Which side should we sleep? Expert Tips (May 2024)

Updated: May, 2024. Is there a best position to sleep? Which side you sleep on has an impact on your sleep, cardiac and mental health. Read more for expert suggestions.

May 02, 2024 05:00 pm | Updated 05:00 pm IST

 Best Sleeping Position

 Best Sleeping Position

Finding your perfect sleeping pose is like solving a puzzle - you must correctly fit all the pieces together. The spine’s S-shape helps you balance and absorb shocks. However, the wrong sleeping pose can knock your spine out of alignment, leading to back pain, breathing problems, and poor sleep.

A study published in PLOS ONE shows that sleeping position impacts how you feel when you wake up. People who woke up with back and neck pain tended to spend more time sleeping in ways that strain the spine - like on their stomachs or with their heads tilted at odd angles. Adjusting their sleeping pose and choosing the right mattress, like the Sunday mattress, reduced pain and helped them rest better.

So, when you climb into bed tonight, consider how your sleeping pose interacts with your body. Fine-tuning your sleeping position could distinguish between waking up refreshed or with a kink in your neck or back. Read on to learn how to find your best sleeping position.

Key Takeaways
Sleeping posture affects various aspects of your sleep quality. Sleeping posture also influences your health outcomes, such as blood pressure, heart rate, and glucose levels.
The best sleeping position for you is the one that allows you to maintain a neutral spine alignment, distribute your body weight evenly, reduce pressure points, breathe easily, and relax your muscles.
Sleeping on your back keeps your head, neck and spine neutrally aligned. This posture minimizes pain for many people by evenly distributing body weight.
Sleeping on your side reduces pressure on your lower back and internal organs. Side sleeping is ideal during pregnancy and can improve conditions like acid reflux.
Sleeping on your stomach strains the neck and arches the back unnaturally. This position is generally not recommended as it can cause pain over time.
 How to Sleep Better? (source: Freepik)

 How to Sleep Better? (source: Freepik)

Finding the Best Sleeping Position

Finding your optimal sleeping position can take some trial and error. The “best” position is the one that allows you to fall asleep quickly, sleep soundly through the night, and wake up feeling rested (not stiff and sore!).

Here are some key factors to consider as you experiment to discover your best sleeping position:

  • Comfort - Listen to your body. Adjust if you wake up numb, sore, or “off”. Discomfort often indicates misalignment or pressure points needing relief.
  • Health conditions - Certain conditions favour some positions. Let health conditions like sleep apnea, reflux, and pregnancy guide your choices.
  • Mattress comfort/support level - Your mattress must complement your sleeping pose, not work against it.
  • Pillow configuration - Pillows can make or break alignment and neck comfort. Feel free to try different pillow types, heights, and combinations to dial in your fit.
  • Pre-existing aches and pains - If you wake up with shoulder stiffness or lower back pain, your position may be the culprit. Tweak until you find relief.

Now, let’s explore the most common and the best sleeping positions.

Side Sleeping Position

Sleeping on your side is among the most popular and recommended positions. If you’re a dedicated side sleeper, you’re not alone. According to a study by Dovepress, 54% of people prefer sleeping on their side.

Benefits of Sleeping on Your Side

  • Reduce snoring and sleep apnea - Side sleeping opens your airways, making breathing easier.
  • Maintain spinal alignment - Side sleeping keeps your spine straight, avoiding back and neck pain common in other positions like stomach sleeping.
  • Pregnancy relief - If you are pregnant, sleeping on your left side improves blood flow and relieves pressure on your internal organs.
  • Ease acid reflux - Side sleeping prevents stomach acid from rising in the oesophagus, providing relief from acid reflux.

Drawbacks of Sleeping on Your Side

  • Wrinkles - Sleeping on your side may lead to premature wrinkles, fine lines, and sagging skin due to friction with the pillow.
  • Breast pain - For women with larger breasts, side sleeping can cause chest pressure and breast ligament stretching, leading to sagging breasts.
  • Pressure points - Extended-side sleeping can compress nerves and blood vessels, reducing blood flow and causing numbness, tingling, or shoulder pain.
Correct Sleeping Posture (source: Freepik)

Correct Sleeping Posture (source: Freepik)

Right vs. Left: Which Side Is Best to Sleep On?
Sleeping on either side can be beneficial. However, most doctors and sleep experts recommend sleeping on your left side to maintain the natural curve of your spine. Here’s an overview of how right vs. left side sleeping compares:
Left Side Sleeping Position
Experts recommend sleeping on the left side as optimal. It improves circulation, breathing, lymph drainage, and blood flow for pregnant women by reducing pressure on your heart and organs. Sleeping on the left side also minimizes acid reflux. The drawback is potential shoulder and hip pressure points.
Right Side Sleeping Position
Sleeping on the right side can also be healthy if the left isn’t comfortable. It may improve bowel regularity and feel better for some with one-sided shoulder/hip pain. However, the right side can hinder circulation, exacerbate digestive issues, and promote heartburn.

