Whether you sleep on your back or curl up in a ball while sleeping plays has a significant impact on the quality of your sleep. The sleep position you follow can play a role in heartburn, snoring, or even wrinkles. If you prefer sleeping on your sides, then below is a detailed guide for you to know the pros and cons of such a sleeping position, and the types of pillows and mattresses that will be appropriate for you.
Research studies reveal that sleeping on the side is more common among older adults and those with a higher body mass index (BMI). Despite the benefits to side sleeping, if you fail to get the right position, it might cause pain on your neck, joints, and spine. Here’s what you should know about side sleeping to do it correctly.
Benefits of Sleeping on the Sides
While sleeping on the back has been labeled as the most ideal sleep position, research studies show that side sleeping can have just as many benefits. Also, sleeping on the left side is considered healthier than sleeping on the right side. Some of the health benefits associated with side sleeping include –
- Side sleeping is known to reduce acid reflux for people who are prone to experiencing such problems. However, sleeping on the right side may increase heartburn problems as it puts excess pressure on the heart.
- It also prevents neck and back pain and alleviates pressure throughout the body by keeping the spine properly aligned. It can help to eliminate chronic pain that is associated with long-term conditions like fibromyalgia.
- Side sleeping is associated with improved air circulation as the airways stay open in this position which aids in proper airflow and reduces snoring.
- Sleeping on the left side helps in digestion. Sleepers experience the elimination of toxins and waste from the body. The gravitational pull encourages the movement of food waste from the small intestine to the large intestine.
- The health of the heart gets improved as sleeping on the left side puts less pressure on it. Side sleeping also alleviates heartburn and improves blood circulation in the body.
- Pregnant women may experience some discomfort while sleeping on their back because of the weight concentrated in their stomach. Sleeping on the left side is the best for pregnant women as it helps to transfer the weight away from the body.
Drawbacks Side Sleepers Face
It’s quite instinctive and comfortable to sleep on your sides but side sleeping comes with its own set of drawbacks.
- Sleeping on the right side can trigger problems related to heartburn. On the other hand, sleeping on the left side can put pressure on the vital organs like the stomach, liver, and lungs. However, such a problem can be reduced by placing a pillow beneath the neck, waist, and between the knees.
- People who sleep in the fetal position are susceptible to unique problems like symptoms associated with arthritis, diaphragm restriction, and heavy breathing. People with circulatory issues or arthritis problems may find the log or yearner side position more comfortable.
- The side position compels the sleeper to lie with one side of the face on the pillow. This can develop wrinkles over time, especially on the side on which they are sleeping.
Common Types of Side Sleeping Positions
Around two-third of the world’s adult population prefer to sleep on their sides and the most likely position to fall asleep in. the most common positions when it comes to side sleeping are as follows –
The Fetal Position
Research studies show that around 40 percent of the American population prefers the fetal position. In this position, people curl their legs at the knees and draw them up to the chest. The position resembles that of babies in the womb and is the most common position for people sleeping on their side.
The Log Position
People sleeping in this position keep their arms down close to their body with their back straight and legs extended. Although it may seem uncomfortable many people prefer to sleep in this position.
The Yearner Position
Like the log position, sleepers keep their arms stretched out in front of them instead of keeping their arms down. It appears as if the sleeper is trying to reach out to something.
The Best Mattress Type for Side Sleepers
When you sleep on your side, you would need to support your curved areas such as the neck and the waist. Following a good sleep posture and spine alignment will help to promote the healing and regenerative process of the body. Sleeping on a supportive mattress will help to keep the spine aligned during the restorative period and ensure a good night’s sleep.
Different mattress types will have a different impact on side sleepers as mentioned below –
Foam Mattress: These mattresses made entirely from foam can provide some contour support but not enough for side sleepers.
Memory Foam Mattress: These mattresses that provide contouring comfort are known for sleeping hot and smelling funny. However, it has low responsivity that makes it difficult to change positions.
Gel Memory Foam Mattress: These provide similar contouring support as memory foam but takes a little longer to heat up than traditional memory foam.
