A Definitive Guide to the The Best and Worst Sleep Positions

Mastering the art of sleep is a skill that most of us are still learning. There are so many factors that come into play while trying to catch some Zs: What you ate for dinner, a stressful day at work, sore muscles after a workout, etc. As a result, a few restless nights can lead to back pain, heartburn, and even headaches. 

While there are definitely sleep positions that are generally more favourable, it's important to listen to your body and react accordingly—if you're getting a delightful eight hours a night and waking up fresh then don't change a thing!

But if you're constantly waking up in the night and/or feeling exhausted and uncomfortable in the morning, consider switching things up with one of the below positions and say hello to sweet dreams.

The Best and Worst Positions For Sleeping

Best: Back 

Even though only less than ten percent of us sleep on our backs on the regular, it remains the best position. You'll experience less neck and back pain because you're laying in a neutral position that allows your spine to rest. Make sure you keep your head slightly raised on your pillow so that your stomach is below your esophagus to prevent acid reflux. A note for sleep apnea sufferers—it's best to skip this position to avoid breathing issues.

Great: Side

Sleeping on your side, with your body and legs relatively straight, is a great sleep position (and the most popular). Research suggests that you should stick to your left side, which will alleviate any pressure on your veins and help blood pump around your body much more easily. An advanced tip is to place a firm pillow between your knees to allow your hips and joints to align properly, avoiding any aches in the morning.

Good: Fetal

The fetal position is another popular sleep position, making us feel safe and comfortable underneath the doona. Great for snorers and pregnant women especially, the fetal position is most beneficial when your legs, torso, and head are positioned loosely. Sleeping while curled up too tightly can restrict your diaphragm and breathing, and leave you a bit sore come 6 am.

Not Ideal: Stomach

Lying on your stomach while sleeping is at the bottom of the list when it comes to the best sleeping positions because of the pressure it puts on your muscles and joints. At this position, your neck is craned at a 90-degree angle and kinks and tension are inevitable, with breathing suffering due to the weight of your body restricting the movement in the ribcage and diaphragm. Stomach sleeping is, however, more suitable for those with sleep apnea.

Worst: Upright

Taking a quick nap while you're in a recliner is fine, but choosing to sleep for longer periods while you're in a seated position isn't a good idea. When we move into a REM (rapid eye movement) stage of sleep, our necks tend to drop to one side because our muscles lose tone, which can cause pain. If you need to sleep in an upright position due to a medical procedure, it's important that you use a pillow to support your neck while you rest.

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