Suitability of Side Sleeping Position

Side sleeping is suitable for people who:

  • Snore or have sleep apnea
  • Have high blood pressure or heart problems
  • Have back pain or sciatica
  • Are pregnant or trying to conceive
  • Adults in general or aged people

Side sleeping is not suitable for people who:

  • Have sensitive or acne-prone skin
  • Have large or heavy breasts
  • Have shoulder injuries or arthritis
  • Prefer a firmer mattress
Side Sleeping Position (source: Arthritis Society Canada)

Side Sleeping Position (source: Arthritis Society Canada)

Tips for Side Sleeping Position

  • Place a pillow between the knees to align the hips
  • Use a thicker pillow to support the head/neck
  • Sleep with arms out in front to open your chest rather than tucked
  • Use a medium-soft mattress to cradle pressure points

Best Mattress for Side Sleepers - Sunday Latex Plus Mattress

The Sunday Latex Plus mattress is your best option as a side sleeper because it meets your needs. This hypoallergenic, breathable, durable, and eco-friendly mattress has a medium-firm feel that will conform to your curves and relieve pressure points—the primary discomfort source for side sleepers.

Best Mattress for Side Sleeping Position

Best Mattress for Side Sleeping Position

With its 8-inch thickness (2 inches of 75D latex foam over 6 inches of resilient 80-density 7-zone natural latex), the mattress provides zoned support tailored for you. The lumbar area gets extra support, often neglected in even the best mattress brands in India. The shoulder region gets extra softness, preventing the compression that can happen in other mattresses. This enhanced spinal alignment and targeted support will ensure a comfortable night’s sleep.

The Sunday Latex Plus works for all sleeping positions. Its balanced feel suits most sleepers regardless of weight, height, or body type. The natural latex foam adapts to back, stomach, side, and combination sleepers. Its natural, breathable, and hypoallergenic material will keep you cool, fresh, and healthy. Motion isolation keeps you undisturbed by a partner’s movements.

Back Sleeping Position

Sleeping on your back is one of the most common and recommended positions. Almost 38% of people sleep on their backs. Sleeping on the back aligns your head, neck, and spine, avoiding any strain that could lead to pain.

Benefits of Sleeping on Your Back

  • Spinal alignment - Back sleeping aligns your spine by keeping your head, neck, and spine neutral. This prevents strain and improves posture and circulation.
  • Fewer wrinkles - It prevents wrinkles and acne by avoiding face rubbing on the pillow. This reduces skin damage and the transfer of dirt, oil, and bacteria.
  • Reduces pressure points - Back sleeping relaxes muscles and joints to ease tension and pain. It also allows arm and leg stretching for better flexibility.

Drawbacks of Sleeping on Your Back

  • Snoring - Back sleeping can obstruct airways, cause snoring, and worsen sleep apnea as the tongue falls back.
  • Acid reflux - Back sleeping puts internal pressure on the stomach and LES muscle, allowing stomach acid to rise to the oesophagus more easily, which can exacerbate acid reflux.
  • Discomfort for pregnant women - Back sleeping compresses a major vein, restricting blood flow to the uterus and foetus, affecting development.
Back Sleeping Position (source: Medicrystal)

Back Sleeping Position (source: Medicrystal)

Suitability of Back Sleeping Position

Back sleeping is suitable for people who:

  • Have good posture or spinal alignment
  • Have sensitive or acne-prone skin
  • Have muscle tension or pain

Back sleeping is not suitable for people who:

  • Snore or have sleep apnea
  • Have lower back problems or injuries
  • Are pregnant or breastfeeding

Tips for Back Sleeping Position

  • Use a thin or medium pillow under your head to prevent snoring and breathing issues.
  • Put a pillow under your knees or lower back to maintain your spine’s natural curve and prevent pain.
  • Switch positions or rotate slightly to distribute pressure and prevent numbness evenly.
  • Choose a mattress that is medium-firm or firm.

Best Mattress for Back Sleepers - Wakefit Duo Plus Mattress

As a back sleeper, the Wakefit Duo Plus Mattress is an excellent choice for you. This responsive, resilient, eco-friendly mattress has a medium-firm feel that provides the spine support you need without being too firm.

Best Mattress for Back Sleeping Position

Best Mattress for Back Sleeping Position

What makes the Wakefit Duo Plus stand out is its dual comfort feature. You can flip the mattress and choose either the medium-soft or medium-firm side based on your preferences. The medium-soft side offers more cushioning and pressure relief for your shoulders and hips. The medium-firm side provides more support and alignment for your lower back.