Innerspring Mattress: These use a system of springs that are interconnected beneath the mattress. This creates a lot of motion transfer when the sleeper moves in bed. However, these mattresses are labeled as too firm for side sleepers.
Latex Memory Foam Mattress: These are more responsive and breathable as memory foam but are also more expensive.
Hybrid Mattress: The blend of a pocketed coil layer and a comfort layer of foam offers the right level of support and softness to the sleeper. The minimal motion transfer and ultimate responsiveness make it a good pick for side sleepers.
The Best Pillow for Side Sleepers
Pillows not only provide support to the head and neck but also keep the entire spine in the right position during sleeping. Therefore, the pillow you choose should support the natural curve of the neck, and not curve down or lift too high. A general rule of thumb is that your ear, shoulder, and hips should be aligned while lying down.
Various important factors need to be considered to help you choose the right pillow type for a comfortable night’s sleep. The standard-sized pillows available are –
- Small: These pillows made from buckwheat and cervical memory foam remain elevated around the neck and dip beneath the head to provide targeted support.
- Standard: These are the most compact and mat not be ideal for people who toss and turn but are usually the most cost-effective option.
- Super Standard: Are a good alternative for people who find the standard size too compact along with those who toss and turn.
- Queen: This is the most popular pillow next to the standard size. It can accommodate most sleepers who toss and turn during sleep.
- King: This size provides a comfortable backrest and headrest for those who prefer reading or watching television in bed.
- Euro: These square sized pillows are not comfortable for sleeping but make good back and headrests.
- Body: These are exceptionally long making them appropriate for side sleepers and those who prefer to snuggle with a pillow while sleeping or for pregnant women.
A pillow that is too high or too flat can cause stains on the neck, back, and shoulders. The ideal pillow should be adjustable so that you can sleep in different positions comfortably. For the maximum comfort and alignment, side sleepers should use two pillows – one for the head and the other for the knees. But simultaneously, you need to be aware of the fetal position which can over-round your lower back.
Side Sleeping Position FAQs
Do Side Sleepers Experience Neck Pain?
One of the major drawbacks of side sleeping is that it increases the chances of neck pain for the sleeper. Whether you sleep on the left or the right side, the corresponding shoulder can collapse into the mattress, increasing the possibility of getting misalignment and pain in the neck. Sleeping on a firm mattress and pillow can help eliminate such risk.
What Kind of Pillow Does A Side Sleeper Need?
When it comes to pillow selection, side sleepers prefer to use pillows that have a fuller shape to keep the neck and the spine aligned. Soft, conforming materials like buckwheat and memory foam are popular with side sleepers as it can alleviate the pressure points that develop in the shoulders and neck.
Is the Moldability Of Pillows Essential for Side Sleepers?
The moldability of a pillow is somewhat unique to side sleepers. While some pillows hold their shape no matter how firm it is held, others are moldable and reforms to match the sleeper’s position. The most moldable options for side sleepers include shredded memory foam, down, feather, buckwheat while the least moldable ones include the latex and memory foam pillows.
What Is the Best Pillow Height for Side Sleepers?
The average pillow height should be about 4 to 5 inches to properly support the neck, head, and shoulders. This is especially important when you are lying on your side, as in this position the curve of your neck and spine is at the mercy of the pillow. When combined with a nice soft mattress you will be set for a good and peaceful night’s sleep.
Some Essential Tips for Sleeping on Your Sides
Whether you have a long habit of sleeping on your side or you are new to this position, it is important to be aware of the best practices. This will help you to ensure a good night’s sleep without waking up in pain and discomfort. Some of the basic tips to be kept in mind are –
- Choose a medium-firm mattress with one firm pillow underneath your head.
- Lie down on your left side first. The ears should be in line with the shoulders and the chin in a neutral position. Refrain from tucking your chin into the chest or keeping the head down.
- Place the arms and hands below the face and neck, preferably parallel on the sides.
- For those experiencing low back pain should place a firm pillow between the knees. This will prevent the collapse of the knee and hip joints, helping in creating a better alignment for the spine.
- The knees should be slightly lifted towards the chest to reduce pressure on the back.