A little nighttime reading
WHAT'S THE HEALTHIEST SLEEP POSITION FOR YOUR BODY?
Are you a Starfish? A Yearner? Or a Log? Have no idea what we’re talking about? When it comes to sleep position, most of us are hazy about where our own habits fall and what that means to our health.
Sleep position studies have tried to deduce something about us by knowing if we splay out across the bed, hang our arms tightly by our sides or kick a leg out from under the covers. Most of us will find our limbs, torso and head in various positions during the night. But at the end of the day, these positions all boil down to a back, stomach or side sleeping position.
While stomach sleeping is generally regarded as the worst sleeping position for you, each of these positions have their pros and cons when it comes to your health.
Pros: Aids digestion, diminishes snoring/sleep apnea in some by keeping upper airways open
Cons: Taxes your neck and spine alignment leading to back pain and neck strain over time, promotes wrinkling
Pros: Promotes brain detoxification and lymphatic drainage, improves circulation to the heart and baby (during pregnancy), reduces snoring, prevents heartburn and acid reflux (when head is elevated 6-8 inches, sleep on left side -- not right)
Cons: Can put pressure on stomach, lungs and arm nerves (avoid this by switching sides throughout night), might cause facial wrinkling on cheeks
Side sleeping (particularly on your left side) is purported to have great benefits
Some health practitioners believe that sleeping on your left side is the healthiest sleep position. In Ayurveda (the ancient Indian medical system), the left side is considered to be different from the right side of the body, given organ placement and the way your body’s systems flow. Sleeping on the left side supposedly promotes better drainage in the lymphatic system, which is essential for filtering out impurities from your blood and fighting infection. Ayurvedic practitioners also believe that left side sleeping supports healthy heart, spleen, liver and bowel functioning.
Additionally, a scientific team led by researchers from Stony Brook University have recently linked side sleeping to brain detoxification. Studies on mice using MRI scans and computer modeling indicate that the efficiency of the brain’s glymphatic system is most acute when side sleeping (vs. back or stomach). The glymphatic system is responsible for eliminating toxins, including amyloid beta proteins linked to Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, from your brain during sleep.
Is it possible to switch sleep positions?
It can be difficult to change your sleep position after years of naturally gravitating to a position. Only 5% of people tend to change positions from night to night. During the evening, it’s easy to fall back to your comfort zone. But some tips can help you wean yourself on to a different position:
- Lay in the desired position when you go to bed, and meditate to lull yourself to sleep in that position. Give yourself time to adjust. Don’t be harsh on yourself if you revert to your old position during the evening. If you wake up in the old position, simply come back to the desired position. Many folks will find that after a couple weeks of doing this, their body will get used to the new position
- Get a pillow that will best support the position in which you desire to sleep. For example, if you would like to promote side sleeping, use a high and thick pillow, which supports your head and neck and would prove less comfortable if you rolled to your back or stomach
- If you’re trying to avoid sleeping on your back, one extreme way to train your body is to sew a tennis ball to the back of your pajama top. When you roll over, the tennis ball prods you off your back
If you can’t switch sleep positions easily, at least optimize your sleep in your typical position:
- Stomach sleepers should use a thinner, flatter pillow (like Slumbr's Virgo Slim + Soft Pillow) to avoid pushing the neck out of alignment. You can also put a pillow under your pelvis to take pressure off the spine
- Side sleepers should use a higher pillow (like Slumbr's Lyra Latex Pillow) to ensure adequate support for the head and neck. Reduce stress on the hips by putting a pillow between the knees
- Back sleepers should use a medium height pillow. Ideally, the pillow scrunchable to push the fill directly underneath your neck to support it without overly-elevating your head. Slumbr's Ara Buckwheat Pillow provides malleable and stable support that you can contour to your neck. You can also put a pillow under your knees and a small pillow under the lower back for support
Regardless of your sleep position, you’ll benefit the most by just getting deep, plentiful and uninterrupted sleep. At the end of the day, it’s most important to sleep in a position that makes you comfortable and enables you to get a restful night.