The pros and cons of different sleeping positions
According to sleep experts and doctors, the majority of sleep disorders (insomnia, irregular sleep patterns, difficult awakenings, etc.) are mainly caused by our sleeping position. So, if you wake up with pain in your back or neck, your position is not suitable and it would be better for you to change it.
Obviously, it is also necessary to invest in a quality mattress, adapted to your weight and your preferences, as well as in a pillow, which sufficiently supports your neck, without the latter being too raised. If possible, choose a memory foam mattress and pillow.
However, even if your mattress and pillow are of very good quality, you may have a bad natural sleeping position. You must therefore study all the possible positions in order to find the one that suits you best and that allows you to sleep as peacefully as possible. If you are unable to change, you can always improve your position with some tricks.
Here are the advantages and disadvantages of the most common sleeping positions:
On the back
Sleep doctors recommend this position because it allows your back and spine to rest. It also helps to soothe any stomach pains and stiff necks. Yet, it seems that only 8% of sleepers prefer to sleep on their back.
There are variations of this position: either the arms along the body, recommended by specialists, because it allows the rest of the whole body, or the arms placed under the pillow, the head, or close to the pillow. This position is not recommended, because at the end of the night, you will wake up stiff, and your shoulders will be tired from having had to maintain this position for a whole night.
Also note that if you know you are a snorer, avoid this position, because it promotes snoring because of the position of the head and the air inlet.
To ensure maximum comfort, you must have a pillow that offers sufficient support without raising the neck too much.
On the side
This position is often confused with the fetal position, a position to which we will return below. It is quite natural to lean on your shoulder to sleep, often, many people have the impression of relieving back and neck pain by adopting this position, which is not necessarily true.
This position is also often recommended for pregnant women, so that their blood circulation is not impaired. If you snore or suffer from gastric reflux, this position is also made for you.
However, it is advisable not to sleep only on your side, as your shoulders and hips can suffer from the pressure, especially if your mattress is not suitable.
In fact, with this position, you have to be very careful about how your pelvis is positioned. If both of your knees touch the mattress, it means that your pelvis is not perpendicular to the mattress, which can cause tension on the spine. It is therefore better if your knees are on top of each other because this allows you to have a straight pelvis, even if this position may seem more uncomfortable. A knee cushion allows you to have a straight pelvis while providing optimal comfort.
Some specialists also believe that this position can also be harmful for women’s breasts, which can end up sagging over time. If you have large breasts and you sleep on your side, it is better to opt for pajamas that support your breasts.
In fetal position
This is one of the most natural positions in humans, since even before our birth, this is how we naturally place ourselves in our mother’s womb. This is also the most common position, with 41% of sleepers adopting this position.
However, a pronounced fetal position, where the knees are completely brought up against the chest and the head is lowered, is, according to specialists, not suitable for a good sleep. Indeed, this position makes breathing difficult because of the position of your pelvis which does not allow the air to pass correctly. Lowering your head while you sleep could also promote the development of arthritis in the cervical spine.
However, be aware that a good quality memory foam pillow would provide neck support and fill the space between your shoulders and your neck. A knee pillow, just like the side position, could improve the position of the pelvis and improve comfort.
On the window
This is the least common position, with 7% of sleepers adopting it. With the arm placed under the head or on the pillow and the head turned to the right or to the left, this position is often acclaimed by people who adopt it, however, specialists advise against it, and few sleepers support it.
When you are on your stomach, your spine is certainly at rest, but it no longer supports any muscle and all the weight of your body is supported on your joints and your organs. Even with a memory-foam mattress and pillow, staying in this position for a long time can lead to stiffness in the neck and back. Also, if you tend to grind your teeth in your sleep, this position can accentuate this habit.
This position also accentuates the hollow of the pelvis and the ribs, which leads to too much pressure on the vertebral discs, on the lumbar and on the sacrum. This pressure can lead to sometimes irreversible pain in the back and lower back, which may have to go as far as, at best, rehabilitation sessions with an osteopath and, at worst, a repair operation.
If you suffer from sleep apnea, you should definitely avoid this position, because when you sleep on your stomach, pressure is put on your rib cage, which makes it even more difficult to breathe. The muscles used for your swallowing are also under pressure from your body, which promotes snoring and makes it difficult for your sleep cycle to function properly. In the long term, it can also promote the installation of osteoarthritis in your body.
As already explained above, placing your arm high is also not beneficial; your muscles should continue to work and be in tension while you sleep. Part of your blood flow should be directed to your shoulder, which over time can cause headaches upon waking, as well as stiffness and poor recovery sleep.
If this position is the one that your body naturally adopts during your sleep, it is best to use a few tricks to reduce the risks of this position. Prefer a hard mattress first, because a soft mattress will accentuate the arch of your back even more. If you support it, do not use a pillow, otherwise, use a thin pillow, which will not raise your neck. To compensate for the hollowness of your spine, it is also possible to place a cushion, not too thick, under your pelvis.