Sleeping positions decoded

Sleeping positions decoded

A restful night’s sleep depends on many factors. From comfortable and supportive mattresses and pillows to how much caffeine you have consumed before bedtime. One thing that may make or break your sleep, however, could be that of your sleeping position. 

It’s true that we all have a favorite position in which to lay, but some of us may be doing our bodies more harm than good when choosing how we rest. If your chosen body position during snoozing affects your breathing, it can impact your ability to sleep well. 

Here, we have the different types of sleeping positions that can be beneficial or detrimental to your health. 

  1. Lying On Your Stomach

As this is the least common way to sleep, it still warrants an explanation of why it may be good or not so good for your health. In this position, the face is usually turned to the side for easier breathing. The arms and hands may be tucked underneath or resting to the side. The legs are usually stretched out straight. 


Sleeping on your stomach can help avoid problems of supine sleep. It can also prevent slight organ shifts in your chest. As far as comfort is concerned, some may choose this position as a result of an uncomfortable mattress. Tucking your arms close to your body can also provide psychological relief as well as retaining bodily heat. Lying on your stomach may also ease chronic muscle and joint pain. 


This position of lying on your stomach could cause neck pain. It may also strain your shoulders and upper back muscles. Nerve pressure on your arms and hands can also occur while breathing may be more difficult. This is because your entire body weight is pressing down on your lungs, diaphragm, and rib cage. 

  1. Upright

Sleeping with your head raised above your body is another way in which people choose to rest. And, if you have a recliner, it is quite common to pass out mid-TV show for a relaxing snooze. If your bed is adjustable, it can lift your head above your body when you sleep. But, it is recommended that you raise your head by 20 to 30 degrees. 


This sleeping position can prevent an airway from collapsing, thus reducing snoring and problems associated with sleep apnea. If you position your body correctly, it can also relieve pain. 


It can be quite hard to change positions once lying upright. Sleeping laterally is also a challenge as your head is raised at an angle. Problems from sleeping on your back in this position can still occur, especially if you tend to breathe through your mouth. 

  1. On your backside

This is called the supine position. Lying on your back sees your legs stretched out in a neutral pose with arms either lying to your sides or across your chest or stomach. Arms can also rest above your head. 


Those who have no problems breathing may choose this sleeping position. Lying on your back can give your body good support from your mattress. Using a supporting pillow or cushion placed at the knees can reduce the pressure on your muscles and back, while alleviating joint pain. For those who raise their feet above their heart when sleeping on their backs, edema or swelling of the feet and ankles can be reduced. As edema can contribute to congestive heart failure, it is a good idea to raise your legs above your heart when sleeping on your back. 

Numerous health organizations also advise that infants should sleep on their backs to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome or SIDS.


Those who experience breathing troubles when sleeping may find that lying on their back could make the problem worse. It can also increase the loudness of snoring. Sleep apnea can occur in some people when sleeping on their backs. This is due to the lower jaw and tongue being more easily shifted back when in this position if you have nasal blockages or breath through your mouth. The result is an airway obstruction that could lead to sleep apnea, which is when pauses in breathing occur while sleeping. 

As sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder, many health issues can arise due to the disorder. Such issues include: 

-Nocturia (urinating at night)

-Heartburn/gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)


-High blood pressure

-Heart failure risk

-Teeth grinding or clenching (bruxism)

  1. Left Side

Sleeping with your head and torso lying on the left side is another position chosen by many snoozers. The arms can be positioned slightly forward, stretched out, or under the body. Legs may be stacked, with the left leg on the bottom. Or, the legs can be bent with knees drawn up towards the body (fetal position).


This position can help most people avoid supine sleep. It can alleviate breathing issues as well as snoring and sleep apnea. If you have pain in your left shoulder or hip, this position may help you feel more comfortable. For those who are expecting, lying on your left side can help with easing back pain and bladder pressure. Placing a pillow under your stomach or between your legs is advised for this position. 


Lying on your left side isn’t for everyone. As your chest organs can shift with gravity, the lungs may put pressure on your heart. This pressure can lead to heart malfunctions, adding strain to your heart in the event of heart failure. Kidneys will then be overworked, resulting in frequent trips to the bathroom overnight. Sleeping constantly on your left side can also place pressure on your left shoulder and hip, causing soreness. 

  1. Right Side

Sleeping with your head and torso lying on the right side can have the same effects as sleeping on your left side. The arms can be positioned slightly forward, stretched out, or under the body. Legs may be stacked, with the right leg on the bottom. Or, the legs can be bent with knees drawn up towards the body (fetal position).


Right-sided sleeping positions can also help you avoid supine sleep. It can also aid in tackling breathing issues like snoring and sleep apnea. This way of sleeping may make you feel more comfortable If you have right shoulder or hip issues. For pregnant ladies, lying on your right side can help ease back pain and pressure on your bladder. As with the left-side sleeping position, we recommend placing a pillow under your stomach or between your legs if you are sleeping on your right side.


Lying on your right side also isn’t for everyone. As your chest organs can shift with gravity, the lungs may feel pressure. This pressure can reduce the lung’s function of filling with air, with the reduction of air possibly causing problems. The decreased amount of oxygen levels can strain your cardiovascular system, increasing the effect on related health conditions. Pressure on the nerves of your right arm from laying on it may cause neuropathy or compression injuries. As with sleeping on your left side, choosing to sleep on your right side can cause lower back, shoulder and hip pain. 

How to choose your sleeping position

When choosing your sleeping position, begin by thinking about your current needs. Sleep apnea, joint pain, back pain and other muscle pains can be alleviated or worsened by your sleep position choice. The position of your head and neck is also important as an extended neck can help you breathe better. 

As it is normal to wake up in the night to change sleeping positions, it is important to listen to your body. If something doesn’t feel right, change it up to prevent long-term issues from sleeping in a certain position.

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