5 Most Common Sleep Positions – the PROs & CONs

by | sleep wellness

Sleep is a time when your body is in repair mode and the better “environment” you provide for the repair to happen, the better of you’ll be the next day. It’s that simple. On the surface, that is. In practice, our approach to sleep habits comes down to getting those 7 or 8 hours only to re-join the rat-race.

What we rarely think about

Most of us are well aware that getting enough sleep is crucial, but do you know just how important sleep positions are?

We tend to sleep in the positions we find most comfortable, but different positions have different effects, and not all of them are beneficial. So let us shed some light on the issue.

man sleeping in baby position

Studies have shown over and over again that sleep positions have a profound impact on the way our body works the next day.

It’s not as benign as a sore neck

The effects we are talking about not benign things like waking up to a sore neck or back pain.

The health effects of sleep positions go way beyond that – from snoring and sleep apnea, through triggering an acid reflux reaction to the extremes, like the probability of being afflicted by serious disease like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s.

Spoiler: It’s not well-researched yet, but preliminary animal studies indicate that side-sleepers are less prone to these neurological disorders.

60% of us are side-sleepers 

According to most studies, sleeping on your side is adopted by majority of people. Top 3 out of 5 most common sleep positions are its variations, and all of them share the same group of health benefits and downsides:

Benefits:

Sleeping on your side is recommended by sleep specialists to rest more comfortably and reduce sleep interruptions. It is considered to be beneficial in helping to alleviate insomnia and chronic sleep deprivation.

It is also recommended for those suffering from back or hip pain because it doesn’t put the pressure on these areas.

Sleeping on your side is by far the best choice for snorers and people suffering from sleep apnea: it keeps airways open and unobstructed.

Downsides:

Any side-position can cause shoulder and arm pain due to restricted blood flow and pressure upon the nerves. A lot of the body’s weight rests on the shoulder, which can constrict the neck and shoulder muscles and cause arm numbness and tingling.

Sleeping on the left side puts the pressure on the stomach and lungs. Furthermore, any side-position can contribute to skin aging: consistently pushing on your face (which your pillow does when you snuggle into it) causes creases.

This can result in permanent facial wrinkles.

According to most studies, sleeping on your side is adopted by majority of people. Top 3 out of 5 most common sleep positions are its variations, and all of them share the same group of health benefits and downsides:

Common variations of “side-sleep”

Fetal Position

You’re lying on your side, cozily curled up into a ball, with your chin tilted down, and your knees slightly bent upwards, towards the chest area.

This is the most common of all sleep positions – 41% of adults sleep like this, according to the survey performed by Sleep Assessment and Advisory Service in London..

girl sleeping in fetal position
Added benefits

“Fetal position” is considered to be the most comfortable, so it’s particularly recommended for those suffering from various sleep-related conditions. This position, on the left side, is also recommended during pregnancy because it improves circulation and prevents the uterus from pressing against liver.

Some downsides

Spending a long time in this position can leave you feeling sore in the morning. Curling up too tightly can also restrict deep breathing.

Log Position

log sleep position illustration

You’re lying on your side with your back and legs straight, and both arms down by your side

It’s the second most common sleep position, with 15% of people sleeping like this..

Yearner position

You are on your side; your back and legs are straight, and both of your arms are straight in front of you – the third most common sleep position, adopted by 13% of people.

Added benefits: Both “the log” and “the yearner” are keeping your spine straight and elongated, supported in its natural curve, which can help reduce back and neck pain.

Sleeping on your back 

“Soldier position”: You are lying on your back, with both arms at your sides – the fourth most common sleep position, 8% of people.

Benefits

While not the most popular, sleeping on your back is considered to be the best and healthiest for your spine and neck, as long as you don’t use too many pillows. The entire weight of your body is evenly distributed, avoiding disproportional pressure on any area.

Your head, neck, shoulders, spine and back are all resting in neutral positions, so you are less likely to experience any pain or soreness. Your spine is straight and elongated, comfortably supported by the mattress.

Sleeping on your back helps avoid acid reflux. Additionally, with your entire face turned out in the air, sleeping on your back is the only position that avoids contributing to skin aging.

soldier back sleep position

Sleeping on your stomach 

“Freefall position”: You are lying on your stomach, with your hands up and around the pillow, while your head is turned toward one side. It’s the fifth most common sleep position – 7% of people.

man sleeping on his stomach
Benefits

Sleeping on your stomach eases snoring and some cases of sleep apnea. It is also believed that this position is good for digestion.

Downsides

Sleeping on your stomach is not recommended by sleep specialists, and it’s considered to be the worst sleep position. “Freefall” keeps your spine out of neutral position and consistently slightly bent backward, flattening its natural curve, which may cause strain on your lower back and neck pain.

Your head is always turned toward one side (you can’t bury your entire face against the pillow) which strains the neck.

“Freefall” provides increased pressure on muscles and joints, which may cause numbness, tingling, aches and irritated nerves. Similar to “side-positions,” sleeping on your stomach can contribute to skin aging.

Conclusions

Ask us anything

We believe that we’ve covered all the basics in this concise look at sleeping positions and how they affect our health.

If you do have further questions, we’re here for you, just drop us a line in the comments below and we’ll get right back to you.

The Sleep Studiess Team

young girl waking up happy