Everyone has their preferred way to sleep – some of us won’t be able to nod off unless they’re firmly lying on their fronts, whereas others are only comfortable on their backs or curled up on their sides. How does the sleeping position we adopt affect posture, circulation and even our skin?
Sleeping position guide
Whatever works for you is great, but what about the science behind it all? Is it all down to personal preference, or is there a particular position which can improve your life in any way?
We asked a variety of experts to see if there is a right way to be sleeping, in terms of everything from how good a night’s sleep you’ll get to how it can affect your digestion.
Having trouble sleeping? Read the Wise Living guide to how to quickly overcome insomnia.
Posture and snoring
Unfortunately, there’s a bit of a trade-off between keeping a good posture and reducing snoring if you want to sleep on your front or back.
“Sleeping on your stomach can be useful for snoring but tends to be bad for your posture. It can lead to neck and back pain because it is hard to keep your spine in a neutral position whilst sleeping on your stomach,” explains Push Doctor medical officer Dr Tom Micklewright. “Conversely, sleeping on your back is one of the best positions for helpi
ng to keep your head, neck and spine in alignment but can make snoring worse, as it causes your tongue and tissues of your neck to partially block off your airway.”
If you want the best of both worlds, sleeping on your side could be the solution – Micklewright says it can “help reduce snoring and help with your spinal position”.
Poor circulation can be caused by various health issues like diabetes, obesity and heart problems. To help circulation, Medicspot GP Dr Farah Ali says: “You could try sleeping on your left side instead of your right. This is because sleeping on your right side may put pressure on your blood vessels, limiting circulation. Sleeping on your left side may help your blood to flow more efficiently.”
Ali also advises you against dozing off on your arm. “Sleeping on your arm all night can put more pressure on your blood vessels, especially if you have a firm mattress, which restricts your blood flow,” she explains. “Instead, try adopting a different position or investing in a more contouring mattress.”
If you regularly suffer from heartburn, the experts advise against sleeping on your back. “This is because it can increase the pressure on your stomach, especially if you are overweight, increasing the likelihood of acid reflux,” Ali says.
“To help reduce heartburn, try raising the end of your bed 10 to 20cm by propping it up with something. By making sure your chest and head are above the level of your waist, stomach acid is less likely to travel up towards your throat.”
If you want to keep a youthful complexion, you might want to start thinking about how you’re sleeping. Dr Jonquille Chantrey, cosmetic surgeon and international aesthetics lecturer, doesn’t mince her words in saying: “By far the best sleep position is on the back.”
So why is this? Chantrey says that sleeping predominantly on one side can “affect the tissues in the face in the long term, creating more wrinkles on that side and even slight depressions and hollow areas”.
Don’t underestimate the impact of how you nod off – Chantrey says she can often spot which side a patient sleeps on just by looking at their skin. “Sleeping directly on the face is worst of all,” she adds, “as the weight of the head is positioned in certain areas, and can lead to fairly severe folds and depressions on the face.”
Of course, a good skincare regime can do much to combat these effects.
Let’s face it, really the main thing you think about when you hop into bed is getting a good night’s sleep.
Luckily, for this one it’s totally up to personal preference. Stephanie Romiszewski, Bensons for Beds sleep expert and sleep physiologist, says: “There isn’t one correct position that everyone should sleep in – we are all unique, so just sleep in a position that is comfortable for you.”
What is important is keeping moving as much as you can during the day. “If you’re stiff from sitting down all day and haven’t stretched properly or moved enough, that aching will roll over into your night time because of how still we are when we sleep,” Romiszewski explains. “As a result, we can feel worse in the morning.
“It’s important to remember that moving during the day is just as important as resting our bodies at night. Try a variety of stretches before going to bed and when you wake up to relieve this discomfort.”
Eat well to get a good night’s sleep – read the Wise Living guide to the best foods to eat to help stop insomnia.