How do you sleep?
Most of us know that getting a good night’s sleep is crucial to our wellbeing, but when was the last time you woke up feeling completely rested? Most adults need around eight hours of good quality sleep each night to properly function, but, according to The Sleep Council, nearly half of us are getting just six hours or less.
The NHS reports that the impact of sleep deprivation is more than irascibility and lack of focus; it puts you at risk of serious medical conditions including obesity, heart disease, and diabetes, and shortens your life expectancy.
But even if you are achieving the right amount of sleep each night, our resident sleep expert, Cristabel Majandie, believes your preferred sleeping position could be giving you unforeseen problems.
Lying on your back
This increases your chances of snoring and may exacerbate symptoms of sleep apnea, a sleep disorder characterised by pauses in breathing caused by an obstruction of the upper airway. Sleep apnea leads to frequent waking and poor sleep quality, and less time in a deep sleep. The disorder also increases the risk of heart problems in later life. Lying on your side is the best position for you if you’re a snorer or have sleep apnea.
It’s not all bad news, though. Sleeping on your back helps prevent neck, back and shoulder pain, minimises wrinkles, and eases the discomfort of PMS.
Lying on your stomach
Sleeping on your stomach may lead to neck and back pain as your spine isn’t in a neutral position. Your head is turned to one side for a long period of time, and there’s pressure on your joints and muscles.
Having your face squashed into the pillow causes wrinkles and puts pressure on your breasts. However, some people find this position comfortable and don’t experience any problems, so it may be a case of personal preference. Crucially, though, several studies have linked this sleeping position in newborn babies with cot death (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or SIDS).
Lying on your side
As well as being best position for reducing snoring and sleep apnea, sleeping on your side can ease the symptoms of Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS), a disorder of the nervous system characterised by an overwhelming urge to move your legs. Lying on your side can also mitigate the impact of Periodic Leg Movement Disorder which manifests itself in repetitive muscle twitches or jerking in the legs.
Scientists believe that our brains clear out harmful toxins while we sleep and posit that certain sleeping positions, including lying on your side, make the process more efficient. This discovery could have significant scientific ramifications as some of the waste products in our brains are thought to contribute to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease. Although testing is yet to be carried out in humans, the research suggests this may be the reason why lying on your side has become the preferred sleeping position for both humans and animals.
This position can also ease back pain, particularly if you place a pillow between your knees, and ease congestion, especially if your upper body is slightly elevated. Lying on your right side can reduce reflux, and lying on your left is the preferred position for pregnant women as it maximises blood flow for both mother and baby.
However, this position may cause discomfort for some in the hips and shoulders. It might also contribute towards wrinkles and breast sag.
Taken in the round, sleeping on your side is probably the best option for over all health. Having said that, there’s no need to change your sleeping position unless it’s problematic. You’ll naturally choose the position in which you enjoy the best sleep.