Different sleep positions have different health benefits. In some cases, sleeping on one’s back might have negative consequences on a person’s health. For instance, symptoms of snoring and sleep apnea worsen by a significant grade when a person is sleeping on its back. In those cases, doctors often suggest their patients to start sleeping on their side. But how do you change the position you sleep in? Can you even teach yourself to sleep in a position different than the one you’ve been used to sleep in for your entire life?
Apparently, it is possible to teach yourself to sleep in a different position. You might be asking yourself what makes a certain position better than the one you’re already sleeping in, but science has plenty of answers to this question. In order to explain it, we’ll start with demystifying some major advantages and disadvantages of sleeping on your side.
Pros Of Sleeping On Your Side
You might lay first on your back, but if you wake up laying on your side, you might already be a side sleeper. It’s just that you find it easier to relax in a different position before you enter sleep. In fact, one study claims that there 74% of people actually sleep on their side. There are some positions considered to be healthier than side sleeping, but still, this position has plenty of other benefits, especially if you sleep on your left side.
Let’s check them out:
- Alleviates and prevents heartburn and acid reflux
- Boosts digestion
- Aids the drainage of toxins from the lymph nodes
- Improves circulation
- Helps your brain filter out metabolic waste
- Better blood flow in pregnant women
However, remember that these benefits only occur if you sleep on your left side.
What Does Side Sleeping Have To Do With Digestion?
The reason why sleeping on the right side increases risks of gastrointestinal and digestive issues lays in the way our organs are positioned inside our body. Your stomach is on your left side, therefore, gravity works well to consolidate your dinner and take it slowly down towards the intestines. On the other hand, when you sleep on your right side, the gravity works against your gastric juices creating a perfect environment for acid reflux.
Can Side Sleeping Help Clear Toxins From Your Body?
When we sleep, our bodies are not only recovering and gaining more energy. According to different studies, our bodies actually clear themselves from waste and harmful chemicals that could potentially lead to cognitive decline. Our bodily system that is in charge of it is called glymphatic system and it has been found that side sleepers were about 25% better at clearing toxins from the brain than back or stomach sleepers.
Cons Of Side Sleeping
While side sleeping will ease your sleep apnea symptoms and reduce the intensity of snoring, there are some side effects of side sleeping that you might want to hear about. Here are some of potentially common disadvantages that could occur from sleeping on your side:
- Potential Shoulder, Neck and Back Pain
- More Facial Wrinkles
- Sagging Breasts
You might be wondering what paresthesia is. Well, if you ever slept on your side you surely experienced it at least once. Paresthesia is when your arm goes completely numb due to a lack of blood flow or too much pressure place on a nerve. What’s interesting is that this condition always wakes us up, because the feeling of it is quite disruptive to our sleep. It looks like your brain can’t sleep at the same time your arm falls asleep.
Is Side Sleeping Bad For Your Shoulder?
When sleeping on your side, your main pressure points become your head, shoulder, hip and knees. That’s why these areas can also be affected by sleeping on the side. Some doctors, for example, don’t suggest their patients to sleep on the side because the damage to the rotator cuff of the shoulder that could occur from sleeping in this position.
If you’re a side sleeper and feel the pain in your shoulder, you might want to try some of these things. First of all, in order to minimize the shoulder pain, grab three pillows. Place one under your head and neck of proper neck support, one pillow between your knees, and another one, in front of your stomach.
How To Make Side Sleeping More Comfortable?
If you want to have a good, healthy sleep, than you should inevitably invest in your pillows and mattresses. Although this is valid no matter in which sleep position you usually sleep in, there are some specific features you should look in a mattress if you’re sleeping on your side.
Perfect Mattress For Side Sleeping
The perfect mattress for a side sleeper is the one that supports the curved areas on one’s spine – the neck and waist. When you’re sleeping in a good posture, the quality of your sleep is improved because your muscles and ligaments get a chance to heal during sleep. The proper spinal alignment makes sleeping more comfortable which provide a better restorative period and makes you feel fresh in the morning.
When you sleep on your side, our shoulders and hips are a lot under pressure, which is why you should find a mattress that will support your spine, while being gentle to your pressure points. If you’re waking up with pain in your joints and shoulders, you might be needing a new mattress.
Great Mattress For Side Sleepers
Having a good pillow is crucial in order to keep your spine in proper alignment while you sleep. The function of your pillow is to support the curve of your neck and head that shouldn’t curve worn or be raised too high. The best way to check if you’re properly aligned while asleep, is to see if your ear, shoulder and hips are aligned.
However, side sleepers usually need two pillows in order to reach maximum comfort during sleep. The second pillow would actually be used between the knees. This is also often suggested to pregnant ladies in order to reduce the pressure on the lower back.
If you are recovering from stomach sleep, then you can place a pillow under your armpit in order to create a position more similar to the one you’re used to.
How To Get Yourself To Sleep On Your Side?
1. Choose The Right Pillow
Your pillow’s purpose is to keep your head in the correct position in order to provide a proper spinal alignment while you’re sleep. Your back and your neck should be in a straight line without any bends in the spine.
Since our heads actually have a pretty significant weight (around 11 lbs) , side sleepers will benefit the most from firm and extra-firm pillows. If you take a softer one, it might collapse under the weight making your head and neck bend down. This will then create an improper sleeping position that might end up in neck and shoulder pain.
2. Use Multiple Pillows
If you want to get used to sleeping on your side, getting some extra pillows for your bedroom might be a good idea. By placing the pillows at the right places, you might make side sleeping more likely. For instance, if you’re a former stomach sleeper, having a pillow under your arm can stimulate the feeling of sleeping on your stomach, and at the same time, prevent you from rolling onto you stomach.
If sleeping on your back sounds more like you, and you have to switch for side sleeping for your own reasons, extra pillows can help you too. Place a hard pillow behind your back to prevent you from rolling. Look for millet or buckwheat pillows that will barely move as you’re sleeping.
3. Use A Tennis Ball Trick
Sew a tennis ball on the front and back of your pajama shirt. It sounds a little bit funny, but it is a trick that apparently works for some. If you tend to roll back on your back while sleeping, then the tennis balls will remind you and drift you away from your back-sleeping position.
4. Sleep On A Narrow Sofa
If none of these worked, then maybe you should consider sleeping on a narrow sofa where you simply have to be forced to sleep on your side. Try sleeping like that for a couple of weeks, then go back to sleeping in your bed (and maybe try the tennis ball trick too) .
Few Things On Fetal Position
Sleeping in a fetal position is the most popular sleeping position among humans. This one involves curling up like a newborn baby, with your knees clenched up to your chest. It’s not by chance that 41% of people chooses to sleep in this position. Namely, according to the National Sleep Foundation, sleeping in a fetal position has a lot of benefits. It is great for lower back aping, pregnancy and can also reduce snoring.
However, there are several things that are not so good about sleeping in a fetal position – this posture can actually limit the depth of breathing while you’re asleep, also, it might leave you having sore joint pain or stiffness due to sleeping in the tight fetal position.
Sleeping on your side
Sleeping on your side is the healthiest sleeping position, especially sleeping on your left side. It is a great way to reduce snoring, improve digestion and reduce heartburn.
However, if you have problems with joints this position might be a bit uncomfortable for you. Therefore, make sure you find the best mattress and pillow that will make this position as enjoyable as possible.