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Sleeping Positions: Is There Right Or Wrong?

Like opinions, all people have Sleeping positions. It is something we have, whether we like it or not. The number of human sleeping positions in the universe is infinite. Since we have a front, a back, and sides, I will reduce the number of sleeping positions to these three. Each of these positions even branches off into multiple in-between ones.

For example, if you lie exactly at a 45-degree angle, are you technically sleeping on your back or your side? As a result, sleeping positions are like fingerprints: unique to the individual. Although humans can be irrational, finding a serviceable sleeping position is one of the more practical things we do. We figure it out by ourselves. The need to sleep forces us to find an appropriate sleeping position, and quickly.

Most people have one or two sleeping positions that work for them. The position one assumes after turning out the light to go to sleep, is probably one’s favourite sleeping position.

Many Pinches Of Salt

There are strong opinions for and against certain sleeping positions. It sometimes borders on the obsessive. Some of the more zealous campaigners immediately try to scare you with horrible diseases. Others are clearly in it for financial reasons. While extolling the virtues of a certain sleep position, they will try to sell you some sleep gadget. These gadgets are often just pillows – cloth sacks, stuffed with soft-ish stuff. So, dear reader, it would be wise to take sleeping positions -propaganda with a pinch of salt.

Speaking of taking things with a pinch of salt: I found this gem. “Dermatologists”, the writer claims, want you to sleep on your back. One of the reasons given for this rather surprising claim is “less product on your pillow”. Um…OK then.

I see there are even attempts to link sleeping positions to personality types. Unfortunately, this quickly degenerates into quiz-driven quackery. “Are you a homicidal maniac? Your sleeping position will reveal all. Take this quiz and find out.”

Therefore, in this article, I will focus on more practical concepts like comfort, health, efficiency and sleep gear. In my view, these are the determining factors when judging a sleeping position.

But first, let’s take a look at the three basic sleeping positions, and what the supporters and critics say. Keep in mind that “experts” often interpret data in different ways. In this vein, you will see that proponents of all sleeping positions claiming that their favourite is best to “keep your spine aligned”. To come back to earlier warnings: a bit of cynicism in this regard is highly recommended.

Assume Your Positions

Sleeping On Your back

Sleeping on your back can cause snoring…

A less popular sleeping position, avoided by many who find it uncomfortably close to the way the dead are laid out.

• What The Fans Say:

  • Prevents acid reflux.
  • Fewer wrinkles over time as your face is not bogged in a pillow.
  • Prevents neck pain as your neck is in its natural (neutral) position.
  • Easier to keep your spine aligned.

• What The Opponents Say:

  • If you are a smoker, drinker or overweight person, it makes you snore like a sawmill.
  • If you suffer from sleep apnea, it will worsen.
  • May put stress on your lower back and cause discomfort and pain.

Sleeping on your side(s)

Side sleeping is the most common sleeping position.

The most popular sleeping position. Remember that both sides are not equal. Due to the position and shape of the oesophagus and stomach, we get gastric reflux when sleeping on our right side. Favour the left, but change sides every now and then.

• What The Fans Say:

  • The foetal position, a side -position, is the most popular sleeping position.
  • Prevents acid reflux when sleeping on your left side.
  • Spine alignment is relatively easy.
  • Impedes snoring and sleep apnea.
  • Safe during pregnancy.

• What The Opponents Say:

  • Causes arm numbness and shoulder pain.
  • Can cause neck stiffness.
  • Causes drooling, which is unflattering.
  • Causes wrinkles.
  • May worsen arthritic joint pain.

Sleeping on your stomach

A small portion of the population sleeps on their sides.

According to many internet-based sources, only around 10% of people sleep on their stomachs. I don’t find this surprising. There is a basic problem: which way to face if you still want to breathe.

• What The Fans Say:

  • Prevents snoring and sleep apnea.
  • Will make absolutely everything OK, according to this article.

• What The Opponents Say:

  • High probability of back and neck pain.
  • Causes wrinkles and breast sag.
  • Spine alignment problems.
  • Pressure on organs, muscles and joints.

Perhaps Try Something Different?

Try an alternative sleeping position if you feel that you are not comfortable at night.

If you’re experiencing sleep problems, one of the many things you can try is to change your sleeping position. It does not come easily and is especially difficult to enforce when all you want is just to fall asleep. However, it could be very satisfying to stumble upon a new sleeping position. One that works for you.

Keep the following in mind:

• Comfort

The be-all and end-all of all factors regarding sleep positions. Unless we are dead tired, we simply cannot fall asleep if we’re uncomfortable. Spend a few minutes in the position you want to try when you’re still awake. If it’s already somewhat uncomfortable, it’s probably not going to work for you.

• Health

Certain sleeping positions may worsen health conditions – or their symptoms. For example, it could be fatal for people with sleep apnea to sleep on their backs.

• Efficiency

Does the new sleeping position give you enough restful sleep? Do you perhaps wake up more often or more easily? Keep in mind that the initial comfort of a new position might not necessarily work for a long session of sleep.

• Sleep gear

Finally, some straightforward stuff. Thanks to advancements in mattress design, we know exactly which type of mattress to pair with which sleeping position(s). Mattresses range from soft to firm, with all varieties in between. For example, if you’re a side sleeper, the most comfortable mattress would be one that keeps your spine in alignment. If it’s too soft or too firm, this doesn’t happen, and you’ll wake up with back pain. In this case, your weight is the deciding factor. Similarly, back support – from a different angle – comes into play when back sleepers choose their mattresses.

Your pillow could also determine if your new sleeping position does the trick. Every position has its own pillow requirements. It is, therefore, best to try a variety of pillows. Your neck and upper spine will quickly tell you if the pillow doesn’t work.

Inconclusive Evidence

It could go either way. I don’t really have a favourite sleeping position…

Personally, I don’t have a favourite sleeping position. Each one – and its many branches – has its charms. I do have an “I’m going to fall asleep now” -position, but for the rest, I’ll try them all. I like taking a nap on my back, but for anything longer, I would assume a different position. What’s more, when I experience a restless night, I may cycle through many sleeping positions. Eventually, I find one that works at that moment, and off into (or back to) sleep I’ll go. So, all this arguing about sleeping positions seems a bit futile to me.

With all the conflicting info about sleeping positions, the whole subject is as clear as mud. As a result, the “right” sleeping position seems to be a matter of choice. If it works for you – well, then it’s the right one.

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Sleeping Positions: Is There Right Or Wrong?


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