Other benefits that make this mattress ideal for back sleepers include a soft, breathable fabric cover to keep you cool and solid motion isolation. Hence, you stay undisturbed if sharing the bed, natural temperature regulation, no compression shipping, a 12-year warranty, a 100-night trial, and a 10-12-year lifespan. With adjustable firmness and premium features, the Wakefit Duo Plus delivers versatile comfort tailored for back sleepers.

Stomach Sleep Position

Stomach sleeping, also called the prone position, is one of the least common and most controversial sleep positions. Research shows that only about 8% of people prefer sleeping on their stomachs.

Benefits of Sleeping on Your Stomach

  • Sleeping on your stomach prevents snoring and sleep apnea by keeping your tongue from blocking your airway and opening nasal passages to improve breathing.
  • Stomach sleeping facilitates food and waste movement through your digestive system to prevent constipation, bloating, heartburn, and acid reflux.
  • Mimicking the fetal position releases endorphins to relieve stress and anxiety, creating comfort and security.

Drawbacks of Sleeping on Your Stomach

  • While sleeping on your stomach, your spine is forced into an unnatural arched position with this sleeping position, which strains your back and neck.
  • Friction between your face and the pillow can damage skin cells, causing wrinkles and acne from dirt, oil, and bacteria transfer.
  • Women with larger breasts may find lying directly on their stomach uncomfortable or painful.
Stomach Sleeping Position (source: Q4PT)

Stomach Sleeping Position (source: Q4PT)

Suitability of Stomach Sleeping Position

Stomach sleeping is suitable for people who:

  • Snore or have sleep apnea
  • Have digestive problems or acid reflux
  • Have stress or anxiety

Stomach sleeping is not suitable for people who:

  • Have neck or back problems or injuries
  • Have sensitive or acne-prone skin
  • Are pregnant or breastfeeding
Risk of Stomach Sleeping Position
Stomach sleeping increases babies’ risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) due to potential suffocation, overheating, or rebreathing carbon dioxide.
For pregnant women, stomach sleeping compresses blood vessels, reducing circulation to the uterus and foetus.
For girls, stomach sleeping can affect breast development during puberty by putting pressure on the chest and interfering with breast tissue growth.

Tips for Side Sleeping Position

  • Place a soft, slim pillow under your pelvis and lower abdomen to reduce back strain.
  • Use a flat or no pillow under your head to relax your neck.
  • Avoid thick, fluffy pillows that misalign you.
  • Choose a firm or medium-firm mattress to support your body weight.

Best Mattress for Stomach Sleepers - SpringTek Coir Bond Mattress

As a stomach sleeper, the SpringTek Coir Bond Mattress is an excellent option for you to consider. This natural, breathable, durable, eco-friendly mattress has a firm feel that will adequately support your body weight in the stomach sleeping position and prevent excessive spinal curvature.

Best Mattress for Stomach Sleeping Pose

Best Mattress for Stomach Sleeping Pose

The SpringTek’s unique combination of coir fibre and a spring base makes it stand out. The thin layer of coir lets you use a very slim or no pillow at all, keeping your neck in a neutral position to avoid pain. The dense, elastic coir avoids sagging and misalignment. The springs provide extra support and bounce for your comfort. Together, these layers maintain proper spinal alignment.

Made of natural materials without chemicals, the SpringTek Coir Bond is a healthy, eco-friendly choice explicitly tailored for your needs as a stomach sleeper.

Combination Sleeping Position

Some people do not have a fixed sleep position and switch between different sleeping poses. These people are called combination sleepers, and they can enjoy the benefits of different sleep positions, such as side, back, and stomach.

Combination Sleeping Position (source: pinterest)

Combination Sleeping Position (source: pinterest)

Benefits of Being a Combination Sleeper

  • Switching sleep positions distributes body weight to reduce pressure points and pain in the neck, shoulders, hips, and legs.
  • Changing positions improves blood circulation and oxygen flow to the brain and organs, boosting health and preventing limb numbness.
  • Moving around prevents snoring and sleep apnea by keeping the tongue from blocking airways and opening nasal passages.

Drawbacks of Being a Combination Sleeper

  • Frequently changing sleep positions can disrupt sleep cycles and quality, leaving you unrested with mood/performance issues.
  • Spinal misalignment and lower back pain can result from changing positions too often without proper support, especially on the stomach or side.
  • Finding the ideal mattress, pillow, and bedding is harder for combination sleepers who need balance for multiple positions.

