Plenty of people struggle to decide how they want to sleep every night.
Research shows that nearly everyone has a different mind about the best way to sleep. Close to 47 percent of Americans sleep in the fetal position, which is considered to be the most common form of sleep, according to the Better Sleep Council. Meanwhile, 17 percent like to sleep on their stomach. A separate 13 percent sleep on their sides, with their arms stretched outward, while 11 percent sleep flat on their back.
That’s a lot of variation.
But the research shows we’re all getting it wrong when it comes to sleeping correctly. A bulk of research and expert opinions suggest that sleeping on your back might be the best method for sleeping. But, at the same time, sleeping on one particular side can also yield tremendous benefits.
Here’s what the science says is best when it comes to sleeping on your sides, back and stomach.
What Side Should You Sleep On
- Back is still best. Despite the back-and-forth debate between the right and left side, research points to sleeping on your back as the best method for staying healthy while sleeping.“Back sleeping is the best option for pain management, as it allows your body to rest in a neutral position, which is great for reducing aches. It also cuts down on heartburn, as it keeps your head elevated above your chest,” according to Popular Science. And, according to Sleep.org, sleeping on your back gives you head, neck, and spine a proper rest throughout the night. When you sleep facing the ceiling, you will lessen the likelihood of suffering acid reflux. Note that if you suffer from sleep apnea, experts recommend avoiding the back sleeping position, and instead going for a side position.
- Have acid reflux? Try the left side. It turns out that sleeping your left side may reduce the chances of suffering heartburn. A study from The Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology found that those who slept on their left side were less likely to suffer heartburn problems. If you’re suffering from acid reflux at night and it’s getting in the way of your sleep, check out the MedCline Reflux Relief System pillow, clinically proven to reduce exposure to harmful stomach acid by 87% compared to a standard bed wedge.
- Avoid the right side. It may not be the best idea, especially for your heart, according to sleep specialist W. Christopher Winter, MD, medical director of the Martha Jefferson Hospital Sleep Medicine Center in Charlottesville, Virginia, who spoke with CNN about side sleeping. Winter told CNN your blood flows throughout your body and eventually returns to the heart on the right side. But when you sleep on your right, “the pressure of your body smashes up against the blood vessels that return to your ticker.” Meanwhile, “sleeping on your left side with your right side not squished is supposed to potentially increase blood flow back to your heart,” Winter said.
- Avoid the stomach. Stomach sleepers tend to put more pressure on their muscles and joints, which can lead to aches, nerve issues, and numbness.
It’s hard to pinpoint the best method for sleeping. If you can’t find a comfortable sleeping position, it might be one of the signs you need a new mattress. Experts agree that you should stick with whatever sleeping habits work best for you.
But, that said, sleeping on your back appears to be the healthiest method, followed by your left side, then your right one. Just try to avoid sleeping on your stomach if you can.
“Whether you sleep on your side, back or stomach, if you wake up feeling refreshed and pain-free, there’s probably no reason to break a habit that’s working for you,” according to CNN. “But if you’re having any of the issues mentioned here, it might be a good idea to experiment with something new.”