I can’t remember ever sleeping on my stomach – but that isn’t to say I never have. Oh, yes, when I was 17, after an operation. But that is about it.
I usually sleep on my right side, because I have a pacemaker on my left side. However, I also have an annoying pain in my right ribs – with no explanation – so I have learned to stack my pillows on the left so I can avoid messing with the pacemaker. Now, I can sleep on either side.
Every once in a while, I sleep on my back – and snore. I sleep alone, but I know I snore because I wake up with a horribly dry throat. Sometimes, I even gag myself awake as my tongue drops down my throat!!!
In January, CONSUMER REPORTS published a study to find out which sleep position is best. Is it better to sleep on your back, belly, or side?
Spoiler alert: None of the recommendations are for sleeping on your belly.
Back pain: Sleep on your back or side. That’s generally recommended for people who have back pain, according to a recent article in Applied Ergonomics. When on your back, keep your spine aligned by placing a small pillow under your head and a pillow or a firm foam wedge under your knees to maintain the natural curve of your lower back. If on your side, draw your knees up and lay a pillow lengthwise between your legs to prevent the inner side of the knees from hitting each other, which can be uncomfortable.
Neck pain: (Which I have been fighting all week) Sleep on your back or side. When on your back, support the natural curve of your neck with a rounded neck pillow, and place a flat pillow beneath your head, according to research at Harvard Medical School. When on your side, keep your spine straight by using a pillow that’s higher under your neck than your head.
Shoulder pain: Sleep on your back or unaffected side. When on your back, place a small pillow beneath your injured shoulder. When on your unaffected side, hug a pillow or a friend.
Hip pain: Sleep on the unaffected side. Draw your knees up and lay a pillow between your legs to keep your hips aligned and to prevent your knees from touching. (I do this most nights.)
Knee pain: Sleep on your back or side. When on your back, place a pillow behind your knees. When on your side, keep your knee in a comfortable, flexed position.
Heartburn: Sleep on your left side. Heartburn is caused when the ring of muscle at the top of your stomach doesn’t fully close, allowing caustic stomach acid to leak back into your esophagus. That’s particularly likely when you lie down after a big meal, which is why heartburn symptoms are often worse at night and why it often interferes with sleep. (See the article for more)
Snoring: Sleep on either side. Try sleeping on one side or the other, not your back. Your throat muscles relax when you sleep on your back, and your tongue can fall backward. That narrows your throat, which gives your breathing the characteristic snoring sound. This simple sleep position trick could help control sleep apnea, a severe form of snoring in which the airway can become partially or fully blocked when sleeping on your back. As a result, your blood oxygen level can drop, causing the release of stress hormones that increase the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease.
Article —Doug Podolsky