How your sleeping position affects your health – and snoring.

There are no two ways about it. Sleep is crucial for your health. It bolsters your immune system so you can fight off illness and gives your body a chance to repair and reset. The subconscious mind relaxes, and it helps to keep weight in check. Adequate sleep is linked to many benefits, including better memory, curbing inflammation, and even a happy marriage.

Sleep positions

Since we sleep, or try to sleep, for a third of our lives, it’s going to have a significant impact on our day-to-day. In a recent survey in Britain on sleep positions, people responded to questions about their sleep habits.

Sleeping position #1: On your back

Sleeping on your back is the best position to get proper rest. It maintains the back, neck and spine in a neutral position, making it better for your body’s alignment, especially if you’re prone to back pain, stiffness or problems. The back position is also good for circulation and preventing acid reflux. When the head is elevated by the pillow your stomach sits below your oesophagus so acid or food can’t come back up.

The back-sleeper also has the advantage when it comes to wrinkle prevention, simply because nothing is pushing against your face during the night, creating those dents and creases.

The back position with both arms straight was the first choice for best sleep position for just 8% of those studied. However, the back is not best for those with a tendency to snore as the base of the tongue falls to the back wall of the throat, which causes a vibrating sound as you breathe.

Sleeping position #2: On your side

Side sleeping reduces snoring. Next to the back, sleeping in this position is good for your overall health and lets you spoon with your partner as you drift off gently. Even better, if you sleep on your left side, it helps to ease heartburn and acid reflux. Also, sleeping on your left side is the best position during pregnancy; it boosts circulation to the heart, so it’s also a boost for the baby. Pregnant women should not sleep on their back because of the extra pressure and weight this puts on the spine.

Sleeping beauties beware; side sleeping is not good for facial wrinkles, since half of your face is pushed into your pillow. It was the favourite for 26%.

Sleeping position #3: Curled into foetal position

Retreating into the foetal position, with your knees pulled up high and your chin tucked into your chest may seem like the ultimate security blanket, but it’s not so good for your health. It restricts your deep diaphragmatic breathing and puts pressure on your organs, not to mention your spine. People with an arthritic back or joints will feel more irritation, but straightening out a little can help make this position work better for you. In the foetal position, face wrinkles will be aggravated, although snoring could improve.

In the survey of sleep habits, “foetal” was the most popular among both men and women, with 41% choosing it as their favourite.

Sleeping position #4: On your stomach

Sleeping on your stomach is bad for your spine although 25% sleep this way. Twisting the neck and face sideways all night on the pillow causes aches and pains and other discomfort. It puts pressure on muscles and joints that can snowball by irritating nerves, resulting in numbness and tingling.

Facedown keeps your upper airways more open. So if you snore and aren’t suffering from neck or back pain, it’s fine to try sleeping in this position.

Sleeping solo for relationship harmony

It’s widely accepted that sleeping in separate beds can be great for a relationship because both partners experience a better night’s rest and won’t be disturbed by frequent movement, noise, or pulling of the bedding.

Sleep researchers say that 30 to 40% of couples sleep in separate beds, although they may not broadcast it to their friends. Studies show that people tend to be more short-tempered with their spouse, taking out their sleep-deprived frustration on their nearest and dearest. They’re more tired, more selfish, and less able to put in the work to make a relationship go well.

Sleep is important, and it leads to better health and marriage harmony.

John Redfern