The Best Sleep Positions for a More Comfortable Snooze

You already know certain foods can impact your quality of sleep — and so can what you wear (or don’t wear!) to bed — but have you ever considered your sleep position? We spend at least one-third of our lives sleeping, so if you’re going to be in any one position for that long of a time, you better be comfy! 

“Spending eight hours at a time in the wrong position can put a ton of stress on the discs in your spine, ligaments, and muscles,” shares Grant K Radermacher, a licensed chiropractor at Ascent Chiropractor.

Whether you’re wondering what the best sleeping position is for lower back pain or you’re a side sleeper who’s curious about the best side to sleep on, here are some of the best sleep positions to try, according to sleep experts.

person sleeping on side in bed

Best sleeping position for lower back pain

One of the most common aches and pains caused by sleeping is back pain, specifically lower back pain. If you’re looking for the best sleep position for lower back pain (or neck pain), the National Sleep Foundation recommends sleeping on your side with a blanket or pillow placed between your knees. 

Why? Because it all starts with your hips.

“Taking the pressure off of the low back is the key to being comfortable and being able to sleep,” says Camilla Moore, a chiropractor with the Lifespan Physician Group, Inc. “The tension on the low back while sleeping comes from the position of the hips.” 

Keeping your hips in a flexed position will help maintain slack in your hamstrings and hips and take tension off your low back, she adds.

Moore explains that if you’re already a side sleeper, this means sleeping with your knees bent. “If there is acute back pain, putting a pillow between the knees in this position will help maintain a neutral position through the hips and low back, further supporting the low back,” she says. Studies even show side sleeping is the most common position to take pressure off of the lower back.

If you sleep on your back, you can still mitigate any potential for lower back pain by — you guessed it — grabbing a pillow. Moore says putting a pillow under your knees will also put your hips in a flexed position and take pressure off your low back.

But what if you’re one of those people who sleep on their stomachs? Well, you may want to reconsider your nightly sleep position. “Sleeping on your stomach is a tough position for the low back and typically adds stress to the low back by putting it in a sustained extended position, which can aggravate the joints in the back,” shares Moore.

If you absolutely can’t sleep any other way, Radermacher suggests using a thin pillow or no pillow at all. “The flatter the pillow, the less angled your head and neck will be, and put a pillow under your abdomen and pelvis,” he says. “It will help keep your back in a more neutral position and take pressure off your lumbar spine.”

The best side to sleep on

More than 70% of people sleep on their sides — and if you’re one of them, you’re in luck.

Sleeping on your side offers several benefits. It can help reduce heartburn and snoring, promote healthy spinal alignment, and is the sleep position least likely to result in back pain. 

Wondering if there’s a best side to sleep on? Opt for the left side over the right side. 

“Sleeping on the right may increase pressure on your internal organs, which is why experts recommend the left for pregnant women and sleepers with acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD),” notes the National Sleep Foundation. “Sleeping on the right can also intensify symptoms of heartburn.”

Just make sure you sleep with a pillow that helps you achieve a side sleeping position that aligns your spine from hips to your head. You may also want to consider putting pillows on either side of your body to keep yourself in place and placing a small pillow between your knees to even out your hips.

Best overall sleeping position

So, what’s the best sleep position? Survey says…It is up to you! “The best overall sleep position is the one that gives you the most rest,” says Moore.

Radermacher says in general, back or side sleeping is going to be best for most people’s bodies. If you deal with back or shoulder pain, sleeping on your back with your knees and pelvis slightly propped up is usually your best bet. Those who experience bloating, constipation, heartburn, and other gastrointestinal issues will probably get better results sleeping on their side.

The bottom line: The next time you’re lying awake in bed unable to fall asleep, try one of these sleep positions to help you drift off to dreamland. (Just don’t sleep too much). 

Sweet dreams, everyone!

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About Ashley Martens

Ashley Martens is a Wellness Writer based in Chicago, Illinois. With a background in a digital marketing coupled with her knowledge of general nutrition and a lifelong passion for all things health, wellness, fitness and nutrition, Ashley offers a healthy alternative to traditional writing. You can learn more Ashley and her writing over at her blog, Three to Five a Day.

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