Alaska Sleep Education Center

The Best Sleep Positions

Posted by Stefanie Leiter

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on Jul 12, 2018 1:03:48 PM

beautiful girl sleeping on a white bed

We have all experienced it. You wake up on the wrong side of the bed. But it is more than that sometimes. Sometimes you sleep a full 8 hours but you did not sleep in the position best suited for your body. Neck cramps, headaches, and back pain immediately set in and stay the remainder of the day.

  In the past 30 days, our family has slept in five different beds including family, Airbnb’s, and hotels. We have been home for seven total days. Though travel is inevitable during the summer months, a complete night sleep never seems to happen.

  We go away for a restful vacation but do not wake up refreshed. Here are some tips to remember to make certain your position works best for your body.


Back is Bestsleep_positions

  Though not the most popular position, the National Sleep Foundation found only 8 percent of Americans chose to sleep on their back. But guess what. It remains the healthiest. In this position, the head, neck, and spine are neutral and not in an awkward, unnatural position.

  If you tend to fight acid reflux, back is also the best position. Dr. Eric Olson, a sleep medicine specialist at the Mayo Clinic, says, "If the head is elevated, your stomach will be below your esophagus so acid or food can’t come back up."

  The bad news for sleeping on the back is for the sleep apnea patients causing the tongue to block the breathing tube; plus snoring is more severe when back sleeping.

  If you are one of the unlucky travelers who share a double bed on vacation, you are even less likely to sleep well.. Flipping your spouse or partner in bed while snoring may cause them to roll out of bed; so plan accordingly when booking a room.


Tummy Time

  Maria Tovar Torres, MD is a sleep specialist at Henry Ford Hospital.  Her sleep research shows side sleepers make up only 7 percent of the population. You start your evening by straining your neck since you normally would not sleep face first into your pillow. And yes tummy sleeping helps ease excessive snoring but at what cost?

  The National Sleep Foundation states the pressure stomach sleeping puts on the spine causing it to remain neutral all night. Muscle and joints suffer as well in this position as it puts extra pressure leading to possible aches, nerve issues, and numbness.

  If you feel the need to maintain the stomach position, consider a different pillow. Normally a thinner pillow helps stomach sleepers with less neck pain.

  When traveling with kids, for some reason this is their natural position. Try to coax them prior to traveling into another position which will not only help their sleep but will help on the road if you plan to share a bed.


Side Sleepersleepingwoman200

  The go-to position for all pregnant women to help the blood flow, the side position reduces sleep apnea and snoring symptoms. It also leads to better breathing since the legs are straightened along with a non compressed spine. The one defined ailment for side sleeping is wrinkles since you are pressing your face into the pillow laying on the side.

  When side sleeping with a CPAP, the mask is important to stay on a press against a pillow. A flexible mask is needed that can fit under the nose versus over the nose. Purchase all your CPAP supplies online.

  Side sleeping is my go-to position at home and that does not change on vacation. As a family of four, the Airbnb travel options have spoiled us with king sized beds and extra room to flip around. Airbnb can be tricky though so make certain bed number two is not a futon or sofa bed so half of the group is not enduring a metal rod pocking in the middle.




  Curling up in a ball to some is a feeling of security and comfort. But the fetal position can cause additional joint pain if suffering from arthritis or breathing issues when tight sleeping.

  With 41 percent sleeping in this position, it is the most popular. The good news for those who do have joint issues or a compressed diaphragm when curled up tight can easily move toward the side sleeping position.


Health Conditions

  Sleep positions are not the only reason you may be waking up on the wrong side of the bed. A lot of other issues can break a sleep pattern and a lot need medical attention by an expert.

  If waking up with a headache seems to be your morning routine, you may be 1 out of 13 sufferers with the most common reason for sleep disturbance among American adults. Healthline Media notes 30 to 50 percent occur between 4 and 9 a.m.

  According to Pillow Science, research shows that when the nerves in the upper neck are irritated they can cause pain in the head and face, temples, forehead, and behind the eyes. This type of pressure and irritation on these nerves triggers headaches but more commonly triggers an aggressive migraine.

  Besides finding a good sleep position and nightly routine to lower anxiety, a correct pillow keeps your vertebrae in its correct and natural position, minimizing any nerve irritation and protecting your long term spinal health.

  Anxiety or depression not only hinders your daily routine, your relationships, and your career, but also can break your restful night’s sleep. Creating a helpful sleep routine away from electronics can aid your bedtime much like a small child. Clearing your mind for sleep and creating an oasis in the bedroom both help the process even more.

  If anxiety or depression isn’t keeping you up at night, sleep apnea could also be an indicator. While breathing during sleep, apnea causes your breathing to stop causing you to have a disturbed sleep. Snoring can also be a cause of sleepless nights causing morning headaches.

  With each person having their own sleeping position or rituals, there really is not a best option. But it is important to understand which position is best for you and if there are any medical issues between you and 8 hours of sleep.


In order to maximize your sleep, visit your local sleep clinic. If you live in Alaska, click on the link below to connect with a professional sleep specialist.


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Topics: positions, sleep habits, sleep hygiene

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