As you drift off to sleep, how does your nightly position affect your health?
Whether you prefer stomach, back, side or curled into a fetal position, the way you snuggle into the pillow may affect your breathing patterns, neck and back pain, and circulation. A less-serious effect, but one most people would probably like to avoid, is an increase in facial wrinkles.
Sleeping position pros and cons
Here are some of the pros and cons of go-to nightly postures, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
1) Back: Lying on your back and assuming a neutral body position typically results in the least amount of strain on your head, neck and spine. But studies show links between back sleepers and snoring, so if this is something you are prone to, try flipping to your side. Also, sleeping on your back is not a good choice if you have sleep apnea, because your tongue can fall back, narrowing the airway.
2) Side: Side-sleeping, which is the most common position for adults, helps to open our airways to allow for steady airflow to the lungs. Researchers have found resting on the side may boost brain health, at least when monitoring the sleeping patterns of laboratory animals, but a separate study showed the potential for increased wrinkles in side-sleepers.
3) Fetal position: The fetal position helps improve circulation and is a good bet for people who tend to snore. Be sure not to curl too tightly as you drift off, however, as it may cause difficulty breathing.
4) Stomach: Sleeping on your stomach may make breathing regularly a challenge because airway passages could be compromised. Others may experience neck pain or tingling in joints and muscles due to poor circulation, which is a common challenge for people with diabetes. To help avoid putting pressure on the spine, tuck a pillow under your pelvis to keep a neutral lumbar position. One other negative: Enhanced wrinkles may be a side effect of stomach slumber.
While changing your default sleeping position is no easy task, you can help the process by supporting your head and legs with pillows designed for your ideal position.
“Regardless of your go-to sleep position, getting adequate rest is important to all aspects of your health,” said Dr. James Metcalf, a medical director with UnitedHealthcare Medicare & Retirement. “Hours of slumber enable our bodies and minds to recharge. Talk with your doctor if you’re having trouble getting a good night’s sleep.”