How Different Sleep Positions Affect Your Health

by | Read time: 4 minutes

Whether you’re lying face down, curled up on your side or splayed out like a starfish, everyone has a preferred sleeping position. And though we spend a great deal of time in these positions, few stop to consider how they impact our bodies and minds.

Research has shown that sleeping positions may affect whether you wake up feeling refreshed—or doubled over in pain. They’re also associated with some health conditions, such as back pain, acid reflux and snoring.

What does your sleep position mean for your health? Read on to lean more about good, not-so-good and downright awful for you ways to spend the night.

Pajama-Clad Woman in Fetal Sleep Position Hugging Pillow on Bed With White Sheets |

Ideal sleep positions

On your back

Although it’s a pretty unpopular position – practiced by just 8 percent of people – sleeping on your back is by far the best option, with myriad benefits for health and even appearance.

By sleeping supine, your spine is kept in its natural alignment, ditto the neck, head and back, whose neutral positioning prevent any forced curving. It’s also great for those suffering from arthritis and rheumatism as body weight is evenly distributed, keeping pain at bay.

Snoozing on your back also has surprising benefits for acid reflux. With anatomy and gravity playing key roles in the effects of acid reflux, lying on your back keeps your head elevated, so your stomach is below the esophagus, preventing food and acid from coming back up.

Still unimpressed? Back sleepers also experience beauty benefits. Sleeping on your back is known to help prevent wrinkles and keep breasts firm.

Cons: For all its good, however, this sleep position is not without its shortcomings. It can increase snoring, sleep apnea and can even cause difficulty breathing.

Left side

A healthy alternative to sleeping supine, this position remedies its shortcomings and is favored by almost 63 percent of the population. Its many benefits include keeping the tongue and throat in neutral positions, clearing the airways and preventing pesky snoring.

It also aids digestion as the stomach and pancreas, located on the left, are gravitationally favored, allowing a smooth digestive process to run while you sleep. Food waste also moves easily from the large intestine to the colon, thanks to their left-side positioning.

Likewise, with the heart located on the left side of the body, a natural, smooth blood flow is achieved when you fall asleep on your left side.

For pregnant women, this position can be a godsend, helping to releive pressure on the back while also increasing circulation and blood flow to the uterus and kidneys.

Cons: Despite being largely beneficial, sleeping on your side can cause strain on the neck, with  pressure and weight restricting blood flow and sometimes leading to discomfort or pain.


Like you needed another excuse to spoon! Besides being great for intimacy, cuddling has great health benefits for both sexes, which include boosting the immune system, relieving pain and lowering the risk of heart disease, all thanks to the feel-good hormone oxytocin, known to be produced during intimate moments.

Cons: As sweet as the idea of spending the night in your lover’s arms might be, it’s largely impractical, as the sustained weight is sure to deaden the arms, leading to a “pins and needles” feeling, as well as misaligning the neck and spine, leading to discomfort and pain.

Not-so-great sleeping positions

Fetal position

This position entails lying on your side with your legs drawn up to your chest. An easy, comforting favorite, this position can help ease wear and tear to the back, as it involves the body curling inwards, reducing pressure on the back discs.

Cons: Sleeping in a fetal position involves misalignment of the neck and shoulders while sleeping, which causes strain on the neck, back and joints. Your body also becomes more susceptible to wrinkling and sagging.

On your right side

This position is potentially problematic for heartburn sufferers, as validated by several studies. Gravity works against the stomach and esophagus when youre lying on your right side.

Pregnant women should also take note. With the increased weight brought on by pregnancy, resting on the right can cause undue pressure on the liver over long periods of time, potentially causing damage. It can also hamper blood circulation and nutrient supply to the baby, and, most alarmingly, stillbirths in some cases.

As with sleeping on the left side, this position also may lead to numbness and feelings of prickly pins and needles upon waking. This is the result of excess pressure on the neck or arms, which restricts blood flow for long periods during sleep.

The worst sleeping positions

On your stomach

Falling asleep on your belly, phone in hand and lost to the world, might sound like a great way to end the day, but now’s a good time as any to find a new routine. If you slumber belly down, you’re putting yourself at risk for lower back pain, as the natural curvature of the spine is flattened and the neck is strained.

The only apparent good from this position is its ability to ease snoring.

Overall, your sleeping position plays a pivotal role in your health and well-being and should not be taken for granted. While temporary comfort might seem important, the long-term effects and health benefits should be put into consideration before adopting a position to sleep in.