The Worst Sleep Positions for Your Health

First of all, let me say that I’m a fan of finding your own ideal sleep posture. I myself often wake up with one foot dangling off the side of the bed, wrinkles on my face and my hair totally messed up. Sleeping a different way just feels “weird” to me and makes it hard to fall asleep. If a certain position helps you wake up refreshed, I say go for it.

If you have certain health conditions, however, sleeping soundly is a little more tricky. People who have sleep apnea, back pain, acid reflux or tender joints may wake up in the morning feeling exhausted instead of rejuvenated. In this case, changing the way you sleep may help improve the quality of your nighttime slumber.


If You Have Sleep Apnea…

The worst sleeping position for sleep apnea is on lying your back. Sleeping on your back makes it harder for you to breathe consistently during the night because gravity tends to pull your airway shut. In fact, one study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine showed that by sleeping in a different position, many sleep apnea patients experienced a 50% reduction in nighttime events. Get into the habit of sleeping on your side instead, even if you use a CPAP machine.

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Sleeping on your stomach

If You Have Back Pain…

The worst sleep position for back pain or neck pain is sleeping on your stomach. Whether you sleep like a starfish or a freefall expert, getting your z’s belly-down is hard on your back muscles. It moves the spine into an unbalanced position and forces your neck to turn sharply to one side.

The key to giving sore muscles a chance to heal is to sleep in a natural position that provides a lot of support. Sleeping on your back is great for soothing back pain because it distributes your weight evenly and gives your muscles much-needed rest. I know a few people that also swear by side postures with a pillow between the knees.

Sleeping on your side

If You Have Acid Reflux…

The worst sleep position for heartburn is sleeping on your right-hand side. Scientists aren’t exactly sure why, but going to sleep on your right side often makes the symptoms of heartburn worse. This can wake you up during the night constantly. If you have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), flip over to your left side instead.

Woman sleeping

If You Have Tender Joints or Nerves…

The worst sleep position for irritated joints is any posture that puts extra pressure on them. For example, if your knee hurts, putting your body’s weight on it can make the inflammation worse. For a painful knee joint, lay on your back with a soft pillow underneath it.

In other words, you have to pay attention to individual joints, not just the overall sleep position. If your shoulder aches, stretching it out is a bad idea. People who have shoulder pain should try to sleep with arms resting by the sides, not above the head.

Bed with cat on it

Great sleep and excellent health are closely connected, so it’s worth experimenting to find the best posture for you. When you enjoy a heavenly seven or eight hours of sleep a night, it helps your body repair itself. More sleep lets you wake up with more energy, less stress and less pain!

3 Replies to “The Worst Sleep Positions for Your Health”

  1. Every person needs to use “trial & error” to determine if any of these strategies works. He/she has a “different” body than anyone else, so any of his/her minor injuries (also different from other people) will affect which strategy is effective.

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