Does it matter what position we sleep in? What is the best sleeping position?

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Each of us has our own sleep and sleep habits. For some, it is most con­ve­nient and cozi­est to curl up under a thick blan­ket, while oth­ers pre­fer to sleep “at atten­tion” — on their backs, with arms extend­ed along the body and straight­ened legs, or on their stom­achs, hug­ging a pil­low.

And what does med­i­cine say about the posi­tion of the body in a dream? Is there a dif­fer­ence in how we sleep and does it affect our health? Healthy­in­fo offers answers to these ques­tions.

Sleep position is important!

We spend a sig­nif­i­cant part of our life in sleep. And of course, the posi­tion of the body dur­ing sleep mat­ters. Try to be in the wak­ing state with­out mov­ing in the same posi­tion for some sig­nif­i­cant time, and you will imme­di­ate­ly see from your own expe­ri­ence that this is the case and noth­ing else. If you sleep all night on one side, then in the morn­ing you can feel all the con­se­quences of pro­longed immo­bil­i­ty in the form of pain in the shoul­der and neck. And if you sleep on your stom­ach, then your neck and back will hurt even more like­ly, because in this posi­tion you have to turn your neck and head to the side, oth­er­wise there will be noth­ing to breathe. Yes, and it is uncom­fort­able to sleep on the face, it is some­how poor­ly adapt­ed for this.

These are the con­se­quences that any­one can see. But there are oth­ers that are not so obvi­ous.

The qual­i­ty of our rest depends on how rest­ed our body and brain are. If some­thing caus­es incon­ve­nience, sleep will be shal­low, and you will not be able to ful­ly relax. The most impor­tant con­di­tion for good sleep is the posi­tion of the spine and chang­ing the posi­tion of the body sev­er­al times a night.

Sleep on your stomach

Sleep on your stomach

This, accord­ing to many experts, is not the most suit­able posi­tion for sleep­ing, because the head and neck will be in a rotat­ed posi­tion for a long time, which can cause mus­cle pain and wors­en the qual­i­ty of sleep.

It is also bad that dur­ing sleep on the stom­ach, due to the forced rota­tion of the neck, the spine is com­pressed and curved. This can cause com­pres­sion of the nerve fibers, which can result in hand numb­ness, an unpleas­ant tin­gling sen­sa­tion, or even pain.

And if you sleep on your stom­ach, also bend­ing your leg at the knee, then the spine expe­ri­ences even more stress.

Som­nol­o­gists advise: if it is dif­fi­cult to get rid of the habit of sleep­ing on your stom­ach, try using an extra pil­low. If you lay it in front of you, lying on your side, gen­tle pres­sure will be exert­ed on your chest and stom­ach — less than if you lie on your stom­ach, but enough so that the habit of feel­ing this pres­sure does not inter­fere with sleep.

Pedi­a­tri­cians do not rec­om­mend putting new­born babies to sleep on their tum­my, as this increas­es the risk of sud­den infant death due to increased heart rate.

Sleep on your side

Sleep on your side

The qual­i­ty of such sleep large­ly depends on how good your mat­tress and pil­low are. The spine should not be bent, it should remain straight, as when a per­son is stand­ing.

It is unde­sir­able to sleep in the fetal posi­tion, or “knuck­le up”, because the spine is twist­ed for­ward.

There are oth­er aspects asso­ci­at­ed with some dis­eases. For exam­ple, in case of heart dis­ease, sleep­ing on the left side can lead to a dete­ri­o­ra­tion in well-being, so many “cores” pre­fer to lie on their right side.

Expert com­ment

Mohammed Fatih Bayrak­tar, car­di­ol­o­gist

The posi­tion of the body dur­ing sleep affects the well-being of even healthy peo­ple, and those who suf­fer from dis­eases of the car­dio­vas­cu­lar sys­tem feel it espe­cial­ly often. Accord­ing to the sta­tis­tics we have col­lect­ed, 54% of patients with heart fail­ure pre­fer to sleep on their right side, because when they lie on their left side, their short­ness of breath increas­es and their health wors­ens. We attribute this to the fact that, depend­ing on the posi­tion of the body, the para­me­ters of the func­tion of the ven­tri­cles of the heart change, and as a result, hemo­dy­nam­ic changes occur that affect the patien­t’s well-being.

But with gas­troe­sophageal reflux dis­ease (GERD), on the con­trary, sleep­ing on the right side can pro­voke the reflux of stom­ach con­tents into the esoph­a­gus and throat. Espe­cial­ly if you neglect the rec­om­men­da­tion of a gas­troen­terol­o­gist and over­do it with an evening meal.

Oph­thal­mol­o­gists are also inves­ti­gat­ing a pos­si­ble link between side-sleep­ing and eye dete­ri­o­ra­tion in glau­co­ma.

Expert com­ment

Ji Hye Park, oph­thal­mol­o­gist

Stud­ies of the sleep con­di­tions of patients with glau­co­ma have shown that the posi­tion of the body dur­ing sleep has an impact on the pro­gres­sion of the dis­ease and the dete­ri­o­ra­tion of the eyes. In one of our exper­i­ments, 28 peo­ple with bilat­er­al glau­co­ma took part, and they came to the lab­o­ra­to­ry with their pil­lows, on which they usu­al­ly sleep at home. Mea­sure­ment of intraoc­u­lar pres­sure at cer­tain inter­vals showed: when the body is on its side, the pres­sure increas­es more in the eye locat­ed below, and there is a direct rela­tion­ship between the lev­el of pres­sure and the dura­tion of being in this posi­tion. Accord­ing­ly, patients should be advised to avoid sleep­ing on the side of the eye with a high risk of pro­gres­sion of the dis­ease, although there is still no indis­putable evi­dence of the rela­tion­ship between the devel­op­ment of the dis­ease and the patien­t’s pre­ferred body posi­tion, and research is ongo­ing.

Sleep on your back

Sleep on your back

Not all is well with this posi­tion of the body, although it is con­sid­ered the most suit­able for sleep.

For exam­ple, peo­ple with obstruc­tive sleep apnea may expe­ri­ence wors­en­ing in the supine posi­tion and are encour­aged to choose oth­er sleep­ing posi­tions.

But in gen­er­al, sleep­ing on your back can be con­sid­ered the safest for the spine. Espe­cial­ly if you take care of a good ortho­pe­dic mat­tress and the right, care­ful­ly select­ed, not too high pil­low, which allows you to main­tain the nat­ur­al curve of the neck.

But putting a small roller under your knees is use­ful and con­ve­nient. By the way, if you put the same cush­ion between your knees, lying on your side, the body posi­tion will be more cor­rect, and the qual­i­ty of sleep may improve.

And the best way to sleep well and ful­ly relax is to change the posi­tion of the body in a dream sev­er­al times. To sleep on your sides, and on your back, and even on your stom­ach, if you want.

In the arti­cle “12 sci­en­tif­ic facts about sleep that will sur­prise you” you will find oth­er inter­est­ing and use­ful infor­ma­tion.

How Reli­able Is Self-Report­ed Body Posi­tion dur­ing Sleep? / Rus­so K., Bianchi MT // J Clin­ic Sleep Med. - 2016

Sleep­ing posi­tion and report­ed qual­i­ty of sleep. A com­par­i­son between sub­jects demand­ing treat­ment for tem­poro­mandibu­lar dis­or­ders and con­trols / Mundt AK, Helki­mo M, Mag­nus­son T. // Swed Dent J. - 2011

By Yraa

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