Woman in bed wearing a white robe and laying on her side
Aligning for a Better Tomorrow: Side Sleeping for the Win

“The way we rest can set the stage for the day ahead,” says Dr. Lois Krahn, a sleep specialist at Mayo Clinic. It’s a sentiment echoed by many experts who understand that a good night’s sleep is more than just about rest and relaxation; it’s about alignment and posture, too.

The Perils of Poor Posture in Sleep

Sleeping in the wrong position can lead to a host of problems, from short term back pain to chronic spinal, hip or other misalignments. For example, “Sleeping on your back might seem harmless, but it can exacerbate conditions like sleep apnea,” warns Dr. Krahn. The gravity effect on the tongue and jaw can obstruct the airway, leading to a restless night.

Embracing the Side

The consensus among experts is clear: Side sleeping is the superior choice for spinal health. “It’s not just about preference; it’s about physiology,” explains Dr. Virend Somers, a cardiologist and director of the sleep facility within Mayo Clinic’s Center for Clinical and Translational Science. Side sleeping can also help maintain an open airway, which can significantly reduce snoring.

The Left-Side Advantage

Particularly during pregnancy, the left side emerges as the champion of sleep positions. “It’s all about circulation and avoiding undue pressure on internal organs,” Dr. Somers advises. This position promotes healthy blood flow and prevents the compression of the inferior vena cava.

Pillows: The Unsung Heroes

A small pillow between the knees can be the difference between a good and a bad posture during sleep. “It’s a simple addition that provides substantial benefits,” Dr. Somers adds. This practice aligns the hips, reducing the stress on the lower back.

But…

If you are someone who just loves to sleep on your stomach or back, you should know that there are some benefits to these positions as well, but they do come with caveats.

Back Sleeping

Back sleeping does have one major benefit: it’s a natural remedy for those pesky acid reflux symptoms, keeping heartburn at bay. Opt for a thin pillow to support your neck’s natural curve, and consider placing a pillow under your knees to alleviate lower back strain. Though of note, if you are someone that suffers from sleep apnea or snoring, back sleeping is not ideal, as Dr. Krahn points out.


Stomach Sleeping

Though stomach sleeping may not be recommended for everyone, due to its potential to strain the neck and lower back, some find it to be a solution for snoring or sleep apnea. Opt for a firmer mattress that provides ample support, and choose a thin pillow or forego one altogether to prevent neck strain. Placing a pillow under your hips can help maintain spinal alignment and reduce pressure on your lower back.

Off to Bed

As we tuck in for the night, let’s remember that our posture is a silent guardian of our rest. Embracing the right sleeping position can be a transformative experience, leading to better health and vitality. Remember to always consult with a healthcare professional before making significant changes to your routine.

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