From water coolers and mommy and me to basketball practice and boozy brunch, someone is bound to talk about the sheety (see what I did there? 👏) sleep they’ve been experiencing. A Sleep Foundation report found that one-third to two-thirds of adults experience bouts of insomnia, with 15% reporting daytime impairments caused by fragmented sleep. The effects of poor-quality sleep can include feelings of fatigue and malaise, difficulty paying attention and concentrating, impaired performance, irritability and mood swings, decreased energy and motivation, and increased risk for errors and accidents.

During sleep, your body works to restore and repair itself. We spend a third of our lives asleep or resting, so it’s important to lie in a comfortable position that can help improve your sleep quality. So, what are the benefits and disadvantages of sleeping on your back, front or side?

Pros and Cons of Sleeping on Your Back

Sleeping on your back reduces pressure on your hips and shoulders, so it suits anyone who has had hip replacement surgery or who wakes with aching shoulders or hips. However, it can increase the likelihood of snoring or sleep apnea as it can block airways in people who have a tendency to snore.

Back sleeping is also linked to increased teeth grinding. If you want to sleep on your back but can feel strain in your lower back, place some support under your knees by using a small pillow.

Pros and Cons of Sleeping on Your Front

Of all sleep positions, stomach sleeping is the least popular and by older adulthood, very few people sleep on their stomachs. This shift in sleep position habits could be due to a lack of flexibility. Stomach sleeping puts pressure on the spine, which can lead to increased back and neck pain. 

Your neck has to turn almost 90 degrees and some people can’t tolerate that. If your neck bothers you, try a position that is halfway between sleeping on your side and stomach. In addition to straining the back and neck, sleepers may find that breathing requires extra effort when lying on their stomach. 

Pros and Cons of Sleeping on Your Side

When it comes to the heart, side sleeping wins out because it decreases the risk of acid reflux, snoring, and it’s best for the heart. The Journal of Neuroscience reported that side sleeping is the most common sleeping position among humans. This one position has three basic variations:

  • Fetal Position: As the name suggests, this position mimics the position of a fetus— the knees tucked towards the chest with the hands pulled in. The slight curve of the spine in this position relieves pressure and stress on the back.
  • Log Position: The log sleeper lies on their side with legs relatively straight and arms straight at the sides, so their body is straight like a log.
  • Yearner Position: The yearner sleepers on one side with the legs straight and arms extended straight forward as though reaching for someone or something. Their legs and arms are both outstretched, like in the log position. The difference is that instead of being by their sides, their arms extend forward.

Side sleeping supports the spine and neck, but it can place pressure on the side you sleep on. If you have back or hip pain, placing a pillow between your knees when laying on your side can also provide good relief.

May 18, 2023