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Sleep Health

How To Sleep On Your Back: 5 Easy Tips To Follow

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    Last Updated
    June 1, 2023
    min read

    Back sleeping can be beneficial to a wide array of people, including those with sinus pain, nasal congestion, tension headaches, joint pain, and spinal issues. If you’ve slept on your side or stomach for as long as you can remember, you may be wondering if it’s possible to make significant changes to your sleeping position without stress on the body.

    The truth is, learning how to sleep on your back will take a bit of time and practice  – but it’s not impossible. 

    In this guide, we’ll provide guidance on how to start sleeping on your back. We’ll cover the advantages and disadvantages of back sleeping, as well as what you can do to make the transition easier.

    How To Sleep On Your Back

    To sleep on your back with ease, we recommend finding a supportive mattress, elevating your head, and placing pillows underneath your knees and lower back to reduce strain. These steps will help the body adjust to sleeping on your back faster.

    Read on to continue learning how to make sleeping on your back more comfortable.

    Choose A Supportive Mattress

    Before changing your sleeping position, ensure you have selected the suitable mattress for the position. 

    A firm mattress may be better for back sleepers than plush mattresses. This is because firmer mattresses provide more support and stability to sleepers, holding them up, and keeping them sleeping on top of the mattress rather than allowing them to sink deep into the bed. This, in turn, can keep the spine in a neutral position. 

    Purple mattresses: Because of Purple’s patented GelFlex® Grid technology that provides the perfect flex and support based on the amount of weight applied, Purple mattresses deliver pressure relief for back sleepers of both firm and soft mattress preferences. With Purple, you don’t have to compromise your comfort preference to have the proper back support.

    If you  want to learn more about how to choose a mattress, read our guide.

    Lie Down Flat

    The next step is rather obvious: lie down flat on your back. 

    When lying in bed, try to avoid twisting your head, hips, and knees to the side to maintain a neutral spine position. But this doesn’t mean you have to lie completely still with your arms glued to your sides (unless you find that comfortable). 

    You can move your arms and legs around to find a position that feels comfortable. Some people sleep with their arms raised or their hands resting under their heads while some cross their legs at the ankles. You want to find a position that feels natural and comfortable while keeping your head, neck, and spine in a straight line.

    Elevate The Head

    For back sleepers, it’s important to keep the lower back, hips, and neck properly supported. Not providing enough neck support can lead to headaches and a stiff neck. 

    Make sure your neck is in a neutral position that supports its natural curvature. Remember, the neck is naturally curved like a “C”so you’ll want to use a pillow or several pillows that are thick enough to support your neck, but not too thick that your neck becomes over-extended. 

    Place A Pillow Under Your Knees

    Sometimes, sleeping flat on your back with your knees unsupported can lead to knee and lower back pain. As such, sleep experts recommend placing a small pillow under the knees. The pillow shouldn’t be too high so that it still allows your feet and ankles to lie on the bed. 

    Place A Pillow Under Your Lower Back

    Your spine, like your neck, has a natural curvature. When you lay flat on your back, you’ll notice a bit of space between your mattress and your lower back. 

    To reduce straining your back, place a pillow in this area to support it. Use a small, thin pillow or a rolled-up towel. A pillow that’s too thick or large may lead to more back pain. 

    Try The Starfish Position

    The starfish position entails having both your arms and legs splayed out, making you look like a starfish. If sleeping with your arms straight down your sides makes you feel stiff and uncomfortable, try this sleeping position to relieve some pressure. 

    Be warned though – this position is not recommended for couples who share a bed, except if you sleep on a bed that is big enough to provide ample space for both sleepers. Learn about other popular couple sleeping positions here

    Benefits Of Sleeping On Your Back

    Back sleeping is recommended by most sleep experts, as it’s often easier to maintain your spine’s neutral alignment in this position. 

    It can also keep you from applying undue pressure on the joints in your hip, knees, shoulders, and ribs. Some people with certain injuries and illnesses like arthritis, spondylosis, and scoliosis, are also required to sleep on their backs to speed up recovery or reduce pain.

    While back sleeping isn’t for everyone, it can bring positive changes to certain people. Here are some of the health and wellness benefits of sleeping on your back:

    • Promotes spine health: One study found that side lying and sleeping on your back may possibly help with neck and lower back pain. Sleeping on your back with a pillow under your knees may also reduce stress on your spine and maintain the natural curvature of your lower back.
    • Improve sleep quality and daily comfort: Use an adjustable base to customize the way you sleep. Purple engineered an adjustable base that allows you to personalize  your desired comfort all while using an existing bed frame.
    • Reduces heartburn and acid reflux: Sleeping flat on your back can aggravate heartburn and acid reflux, but elevating your head and ensuring your esophagus is positioned higher than your stomach may reduce symptoms. 
    • Does not contribute to wrinkles: Some experts believe that sleeping on your face may hasten the development of wrinkles. Sleeping on your back prevents you from pressing your face against a pillow. 
    • May reduce tension headaches: Tension headaches can be caused by a variety of factors, including stress and poor posture. Those who prefer stomach sleeping are prone to tension headaches. Some experts believe that sleeping on your back and keeping pressure off your neck may reduce tension headaches
    • May reduce congestion from allergies and sinusitis: Sinus pain and congestion can keep you up at night. But sleeping on your back with your head elevated enough so that it’s positioned above your heart could keep blood flow from collecting in your nose, potentially decreasing mucus buildup as well. 

    Disadvantages Of Sleeping On Your Back

    Again, as mentioned, back sleeping isn’t for everyone. In some cases, it can lead to poor sleep quality, insomnia, and discomfort. Here are some of the main disadvantages of sleeping on your back:

    • May exacerbate snoring and obstructive sleep apnea: When people with sleep apnea sleep on their backs, their airways can become blocked or narrowed, making it harder for them to breathe at night. For the same reason, back sleeping can also make snoring worse, leading to poor quality sleep for the snorer and their partner.
    • Pregnancy: Not only is back sleeping uncomfortable for pregnant women in their third trimester, but it can also be dangerous as it can reduce blood flow to the fetus. For pregnant women, side sleeping (particularly left-side sleeping) is the recommended position.
    • Sleep paralysis: Some studies show that sleeping on your back is linked to sleep paralysis, along with stress, not getting enough sleep, and having an irregular sleep schedule.

    Be Patient With Yourself

    Adjusting to a new sleep position can be tough. You may find yourself lying awake for longer as your muscles get used to the new position.

    Try to be patient and avoid getting frustrated. Forming new habits takes time – the most important thing is that you get enough sleep to feel well-rested and energized the next day. 

    Sleeping On Your Back FAQs

    Why is it so hard to sleep on my back?

    It can be hard for some people to sleep on their backs because it doesn’t feel “natural” to them. Most people have a preferred sleeping position, and if you’ve grown used to sleeping on your stomach or side, it may take you some time to get comfortable sleeping on your back.

    Does sleeping on your back make your face symmetrical?

    There is no definitive evidence that says that sleeping on your back makes your face symmetrical.

    How long does it take to train yourself to sleep on your back?

    It can take a few days to several weeks to train yourself to sleep on your back.


    About the authors

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