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Back Sleepers: How to Keep Your Spine Curve Curvy

If you’re a back sleeper, you’re a rare breed. Although physically speaking back sleeping is the best position to sleep, only about 14 percent of people do it. That’s a shame, too, because those who wake to a view of their ceilings have much higher IQs. Ok, that was a bald-faced lie just to get your attention, but now that we have it … here are some ways to make the most out of an already beneficial sleep position.

Sleeping on back

The Pros and Cons of Back Sleeping

It’s great if snoozing in the vampire pose is already your preferred resting position, but if not, you should consider switching. While back sleeping won’t get you eternal life as an orthodontically enhanced Nosferatu, it still offers some pretty awesome health perks:

  1. Your spine is in a neutral position, so it’s good for your back and neck if you suffer from chronic pain.
  2. Your mattress supports your body best when you’re lying face up.
  3. Your face gets a lift. While side and stomach sleeping can cause wrinkles, back sleep pulls everything back.
  4. Back sleepers enjoy less acid reflux, especially when their head and chest are slightly elevated.

With all these rad benefits, you’d think everyone would sleep on their back, but there are some drawbacks too. For example, back sleeping can lead to raucous snoring because gravity forces your tongue to collapse into your airway.

That’s also why back sleeping is terrible for those with sleep apnea. In fact, it’s so bad doctors often prescribe side sleeping if you have sleep apnea as an actual treatment.

The Back Sleeper Test can tell you which mattress is best for your spine.

Back Sleepers Need the Right Mattress

If you’re a back sleeper, the responsiveness and support of your mattress is important. The great thing about sleeping on your back is that your spine can stay in a neutral position — the same position as when you’re standing. That is, as long as your posture isn’t Egor status.

The right mattress for back sleepers lives in the Goldilocks zone — not too firm and not too soft. Your mattress should help support your spine and neck while allowing the curvy parts to be…well…curvy. If your mattress doesn’t support and flex where it needs to, you might as well be sleeping on a rock.

Back sleepers also need mattresses designed to dispense heat efficiently. Like stomach sleepers, folks who sleep in the supine position (as science geeks call it) trap more body heat than side sleepers. That’s because more of you is touching the mattress. To keep those hot zones cool, back sleepers need mattresses made with heat-transferring materials and designs that allow for maximum airflow—a feature also critical to surviving Taco Tuesdays.

Purple leads to ideal spinal alignment

Get a Back Sleeper Pillow

If you’re a back sleeper in need of a better night’s rest, start with what’s right under your nose. No, not your handlebar moustache, hipster—your pillow. The best pillows for back sleepers are supportive and breathable.


Back sleeper pillows are designed to be lower near the middle and fuller around the edges—like a doughnut but not as tasty. When you lay down, the back of your head should sink while your neck is supported by the firmer edge. You can buy pillows ergonomically shaped for this purpose and others made from flexible materials that automatically adjust to your head and neck.

If you’re a heavy snorer and/or suffer from sleep apnea, the right back pillow is critical to a good night’s sleep. Bad head and neck alignment blocks airways, causing you (or your partner) to roar loudly enough to shake the windows. Using a back sleeper pillow helps, or you can always try switching to the side sleeping position.


To sleep well, you need to stay cool. That’s cool in temperature—not cool like Fonzie. No doubt that leather-jacketed Adonis slept like a baby, but for us mere mortals, sleeping on a hot pillow is a two-thumbs-down experience. Every sleeper, regardless of their preferred position, needs a cool pillow, but back sleepers suffer from hot night sweats the most.

Sleepers with shoulder-length hair or longer sleep on their lovely manes, trapping heat around the neck and shoulders. Rapunzel was a notorious night sweater, so we’ve heard. Nocturnal sweating is also a common symptom of sleep apnea, a sleep disorder you can improve with the right back-sleeper pillow.

Goldylocks trying to sleep

Standard memory foam pillows are good for relieving pressure points and supporting your neck, but they struggle when it comes to breathability. Look for a back-sleeper pillow geometrically designed to allow air to flow freely through the pillow.

Don’t Forget About Sheet Stretch

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Stretch is key! If your sheets and mattress protector aren’t stretchy enough, your mattresses will feel like a slab of concrete. Using stuffy flannel or high-thread-count sheets on your awesome mattress is like sleeping suspended on a hard trampoline, hovering inches away from the comfort you seek.

You’re probably not in Cirque du Soleil, so why sleep like a French clown? Get stretchy bedding to allow your spine to sink into its natural position when you lay down.

Tips for Back Sleepers

Whether you’re a rare unicorn of a back sleeper or are an aspiring one, keep these tips in mind to get the best rest possible.

Back Sleeper FAQs

Can I train myself to be a back sleeper?

Absolutely! Even lifelong side and stomach sleepers can overcome their nightly rituals with a little perseverance and planning. Here are some tips to transition to sleeping on your back:

  • Place pillows on both sides to prevent yourself from turning over. We call this the hotdog position!
  • If you miss the feeling of your pillow on the side of your face, recreate the sensation by placing a small one near your head.
  • Sew a tennis ball into your night shirt on whatever side you’re trying to avoid. Rolling over on it reminds your body to stay put, even in a deep sleep.
  • If lower back pain keeps you from sleeping on your back, place a small pillow under your knees. It will relieve the pressure from your back.
  • Try a little yoga before laying down. Stretching before bed can also help with lower-back pain.
  • Use a wedge-shaped pillow or get an adjustable bed that elevates your entire upper body. Sleeping reclined makes it harder to roll over. It’s also good for acid reflux!

Is it bad to sleep on your back if you’re pregnant?

The general medical consensus is that sleeping on your back while pregnant is a bad idea. Because you’re body is changing its shape—both inside and out—back sleeping can cause backaches and problems with your digestive system. More importantly, back sleeping while pregnant puts more pressure on major blood vessels, causing poor circulation and lowering your blood pressure.

When you’re pregnant, you’re not only eating for two, you’re sleeping for two as well. If you’re a diehard back sleeper, start transitioning to side sleep as soon as possible. You may need the extra time to get used to it. Research says the best sleep position when you’re pregnant is your left side.

Is it better for your back to sleep without a pillow?

If you’re thinking of dispensing with a pillow to help your back sleeping, you may encounter some back pain if you don’t have the right mattress. By going sans pillow, you’re now transfering all of the responsibility for your neck support to your mattress, and it may not be up for the task.

When your mattress is too firm, it won’t allow your head, shoulders, and hips to sink, creating small gaps between the arches of your lower back and neck. These unsupported gaps will definitely cause pain and stiffness at wakie time. If you mattress is too soft, your pressure points will sink too low, putting your spine in a U-shape that spells Uncomfortable.

The right mattress firmness will let your hips, shoulders, and head sink while supporting the concaves of your spine. This neutral position is best for avoiding back pain.

Back sleeping isn’t perfect, but it is still a good option for folks struggling with back pain, and acid reflux. So, give yourself a “self five” for killing it at sleeping! And then give our video a like and share some tricks or stories you have about back sleeping with us on Facebook!

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