Back-Sleeping is Best Position for Most to Promote Quality Sleep
Poor sleep habits are among the most common problems encountered today. Not only does poor quality sleep lead to fatigue and difficulty concentrating, but research finds links between sleep deprivation and high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, cardiac events such as heart attack, diabetes and obesity. One factor involved may be poor posture as misalignment during sleep can put stress and strain on the body, affecting how you feel the next day.
Covenant Sleep Center medical director Dr. Chris Rose finds that the best sleep position for most is on the back. Back-sleeping prevents neck and back pain and reduces acid reflux, two physical factors known to affect sleep. Those with neck or back pain might try the use of a cervical pillow under the neck or pillows placed under the knees. Patients with heartburn at night should try propping the upper body with pillows to reduce reflux into the esophagus.
Sleeping on the back also has a beauty benefit – it minimizes wrinkles.
Sleeping on the back is not only good for most adults, but also for children, especially those under one year of age. Parents of infants should follow the rule “Back to Sleep, Foot to Foot” meaning that the child is on their back with their feet at the foot of the bed. This position has been shown to reduce the incidence of sudden infant death syndrome by more than 70%.
There are those for whom a back-sleeping position is contraindicated. People with severe snoring or sleep apnea should adopt a side-sleeping position. Pregnant women are also advised to sleep on their left sides to increase the amount of blood and nutrients that reach the placenta. Side-sleeping does, however, tend to constrict the shoulder and neck muscles due to the weight of the head on the arm. Shoulder stretches can be performed to prevent soreness.
Overall, the worst sleeping position is on the stomach. Stomach-sleeping distorts the alignment of the neck and makes it difficult to maintain a neutral spine position and puts pressure on the joints and muscles which can lead to pain, numbness and tingling. If you are just more comfortable sleeping on your stomach, Dr. Rose suggests sleeping without a pillow under your head or to place a pillow under the hips to better align the back.
For more tips on good sleeping habits, the University of Maryland Medical Center offers the following:
• Keep a regular schedule for bedtime and waking, even on weekends.
• Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and heavy, spicy or sugary foods 4 to 6 hours before going to bed.
• Exercise regularly (afternoon is best).
• Use comfortable bedding and ensure the room is the right temperature and is well ventilated.
• Block out distracting noise and light.
• Practice relaxation techniques such as yoga or deep breathing before retiring. This is especially helpful if you tend to take your worries to bed with you.
Image Credit: Photo by epSos.de via Flickr