What Is the Best Sleep Position? (Everything You Need to Know)

We've heard many of the tips for a good night's sleep, such as stretching and staying away from electronics. But if you want to really optimize your rest cycle and get a great night's sleep, knowing the right sleep position for spine health and alignment is key.

Learn the best sleep position in this guide, plus tips for sleeping with back pain, neck pain, and more.

What Is the Best Sleep Position?

There is no one-size-fits-all best sleeping position, according to the Sleep Foundation. The best way to sleep is individual, because everyone's body is different. Whatever posture supports the best spinal alignment is ideal.

That said, there are three common sleep positions. Two of them are by far the most popular, and may actually offer you health advantages by regularly sleeping this way.

Side Sleeping

Also known as the fetal position, sleeping on your side is the most common for U.S. adults. Generally speaking, sleep experts consider side sleeping to be the best position for healthy spinal alignment because it eliminates pressure on the lower back and neck.

Sleeping On Your Back

The second most common sleep position is back sleeping. For those with pain that flares up when you rotate your spine or neck, this might be a more effective way to mitigate issues while you rest.

Sleeping on Your Stomach

Less than 10 percent of adult Americans sleep on their stomach. For those with back pain, it might be a way to alleviate tension in the lower back.

Mattress Firmness and Sleep Position

The firmness of your mattress (and your pillow) also play a role into the optimal sleep position for good spinal alignment and overall health. Choosing the right mattress is actually a key decision for your health, according to the Sleep Foundation.

For example, a firm mattress will help keep your lower and middle spine in alignment. But you may need a softer pillow so your neck isn't propped up too high.

Newer mattress products that can be adjusted for firmness can help sleepers find the right position for them. Always do research before buying a new mattress. Remember, you spend 30-plus years of your life sleeping!

What Is the Best Sleep Position for Back Pain?

Sleeping on your side with a pillow between your knees is the best position to sleep in if you have back pain.

Back pain is often the result of poor spinal alignment. The spine is made up of three separate parts (cervical, thoracic, and lumber) and the muscles that surround those areas can get overworked, tight, or inflamed if they spend prolonged periods in a compromised position.

Sleeping on your side alleviates tension in the lumbar (lower) and middle back. A pillow between the knees prevents the hips from shifting forward while you sleep, which can put pressure on the erector spinae muscles of the low back.

What Is the Best Sleep Position for Neck Pain?

Back and side sleeping are best for neck pain. If your neck hurts when you move it front and back (shake your head 'yes'), sleeping on your side is probably best. 

If your neck hurts when you rotate it from side to side, back sleeping might be more optimal.

Choosing a firm, supportive pillow that cradle your head can help alleviate tension in the shoulders and neck, which supports a restful night of sleep. Remember, human heads weigh 11lbs. Neck muscles have to work hard in compromised positions to support that weight!

What Is the Best Sleep Position for Sleep Apnea?

Side sleeping wins again here for most people. Breathing patterns can be interrupted when someone has sleep apnea due to constriction in the throat or nasal cavity. Side sleeping keeps the airways open, whereas stomach or back sleeping might constrict those areas.

Choosing a comfortable pillow that keeps your head in an optimal position is also a worthy investment for sleep apnea sufferers.

That said, sleep apnea can be threatening to your health, so if you're concerned you might have it, be sure to consult your doctor.

What Is the Best Sleep Position for Sciatica?

Sleeping on the back with a pillow or towel under the back of your knees can help prevent flare ups of the sciatic nerve while you sleep.

Those dealing with sciatica know it can be a real hindrance to getting a deep, consistent night's rest. Along with sleeping on your back and using a pillow, a few lower leg stretches can help alleviate tension built up in the lower body and possibly prevent flare ups.

Again, be sure to consult your doctor for advice on sciatica. These guidelines shouldn't be used as a substitute for medical advice!

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