Everyone has their favorite sleeping position. The term “sleeping position” is somewhat misleading - the term “falling asleep position” might be more accurate. We change our sleeping position between thirty to sixty times on an average night. Each sleeping position has certain advantages and disadvantages and can even have a long-term negative or positive effect on our health.
In this blog article, we will explain which sleeping position is the best for back pain and pregnancy and how you can alleviate physical discomfort during sleep by positioning your body correctly. We will also give you tips on what you should bear in mind when buying a new pillow.
Sleeping positions at a glance
Basically, there are four different sleeping positions:
- the supine position
- the lateral position
- the prone position
- the fetal position
Though it might surprise you, the most common sleeping position is on the side. More than half of the population prefers to fall asleep on their side. About 17% of the population sleep on their back and about 11% on their stomach.
As mentioned above, we change our sleeping position often throughout the night. This is actually healthy, as the fact that the spine receives pressure from different directions ensures that not just one area of the back is stressed for the duration of our sleep. As the spine and surrounding muscles play a crucial role in determining the best sleeping position, we should make sure that the spine is stressed as little as possible throughout the night.
Lying on our back (supine)
The supine position is generally thought to be the best sleeping position. In order to get a good night’s sleep, it is important to give the spine a break from all the work it’s done throughout the day. The spine, back muscles and our intervertebral discs are put under a lot of strain during the day and should be able to recover at night.
When we sleep on our backs, our spine retains its natural S-shape, which relieves the strain on our back and neck. The level of relaxation we reach in this position can even extend our body’s deep sleep phases.
Another advantage of lying on our back is the fact that our face isn’t directly pressed into our pillow when we sleep. In addition to being comfortable, this position can be very helpful for those allergic to house dust, as it allows them to avoid direct contact with any dust mites that might be in the bedding.
The supine position can make breathing easier for some, but for others it leads to snoring or trouble breathing. This makes it all the more important to choose a pillow that provides optimum support for the cervical vertebrae at night. The pillow should preferably not be too high, as this will push the cervical vertebrae forward. A thin pillow or a bolster should be sufficient for back sleepers. You can also buy special neck support pillows that are wave-shaped and have a cavity for the head in the middle. This keeps the head and neck in an ideal position.
The side position (lateral)
The side position is one of the most popular sleeping positions and has several advantages. Similar to the supine position, this position does not put undue stress on the spine. In the supine position, however, it is important that the shoulder and hip areas be able to sink deep enough into the mattress so that the spine can maintain its natural shape.
Furthermore, the choice of the correct side also plays a role. If you like to sleep on your side, it is best to choose your left side. The aorta is bent to the left, which allows blood to be pumped more easily. While lying on your left side, less pressure is placed on the heart, lungs, liver and stomach. This can even prevent heart problems.
In addition, heartburn can be relieved by sleeping on the left side. A 2015 study in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology found that those who slept on the right side of the bed had heartburn and digestive problems twice as often as those who slept on the left. The lymphatic system and spleen also have to work much less if you sleep on the left side.
When you buy a new pillow, you should make sure that it is not too soft, otherwise it will not provide sufficient support to your neck. At night, you should try to lie as straight as possible so that your shoulders and hips don’t bend forward. You can also opt for a side sleeper pillow. These are usually longer than ordinary pillows and ensure that not only the head, but also the top knee rests on top of the pillow. This effectively relieves the knees, hips and back. If you frequently change between the side and back position, it is recommended that you use a short side sleeper pillow.
On the belly (prone)
The prone position is generally held to be the least healthy of all sleeping positions. This position isn’t natural for your body, as your spine’s natural S-shape is not supported while lying this way. This can lead to tension, especially in the neck area, because you have to turn your head to one side in order to breathe.
However, if you only feel comfortable sleeping in the prone position, you should try to change positions more often at night. It is also important to use a flat cushion or no cushion at all while sleeping. Instead of the standard 80x80 cm pillow, a smaller 40x80 cm pillow will do. You can even choose between different shaped pillows. For example, there are special belly sleeper pillows that come in the X or butterfly shape. These shapes can facilitate breathing in the prone position and reduce breathing problems.
The fetal position
In the fetal position, you sleep on your side with their legs bent. Many sleepers find this position comfortable, but is unfortunately not as good for you as the straight side position. The fetal position can shorten the muscles and put too much strain on the fascia. In the long run, this can lead to a harmful posture when sitting every day.
Since the spine is not straight in this position, it can lead to back pain. In addition, the diaphragm becomes too constricted, which makes breathing more difficult. Since the knees are pulled very tight and the chin is placed on the chest, joint pain or other pre-existing arthritic complaints can be aggravated.
The best sleeping position for back pain
If you have back pain, you should try to sleep on your back for as long as possible, because this is the best sleeping position for the spine. Your body weight is evenly distributed on the surface of the bed and the spine is not placed under pressure. You can also place a rolled up towel under your neck for support and a folded towel under your back.
The best sleeping position during pregnancy
The side position is most suitable from the last third of pregnancy onwards. Again, you should lie on your left side, so that your blood flow is not obstructed and no organs are squeezed or placed under pressure. Pregnant women also change their sleeping position, which does not pose any danger to the baby. Lying on the right side or back for too long should be avoided if possible, though. To help with this, you can put a pillow behind your back or buy a special nursing pillow.
Pillows At Zizzz
At Zizzz, we offer pillows with different filling materials. You can choose between European goose down, European duck down, or sheep's wool pillows. So that you can find the pillow which best fits your body and preferred sleeping position, we carry pillows in six different sizes. Furthermore, our down pillows are certified with the DownPass certificate, meaning that no live-plucking or force-feeding were used on our geese or ducks.
Our sheep's wool pillows can even be adjusted to your preferred thickness by removing the wool balls inside. If you like to sleep on your side or stomach, you can take out a few wool balls to make the pillow flatter.