Advice on sleep hygiene—habits we can adopt to help us get higher quality, more restful sleep—abounds. We’ve heard about the benefits of turning off our phones an hour before bed, avoiding caffeine in the evening, and keeping our bedroom dark and cool, but how do the positions in which we sleep affect our overall health?
As Nancy H. Rothstein, a sleep wellness consultant for The Sleep Ambassador explains, “the most appropriate sleep position varies from person to person and is dependent on comfort, health issues, and recommendations by health professionals.” Everything from snoring to acid reflux to pregnancy to back pain impacts which sleep position is best for your individual health. So when should you sleep on your back, stomach, left side, or right side? Here are some helpful tips for choosing the best sleeping position, based on your needs.
IF YOU HAVE BACK OR NECK PAIN, DON’T SLEEP IN THE FETAL POSITION.
The fetal position (scrunching your knees up to your chest and pulling your arms into a tiny ball) may feel safe, but it’s not the best position for your body. Tucking your chin and curling your body up into itself can strain your neck and head. According to Rothstein, sleeping in the fetal position can also compromise your circulation and restrict healthy, diaphragmatic breathing. To avoid overstretching your back and neck, try to straighten your legs and arms so you’re lying flat on your back instead.