to be released. You might find yourself letting out a burp when this happens. 

Stomach sleeper. If you sleep on your stomach, your head has no choice but to tilt to one side. This can then cause stress on your spine. It can also compromise the natural curves of the spine, which means you’re more likely to wake up with neck, arm, shoulder or back pain. And if the height of your pillows cause your head to twist upward, it can place further stress on the ligaments in your neck. 

Partial sleeper. Sleeping partially on your front and side is a neutral recovery position because you’re half on your side, half on your front and your knee is tucked in. This position is great for keeping your airway open and is the least likely position to lead to snoring and joint problems. That is, if you don’t raise your top leg too far, causing your spine to twist and lead to back aches. 

Back sleeper. Lastly, sleeping on your back is often recommended if you have neck, shoulder or back problems cause it is safe for the spine. If you need added support, use a small pillow behind your knees. The downside to sleeping on your back is that it puts you at a higher chance for snoring. This can also trigger obstructive sleep apnea because your airway is blocked. 

Choose the right position

For those who have been diagnosed with sleep apnea, it means side sleeping might be the best choice. This is because sleeping on your side can help keep your airway open. Research has even suggested that sleeping on your left side can relieve heartburn symptoms, while the right side makes them worse.

Here are some tips to keep in mind when determining the best sleep position:

  • Go with the flow. If you try to change your natural sleep position, you could potentially harm the quality of your sleep.
  • The mattress matters. The condition of your mattress will often dictate your sleep position. An old, worn-out mattress that sags in the middle might make sleeping on your side or stomach difficult. 
  • Take Sides. Most people are side sleepers, but the jury is still out on which side is more popular—left or right. You might stick with one position most of the time, but as you age your position may shift. 
  • Don’t stay in one position. Staying in the same position all night is bad for circulation—and it varies from person to person.

It is important to pay attention to how you sleep each night. If you suffer from sleep apnea, think of your favorite sleep position and adjust as needed. Dr. Sara at AZ Sleep & TMJ Solutions can provide tips to help improve your sleep each night.