What Your Sleeping Position Says About You

Here's What Your Sleeping Position Actually Means For Your Health

 

No matter which way you toss and turn while you’re trying to fall asleep, you somehow always find your way back to the sweet spot. And no, we’re not talking about sex — at least yet, anyway — but rather, the sleeping position that over time became your go-to way to catch those Zzzs. It’s normal for sleeping positions to change throughout your young life as you learn how to drift off to dreamland outside of a crib, then in an adult-sized bed and then beyond your childhood home, in college, and so on. But as you settle into your early 20s up until you reach middle age, you’ll probably stick with the same habitual sleeping pattern.

 

If you’re lucky, you’re one of those people able to sleep anywhere on demand. But most of the time - you’ll pick your stomach, your back, your side or whatever way makes you hit the hay faster.

But have you ever wondered what your preferred sleeping positions say about you and your health? Or what bedtime products would make it even easier to reach slumber? No matter if you drool or snore, call your tummy comfy or kick it back on your back, here’s what your sleep position means:

Why does your sleep position matter?
You might think that it’s more important to sleep then to not sleep, and you’re right. But as dentist and sleep specialist Dr. Sabrina Magid Katz explains, the position you pick at bedtime can be more than a personality perspective and can be a warning sign of underlying bigger issues. “Finding a comfortable position to sleep in is of course important. You may find that old injuries feel better or worse in a specific position. But certain positions may be an indication, or even a cause, of more serious medical problems. Most people aren't aware of how they sleep or aren't accurate in their recollection. Most of us switch positions at least a few times during the night without realizing it,” she explains.

What’s the most common sleep position?

Think about the (lucky!) ladies who have shared your bed: how did they like to sleep? Snuggled up to you, as you spoon them? Or on their backs with your arm draped around them? Everyone has a special way to count sheep but Dr. Katz says about 41 percent of people choose some form of a side-lying fetal position. It’s a good pick, apparently: “This is good news since it can reduce back and neck strain while keeping the airway open,” Dr. Katz says.

What does your sleep position mean?

According to Dr. Katz, sleep positions can do a lot - from giving us clues into depression or anxiety to indicating health issues and predicting them. As an example, she explains: “There are different philosophies on what each intricate position says about your personality. For instance, lying on your back with your hands up may be described as having a different personality profile than hands down. That said, being on your back at all can cause some very real problems, both socially and medically.”

If you lay on your stomach:

This position might be specifically helpful if you snore or if you might have had a little too much bean dip at your local Mexican joint. But from a health perspective, Dr. Katz says it’s not the best. How come? It’s difficult to keep your spine healthy because it’s not supported as it could be in other positions. This position could be comfortable and remind you of childhood, but it’s not the ideal pick long-term. If you must sleep on your stomach, Dr. Katz suggest a stomach sleeper pillow, like this one, that will keep your head down and neutral while allowing you to breathe. It’s ergonomically-designed and provides a chin-rest that suppressing pressure on your neck, along with side support for your face. With an elevated center, it also cradles your chest and features memory foam, so it fits to your body.

If you lay on your back:

Dr. Katz already knows one thing about you - without ever meeting you: you snore. “You may find that you or someone in your family snores the loudest while sleeping on their back. You may even notice some choking and gasping sounds. If you are prone to sleep apnea, you may find that your condition is worse when lying in your back. This is because the jaw and soft tissue falls to the back of the throat, cutting off the airway,” she explains.

It might not seem like such a big deal, and you could even suggest that your sleeping partner purchase some earplugs, but Dr. Katz says that eventually, this back sleeping could lead to a more serious condition called sleep apnea. This can also be an indicator of high-blood pressure, stroke, heart attack, diabetes, depression and impotence. To see if your sleep position is signifying these issues, Dr. Katz says an at-home test is available. From there, you can figure out the best approach to tackle your sleep apnea with your doctor.

If you’re apnea-free? Take some pressure off your back by adding support under your knees with a wedge or bolster.

If you sleep on your side:

Congrats, you’ve picked the healthiest way to sleep! As Dr. Katz says, “Sleeping on the side typically lessens snoring, decreases the risk of sleep apnea, and elongates the spine to ward off back and neck pain.” The only issue you might face, according to Dr. Katz, is sleeping in a super-stiff log position that could make you uncomfortable or achy when you wake up. And if you need to cancel out noise while you’re sleeping on your side, you might notice that your earplugs fall out. 

If you lay in the fetal position:

As the most popular position, it’s pure luck that it also happens to be good for you. Even so, there are ways to make it even better. “While one of the healthier positions, be sure not to curl up too tightly as it can put pressure on the joints. You're best on your side with your hips and knees slightly bent. Try not to rest your head on your arm as it may cause tingling and numbness,” she says.

Though you might think it’s not the sexiest of bed accessories - considering it’s a must-have for most pregnant women – a body pillow can be a lifesaver for making sure you fall asleep and keep your body, muscles and bones healthy. “Specially-designed or strategically-placed pillows may help support the stomach and hips,” Katz adds

If you can never find a sleep position:

If you’re someone who spends more time wrestling with covers than resting, Dr. Katz says it may be reason to raise concern. “Interrupted sleep is poor quality sleep that may leave you restless in the morning and at greater risk for other conditions. It is also important to find out why you do this,” she says. “Some people thrash about when they are not breathing properly during sleep. Others have a condition called restless leg syndrome where they feel ‘creepy crawlies’ and the need to move their legs. A sleep study can rule these conditions out.”

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