Are you sleeping in the most effective way?
Generally speaking, we spend about a third of our lives asleep — that works out at around 25 years, 9,125 days, or 229,961 hours. That’s a sizeable chunk of time!
Put into this context and we can better understand why sleep plays such a crucial role in our overall health. In particular, the position your body takes when you’re sleeping can impact on sleep quality, musculoskeletal health and circulation. It is even thought there may be links to sleeping position and brain function.
So, which sleeping position is best for your health, and how much damage could your favourite sleep position be causing? Let’s take a closer look.
The first thing to say about sleep is that there is not one position that is optimal for all. People come in different shapes, sizes and physiologies, meaning that each individual interacts with their mattress, pillow and sheets differently, depending on the tension and contours of these surfaces. But in broad terms we can identify the following positions:
The log position is when you lie on your side with both arms positioned downwards in a straight line. This can be a beneficial sleep position for spinal health, as it typically supports good posture and does not place undue pressure on the back and neck. However, as your top leg does not receive the same support as your lower leg, some sleepers may experience hip pain. Often, people find that placing a pillow between the thighs can aid pressure relief.
This position involves sleeping on your back with your arms at your side, and can benefit your sleep health. It is similar to the Savasana pose in yoga, and can help spread pressure evenly across the length of the spine, neck and arms.
However, in individuals with sleep apnoea this position can be detrimental as it pulls the tongue downwards. Back sleeping in this way is also closely linked to snoring. The soldier position can sometimes cause lower back pain in instances where the mattress is too firm.
The starfish is a variation on the soldier position, working in much the same way except the sleeper rests their arms above their head. Again, it is beneficial in terms of resting the spine and maintaining a healthy posture. However, the placement of the arms can place excess pressure on the shoulders, potentially causing pain if sustained for long periods of time.
The foetal position involves sleeping lying on your side with your knees tilted towards your chest. It can be beneficial for keeping pressure off your vital organs, especially if you sleep on your left side. It has also been shown to potentially reduce snoring and is, alongside the log position, one of the preferred sleeping positions among pregnant women. Some sleepers do, however, find that this curled pose can put strain on your neck and back, causing pain and stiffness over time.
This sleeping position involves sleeping on the stomach, perhaps the most controversial way to sleep. On the plus side, front sleeping has been found to reduce snoring and can feel extremely comfortable for some. However, in many instances, the freefall position has been found to put strain on the stomach, back and neck.
There is no right or wrong way to sleep. Yet there is always a balance to be struck between a sleeping position and the sleep system (mattress, pillow, sheets, bed). For this reason, it is important to test drive mattresses and pillows thoroughly to ensure that you purchase the right products for your body and mind.