Best Sleep Positions for What Ails You
BY: Dr. Jessica Vensel Rundo*
If you’re like many people, you probably don’t think much about sleep positions. You just go with whatever is most comfortable for you -- and for me, that’s on my stomach. In the long run, though, it’s wise to pay attention to the position in which you sleep. It can prevent problems like heartburn and back pain from flaring up, and it can help you wake up feeling well-rested and refreshed. To find the best sleep positions based on your health concerns, consider the following:
Sleep Position: Elevated Head
Heartburn tends to be worse when you lie flat. So if you suffer from acid reflux, the most important thing is to elevate the head of your bed. You can do this by placing blocks under the top portion of the bed or sleeping on additional pillows. You want to make sure that your head is above your esophagus -- and that your esophagus is above your stomach -- to prevent the contents of your stomach from flowing upward.
Alleviating Neck or Lower-back Pain
Sleep Position: On Your Back
Sleeping on your back is the best position for neck or lower-back pain because it keeps your spine and neck in a normal curvature. Use one pillow to give a little bit of support to your head and neck. If you have lower-back pain, putting a pillow under your knees can reduce some of the tension and pressure there. Avoid sleeping on your stomach, as that puts the most stress on the lower back. And if you have neck pain, sleeping on your side puts more stress on the neck because your neck will curve in an unnatural way.
Curbing Snoring and Sleep Apnea
Sleep Position: On Your Side or Stomach
If you snore or have sleep apnea (a disorder that involves pauses in breathing while you sleep), you should lie on your side or stomach because these sleep positions will help keep your airway open. Snoring is often worse when you sleep on your back because the airway collapses and your tongue flops against the back of your throat, which causes everything to rattle more. The exception: You can sleep on your back if your apnea is well-controlled with a CPAP machine (which uses a mask to deliver continuous positive airway pressure to keep your airway open while you sleep) or a dental device that repositions your jaw.
Sleep Position: On Your Back
When you sleep on your side or stomach, over time the continuous pressure of the pillow or mattress against your face or chest can compress your skin or rub it the wrong way, resulting in wrinkles. That’s not what most people want to happen while they’re getting their beauty rest. So to prevent wrinkles, sleep on your back.
I actually sleep on my stomach because it is the most comfortable position for me and I don’t have any of the conditions mentioned above. However, I am getting to the point where wrinkles are going to start being an issue, so I’m going to have to learn to sleep on my back!
*As told to Stacey Colino
Dr. Jessica Vensel Rundo is a physician at the Cleveland Clinic Sleep Disorders Center and a guest blogger for Live Right Live Well.