What Is the Healthiest Position to Sleep In? (and what’s the worst?)

healthiest sleep positionSleeping is supposed to be the ultimate in rest and relaxation … yet so many of us spend our nights tossing and turning instead of slumbering. There are many factors that can disturb your sleep (like your pets, medications and the wrong bedtime snack), but one that you might not have considered is your sleep position.

Yes, the position you sleep in matters. A lot.

Most importantly, how you sleep can impact your pain levels, either triggering or preventing back, neck and other pain. Sleep position also impacts digestion, wrinkles, snoring, skin breakouts and even breast firmness.

What Sleep Position is Healthiest?

Experts agree that for most people sleeping on your back is the best for your body. In this position, your spine is properly supported and held in a neutral position with your head and neck. This will help to minimize neck and back pain while also minimizing digestive issues like acid reflux.

When you sleep on your back, your face will face upward, which means you may have fewer premature wrinkles (which may result from your face being smashed against a pillow). Skin breakouts may also be less likely and, for women, breasts may benefit from the extra support of back sleeping, providing longer perkiness and less sagging.[i]

When you sleep on your back, you may keep your arms at your side or over your head (the so-called starfish position). Either one is just fine. If you suffer from low back pain, a pillow under your knees can help to keep a natural curve to your back and lessen pain. (You’ll also want to try Heal-n-Soothe to get rid of your pain naturally, for good.)

Just about the only down-side to sleeping on your back is that it may make snoring worse, so if that’s a concern for you, see the next-best sleep position below …

The Second-Best Sleep Position …

Sleeping on your side is the most common sleeping position, and it’s a fairly good one. Side sleeping elongates your spine, which is beneficial for reducing neck and back pain, and is generally ok for those with acid reflux.[ii]

Your facial skin may suffer with extra wrinkles, however, thanks to the extra time spent against the pillow. And the force of gravity may contribute to breast sag among women side sleepers.

Keep in mind that the ‘healthiest’ way to sleep on your side is to place a pillow between your knees and thighs to support your upper leg. This will prevent your lower spine from rotating forward, which can potentially contribute to back or hip pain.[iii] For pregnant women, sleeping on the left side is said to be best for blood flow and circulation.

You’ll want to avoid sleeping in the fetal position on your side (with your arms and legs pulled in toward your body and your chin tucked toward your chest). Although an estimated 40 percent of sleepers prefer the fetal position, [iv] it can be hard on your back and joints.

Plus, the fetal position has been described as a “low power” pose that may change your emotional state while you sleep, leaving you to wake up feeling overly sensitive or vulnerable. A better “power pose” to sleep in, according to Amy J.C. Cuddy, assistant professor at Harvard Business School, would be to sleep on your back with your arms and legs outstretched, and your hands behind your head.[v]

The Worst Sleep Position of All: Stomach!

Sleeping on your stomach is quite unnatural for your spine, pulling it out of its neutral alignment. This will be made even worse if you sleep with thick or multiple pillows. Back pain is common among stomach sleepers, as is tingling and numbness, which may occur due to extra pressure placed on your nerves.

If you must sleep on your stomach, try putting a pillow under your pelvis and lower abdomen to help reduce the strain on your back. A thin pillow under your head, or no pillow at all, is best in this position.

Your Sleep Position May Reveal Your Personality

The position you sleep in may reveal insights into your personality, according to one study of 1,000 people. A body language expert analyzed common sleep positions and reported the following:[vi]

  • The fetal position: Fetal sleepers may be very conscientious, constant worriers, over-thinkers and looking for comfort.
  • The log position: If you sleep in a straight line with your arms at your side, you may have a rigid personality and need to relax more.
  • The yearner: People who sleep with their arms outstretched tend to wake up with excitement and go after their dreams. Some may also be chronic time wasters or feel they are being chased.
  • The freefall position: Sleeping face down on your stomach with arms or legs outstretched means you may be trying to control time and space in a way you can’t while you’re awake.

There were other interesting traits noted as well. As reported by Yahoo Health:[vii]

” … those who sleep in the starfish sleeping position, on their backs with arms and legs outspread, may be more open, and make better friends than the logs.

… the soldier sleeper, who is … a back sleeper. … tends to be quiet and reserved, and sets high standards for himself and others. Both the soldier and the starfish often struggle with getting a good night’s sleep because they tend to snore and have other breathing problems throughout the night.”

healthiest sleep positionWhat happens if you change positions during the night? You might have a combination of traits (and most people do change position during the night). If you’re constantly tossing and turning, however, you’ll have a hard time getting a solid night’s rest. This calls for Sleepzyme, which has not one or two … but 10 of Mother Nature’s most powerful sleep aids.

Filed Under: Sleep
Written By:  Updated:
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Jesse Cannone, CFT, CPRS, MFT

Jesse is the co-founder and visionary CEO of The Healthy Back Institute®, the world-leading source of natural back pain solutions. His mission as a former back pain sufferer is to help others live pain free without surgery and pharmaceuticals.

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3 thoughts on “What Is the Healthiest Position to Sleep In? (and what’s the worst?)”

  1. Nancy says:

    Just wondering if you should use a pillow under your head when sleeping on your back. I have been a side sleeper for years and am trying to learn to sleep on my back. I don’t feel comfortable without a pillow, but don’t know if I should use one or not. I have carpal tunnel so sleeping with my hand under my head won’t work for me. Thanks.

  2. edwin smith says:

    i have tried to sleep on my back but to no avail as I can’t get to sleep that way somehow,if I turn over onto my back I start to wake up,if I have to get up and not sleep in I just lie on my back and I waken up slowly,i also waken up during the night every time I turn,eddie

  3. Steve says:


    Ok, that is a great question and it has several parts, if your neck posture is forward of your shoulder, you will feel very uncomfortable without a pillow while laying on your back, but the catch is that the more you us a pillow the more you keep you head neck and shoulders out of balance, we call that the Forward Head and Shoulders Postural Dysfunction…

    Now it is correctable but it takes time and in some cases the use of a pillow, maybe needed at first and then you can use a thinner pillow all the way down to a very thin pillow or now pillow at all…

    I will tell you what I did to help me be a back sleeper, I took 4×4 pieces of wood and put them under the front legs of my bed frame and that kept my body angled up, then I took a thick blanket and put between, my mattress and the box string and that keep my head up… it worked great for me…

    That is what I did give it a try and see how comfortable it is for you…


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