Suitability of Combination Sleeping Position

Combination sleeping is suitable for people who:

  • Have pressure points or pain
  • Have poor blood circulation or oxygen flow
  • Snore or have sleep apnea

Combination sleeping is not suitable for people who:

  • Have spinal problems or injuries
  • Have insomnia or difficulty falling asleep
  • Have a partner who is sensitive to movement

Best Mattress for Combination Sleeper - Sunday Ortho Latex Mattress

The Sunday Ortho Latex Mattress is an excellent choice if you are a combination sleeper. This mattress provides medium-firm support that adapts as you change positions during the night. When you switch from your side to your back to your stomach, the Sunday Ortho Latex adjusts its firmness and softness to correctly cradle and align your body.

Best Mattress for Combination Sleeping Pose

Best Mattress for Combination Sleeping Pose

As you change positions, you’ll enjoy pressure relief in critical areas like your shoulders, hips, and lower back. This online mattress prevents the discomfort and pain from improper support. Its responsive foam and zoned construction give you the right blend of contouring and support when sleeping on your side, back, or stomach.

Other great features include outstanding motion isolation, cool sleeping, an organic cover, no compression delivery, a 10-year warranty, and a 100-night trial. Suppose you tend to change positions while you sleep. In that case, the Sunday Ortho Latex is designed to provide continuous comfort and spinal alignment all night.

Best Sleeping Position for Back Pain

Poor posture, especially during sleep, is one of the most common causes of back pain. According to research by BMJ Journal, lying on your side is the best sleep position for decreasing neck and back pain. This is because side sleeping helps maintain the natural alignment of your spine and reduces pressure on your discs and nerves. In addition, choose a good mattress for back pain without compromising quality.

If you are a side sleeper who suffers from back pain, try these tips:

  • Use a firm pillow that supports your head and neck.
  • Place a pillow between your knees to keep your hips aligned.
  • Avoid curling up too much and choose the best mattress for back pain.
  • Switch sides occasionally to avoid muscle imbalance and stiffness.
Best Sleeping Position for Back Pain (source: redefine health care)

Best Sleeping Position for Back Pain (source: redefine health care)

Best Sleeping Position for Neck Pain

One of the possible causes of neck pain is sleeping in the wrong position, which strains your neck muscles and joints. According to a study published by Harvard, two sleeping positions are easiest on the neck: on your side or your back. These positions help to keep your head and spine aligned and reduce the tension in your neck.

If you are a side or back sleeper who suffers from neck pain, try these tips:

  • Use a pillow that is not too high or too low but just right for your neck.
  • Avoid using too many pillows or stacking them up.
  • Choose a latex mattress that is firm enough to support your spine.
  • Avoid sleeping on your stomach.
Best Sleeping Position for Neck Pain (source: Axel Bloom)

Best Sleeping Position for Neck Pain (source: Axel Bloom)

Best Sleeping Position for Pregnancy

Sleeping well is important for your health and your baby’s development. As per a study by URMC Rochester, the best sleeping position during pregnancy is on your side. The left side is perfect because it lets the most blood flow to the baby. This position also helps prevent your uterus from pressing on your liver, which is on your right side.

Pregnancy Sleeping Positions (source: quiltcomfort)

Pregnancy Sleeping Positions (source: quiltcomfort)

Best Sleeping Position for Snoring and Sleep Apnea

Both snoring and sleep apnea can cause poor sleep quality, daytime sleepiness, headaches, and an increased risk of cardiovascular problems. According to a study by NLM, sleeping in an inclined position can reduce snoring and improve sleep.

Tip - To sleep in an inclined position, use an adjustable bed, wedge pillow or a Dr. Ortho mattress that elevates your head and upper body.

Best Sleeping Position for Snoring & Sleep Apnea

Best Sleeping Position for Snoring & Sleep Apnea

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best pose to sleep?

Sleeping on your left side is often recommended as the best pose to sleep. Sleeping on your left side allows your stomach and pancreas to hang naturally, improves circulation, and may help reduce acid reflux.

Best Side to Sleep

Best Side to Sleep

How to sleep properly?

If you want to sleep properly, aim for a comfortable, neutral position for your body. Sleep on your back with arms resting at your sides or on your stomach with a pillow under your pelvis and knees bent to avoid lower back strain.

Is it good to sleep on the right side?

Sleeping on your right side can put pressure on your liver and lungs. If you prefer right-side sleeping, put a pillow between your knees and use pillows to prevent your upper body from twisting.

How many sleeping positions are there?

There are three main sleep positions - back, side, and stomach sleeping. Many people shift through multiple positions during the night. Focus on alignments that feel most comfortable and supportive.

Best Pose to Sleep (source: sleepadvisor)

Best Pose to Sleep (source: sleepadvisor)

Is it good to sleep without a pillow?

Sleep without a pillow is generally not recommended, as this can strain your neck. Go for a low, slim pillow if you are a back sleeper and a firmer, thicker pillow if you sleep on your side or stomach.

What is the healthiest sleep position?

Sleeping on your back or left side is typically considered the healthiest sleep position. They align your spine and neck, allowing your internal organs to rest naturally.

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