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Research into the science of sleep has seen rapid growth in recent years. Results show that not only does a good night’s sleep improve health, it affects mood, productivity, and happiness. In addition to choosing the right mattress, sleep position is one of the defining factors for sleeping well. But what is the ideal sleeping position? According to many researchers, side sleepers are well positioned to get the best night’s sleep. Though sleeping on your stomach has its advantages too.
Back Off From Back Sleeping
Dr. Steven Y. Park is a member of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. He is also the author of Sleep, Interrupted: A Physician Reveals The #1 Reason Why So Many of Us Are Sick and Tired (link to buy the book). As a sleep expert, Dr. Park agrees with the majority of other commentators that back sleeping is counterproductive:
Many of us have slept for eight hours and not felt fully refreshed the next morning. In these instances, something has usually kept us in light sleep, rather than the deep sleep that is most useful to our bodies. That is exactly what happens if the tongue blocks the throat. The sleeper has to adjust their sleeping position several times a night to compensate. It’s also why back sleepers snore more. So back sleeping doesn’t just hurt your own sleep, it may be keeping your partner awake too.
But What About Stomach Sleeping?
Stomach sleeping is often a quick fix for a snoring problem. However, stomach sleepers put extra pressure on their spine, forcing the skeleton into an unnatural alignment for eight whole hours. Also, stomach sleepers prevent the neck from easily turning during sleep.
Such stress on the neck and back areas cause pain. And pain prevents deep sleep. Like back sleepers with their tongues collapsing onto their throats, stomach sleepers may be inviting the body to find reasons to keep their brains alert.
Experts Side with Side Sleepers
Side sleepers usually avoid the hazards of back sleepers and stomach sleepers. Sleeping on your side, if your body is straight, keeps the spine nicely aligned. And side sleeping keeps your tongue away from your throat canal. By breathing easily through the night, without pain, you’ll help to keep your brain in deep sleep.
But bear in mind, that side sleeping can quickly morph into sleeping in the fetal position, which can reintroduce strain on the back. It can also tilt your head forwards, inhibiting proper sleep breathing. Going to sleep alongside a full-length body pillow can help you ‘train’ your body to sleep straight, and on your side.
It’s also worth noting that there are even benefits to sleeping on your left side. WebMD advises that sleeping on the your left side can boost heart circulation, while sleeping right side can increase heartburn.
Side Sleepers Sleep More Soundly
For Dr. Park, the key to getting more regenerative deep sleep is removing the factors that can distract the body and brain during sleep. Long-term side sleepers have found the body’s sweet spot for distraction-free sleeping. But it is important that other irritants aren’t preventing you from enjoying deep sleep. Too much light or noise in or around your bedroom may keep you trapped in light-sleep territory. Choosing a mattress that facilitates deep sleep is vital, even for side sleepers. Dr. Park puts it like this:
If you don’t feel rested after eight hours in bed, try switching to a side position. If that doesn’t work, consider improving your mattress. Your body will thank you.