How Sleeping Positions Affect Your Sleep Quality

How Your Sleeping Positions Affect Your Sleep Quality

You’ve been feeling sluggish lately, so you begin to pay extra attention to what you eat, how much you exercise and the amount of sleep you get each night. You feel like you are doing everything right, but still you wake up each day feeling just as tired as when you went to bed the night before. It can be real frustrating, but don’t worry, the solution might be easier than you think. Sometimes something as simple as your sleeping position can have an impact on your sleep quality. Whether you sleep on your side, stomach or back, your sleep position can be wreaking havoc on your sleep and your health.

Here are some ways your sleeping positions could be affecting your sleep quality:

Physical Discomfort

Without realizing it, you may be adopting a sleep posture that causes aches and pains that either keep you up or night or cause your mornings to be painful. But how do you know what is the right position for you. Unfortunately, there is no one size fits all when it comes to sleep posture. But there are some rules of thumb to follow:

  • If the airway in your throat gets really small at night then you probably want to sleep on your stomach.
  • Side sleeping is best if you snore or suffer from sleep apnea. And back sleeping is the worst for these conditions.
  • If you suffer from a lot of heartburn at night, then try sleeping on your left side. Studies have suggested that sleeping on the left side will relieve heartburn while sleeping on the right-side might actually make it worse.
  • If you are pregnant, sleeping on your left-side can also improve blood circulation to your heart which is good for you and your baby.
  • If you tend to wake up with a lot of neck pain in the morning, it could be because you are sleeping on your stomach or your back. In both positions you tend to twist your head more as you try to get comfortable which can contribute to the neck pain. In many sleep surveys, participants who sleep in their side tend to experience less pain in their neck, arms and shoulders.
  • Don’t change your natural sleep position. When something works don’t knock it. Regardless of what different studies say about how one position is better than another, it really comes down to the individual. Go with what feels natural. When you try to force yourself into a new sleep position, you will only hurt the quality of your sleep.

Quality of health

Besides physical discomfort your sleeping position could also be exacerbating health issues as well. Here are some health issues affect by your sleep posture.

  • A number of people suffer from a condition called obstructive sleep apnea, which is when snoring leads to trouble breathing during the night. A recent study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine has suggested that sleeping on your back can actually worsen sleep apnea as well as other sleeping disorders that affect breathing. This is because when you lie on your back, the soft palate and base of your tongue tend to be pulled back to the back of the throat causing breathing difficulties.
  • Acid reflux it turns out is not just triggered by what you eat or drink. While eating a heavy meal or drinking a lot of alcohol has been known to worsen acid reflux symptoms at night, sleeping on your right side can also make it worse. This is because when you sleep on the right side, the sphincter at the base of your esophagus tends to relax allowing stomach acid to back up into the esophagus. If you suffer from acid reflux, try sleeping on your left side instead. Also use extra pillows to elevate your upper body while sleeping.
  • New research is also suggesting that sleeping on your side might also help reduce your risk for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases as well as other neurological diseases. Connections have been made already between sleep deprivation and Alzheimer’s, but now your sleep position may also play an important role in your risk for neurological diseases. Much more work needs to be done to confirm these findings, but according some recent data your sleep position can affect your brain’s ability to clear its glymphatic pathways of toxins. To be more specific, sleeping on your side allows your brain to more efficiently clean out toxins that build up during the day.


There are a lot of different factors that can cause nightmares, but you might be surprised to know that your sleeping position might be one of them. In a sleep study that also asked its participants to comment on their dreams and nightmares as well as sleep quality and position found that those who slept on their left side were more likely to report having frequent nightmares while participants who slept on their right side were more likely to report having good dreams and a better night sleep. More research needs to be done on this phenomenon however.

Changes in your sleep behavior

If you have noticed that you have unconsciously changed your sleep position and you are feeling more sluggish and achy than usual then your mattress may be the culprit. Mattresses should only be used for about 10 years because they tend to lose their firmness over years of constant use. When your mattress becomes old and saggy, your natural sleeping position might not feel comfortable anymore and you might find yourself waking up in a different position. Your pillows can also be a culprit. The thickness or narrowness of a pillow can cause your neck to be positioned awkwardly in your sleep. And sometimes a certain pillow will work well in one position but not another. Unfortunately, there is no one right size, shape or thickness of pillow so your best bet is to try out different pillows with different sleep position until you find the most comfortable arrangement for you. By buying a new mattress and pillows you can get back to your more natural sleep position and a good night’s sleep.

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