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
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
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.
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.
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
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