Most of us will spend at least 1/3 of our lives sleeping. Strangely, researchers still aren’t entirely sure why our body needs sleep.1 What they have found, however, is that the number of hours of sleep you get each night, combined with your sleeping position, can greatly affect your overall health.
Research conducted by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) shows that the average adult needs between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night for maximum health benefits.2 Their research, which involved a systematic review of scientific literature pertaining to health, safety, and performance, also identified certain sleeping postures that can help alleviate or even prevent several common physical ailments, including back pain and sinus infections.
To help sufferers get the relief and rest they need, we’ve compiled a list of 8 sleeping positions designed to help alleviate these common health conditions.
If you constantly suffer from painful headaches, take a good look at your sleeping position.3 If you sleep with your head in the same position for an extended period of time and/ or twist your neck while you sleep, research shows that you are more likely to wake up with a headache. To prevent this, you may want to surround your head with pillows to prevent any neck twisting. If you can, try to move your head around at least a little during the night.
2. Digestive Issues and Heartburn
If you struggle with digestive issues (like heartburn), do yourself a favor: slightly elevate your head and sleep on your left side. Studies show that elevating your head keeps stomach acid from flowing up into your esophagus, the main cause of heartburn.4 Additionally, since your stomach sits slightly on your left side, sleeping on your left lets gravity assist in digestion.
3. Neck Pain
To reduce your chances of waking up with an aching pain in your neck, give it a little extra support while you sleep. There are two easy ways to do this.5 One, opt for a feather pillow, which easily conforms to your neck’s shape. Two, roll up a small hand towel and place it under your neck for additional support. If the towel’s texture bothers you, tuck it inside your pillowcase.
4. Back Pain
Back pain can be made worse or better based on how you sleep. According to experts, the best position for relief is lying flat on your back.6 At the same time, place a pillow under your knees or put a small, rolled up towel under the curve of your back. However, you should keep in mind that when it comes to back pain, your best option is to sleep in the position that works for you.
5. Sinus Problems
If you’re suffering from a sinus infection, sleep can definitely be a problem. Thankfully, researchers have found that sleeping with your head elevated is most beneficial in this situation.7 This position assists in preventing pools of mucus from building up when your head is down, making it much easier to get the rest and relaxation you need to recover.
6. High Blood Pressure
If you suffer from high blood pressure, also referred to as hypertension, you may be surprised to learn that how you sleep can affect your condition. In fact, researchers have found that sleeping in a face-down positon can help lower blood pressure.8 In a study performed at the Ehime University School of Medicine, participants, overall, saw a significant drop in their blood pressure when lying on their stomach with their face down. One important note: you should always speak with your physician about your condition and potential treatment regimens.
7. Shoulder Pain
If you are suffering from shoulder pain, it’s pretty obvious that you don’t want to sleep on the affected side because this puts unnecessary pressure on your muscles and bones.9 Instead, you have two options. One, you can sleep flat on your back, which is a good solution if both of your shoulders hurt. Two, you can sleep on the side that is pain-free with your legs slightly bent. For added support try tucking a pillow under your knees, or clasping one to your chest.
8. PMS-Related Symptoms
If you are a woman who knows all too well the problematic symptoms of PMS, such as bloating, cramping, or moodiness, sleeping on your back with a pillow under your knees and your arms at your side can seriously alleviate your symptoms.10 Whatever you do, be sure to avoid curling up in a ball or lying on your stomach, as these two positions put too much pressure and weight on your uterus, resulting in increased irritation and cramping.
Now that you know how your sleeping position can benefit your health, it’s time to try them out.