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The Best Position to Sleep, Back by Science

What is the Best Sleeping Position?

Humans come in all shapes and sizes (and with varying levels of hacky-sack abilities). What sleeping position is best for you isn’t going to be the best for your Great Aunt Gertrude.

Generally, the best sleeping position for you is the one that allows you to have the most REM sleep (that magical “deep sleep” when you dream and when your eyes dart from side-to-side). All parts of the sleep cycle are important, but REM sleep is the most restorative and vital for memory retention. Without enough of it throughout the night, you can wake up with a headache and achy feeling all over. Seriously, the long-term effects of sleep deprivation and consistent low-quality sleep are just scary. Here are just a few:

The Dreamer’s Guide To The Best Sleeping Positions  The sideways siesta. The horizontal hibernation. Whatever you call it, a good night’s sleep is a precious thing.  What can we say? At Purple, we’re dreamers at heart. Whether you dream each night of flying through Manhattan decked out in a red cape, or riding on the back of a majestic tyrannosaurus rex, your sleep position has a profound effect on the quality of your sleep (and your .  There are many ways we humans prefer to do the comatose catnap. Flat on your back, arms up around the head. Smushed on your belly like a falling man. On your side curled up like a shrimp.

The Dreamer’s Guide To The Best Sleeping Positions

The sideways siesta. The horizontal hibernation. Whatever you call it, a good night’s sleep is a precious thing.

What can we say? At Purple, we’re dreamers at heart.

Whether you dream each night of flying through Manhattan decked out in a red cape, or riding on the back of a majestic tyrannosaurus rex, your sleep position has a profound effect on the quality of your sleep (and your dreams).

There are many ways we humans prefer to do the comatose catnap. Flat on your back, arms up around the head. Smushed on your belly like a falling man. On your side curled up like a shrimp.

Everybody does it differently, and that’s okay. But some positions, it turns out, are more “okay” than others.

But Which Sleeping Positions Are More Ideal Than Others?

There are going to be pros and cons of each sleeping position, but if you get the best rest in a less-than-ideal position, that’s probably still the best choice for you.

Therefore, we’re not going to judge you if you eat peanut butter directly from the jar, and we’re certainly not going to judge you for sleeping flat on your chest like a chalk outline at a crime scene, as long as it gives you the best rest.

That being said, if you want to improve the quality of your sleep, we’ve got some tips for switching to a more comfortable sleeping position. And if you’re just too attached to the way you slip into sweet slumber, we’ve got some tips for easing you into dreamland just the way you like it.

Let’s get started! To jump to information about your favorite sleeping position, click one of the links below:

Side Sleepers

Side sleepers are numerous (making up a whopping 63 percent of all sleepers). We’re a versatile bunch, with all kinds of subsets including the log, the yearner, and the fetal position (more on that last one below).

Side Sleeping Benefits

Sleeping on your side is great for cuddling and pillow-talk. Additionally, research suggests that sleeping on your left side is preferable to your right. Thanks to the unique arrangement of your internal organs, left-side sleepers may see benefits in improved digestion and blood flow. It can also help reduce heartburn.

Side Sleeping Cons

One of the biggest drawbacks to sleeping on your side is the dreaded numb arm. Also, it can lead to shoulder pain, hip pain, and back pain if your spine, neck, and hips aren’t properly aligned throughout the night. It also puts more strain on your pressure points. All of these symptoms can be lessened with the help of a quality mattress and various arrangements of pillows to suit your personal style.

On a cosmetic note, side sleeping can lead to more face wrinkles (because you’re pressing your face against the pillow all night) and saggy breasts (because…gravity).

How to Sleep on Your Side Like a Pro

The side sleeper secret is to keep your back as straight as possible. The best way to achieve this, big surprise, is with a great mattress. Find a mattress that provides support for the curvature of your body while still embracing the pressure points of your shoulders and hips.

Other helpful side-sleeping techniques are to position a pillow between your legs, and use a tall pillow that aligns your neck better with your back (as opposed to sleeping with your head cocked to one side like you can’t understand what I’m saying but you’re going to pretend like you do anyway).

Image of girl side-sleeping on mattress with straight spine.

Fetal Position Sleepers

The fetal position is the close, adorable cousin to the side sleeper.

While some of us only curl up in a fetal position when we’d rather not be adults for a while, a whopping 41 percent of people prefer this style of sleep position.

Fetal Position Sleeping Benefits

The most obvious benefit of sleeping in a fetal position is that it makes you a great little spoon. There’s also evidence that fetal-sleepers are shy and sensitive, but with a hard shell on the outside that can be tough to crack, but totally worth it. We get it, fetal-position sleepers, you’re super cute.

Beyond that, you get all the benefits of the side sleeper, as well. It’s an all-around solid sleep choice!

Woman on white bed sleeping in the fetal position.

Fetal Position Sleeping Cons

Being too curled up in the fetal position can cause your lower back to arch in an unnatural manner, leading to aches and pains in the morning.

How to Make the Most of the Fetal Position

Try to bring those legs down a touch so that your body is straighter. And put a small pillow between your legs to relieve some pressure on your spine so you can cuddle the night away.

Back Sleepers

If you’re a back sleeper, take some pleasure in knowing that sleeping on your back is often recommended as the best position for preventing aches and pains in the morning.

Back Sleeping Benefits

Sleeping on your back gives you your best shot at resting your spine in its most natural position. In fact, your entire skeleton will thank you for sleeping on your back, because your arms, shoulders, and legs won’t be jammed under the weight of your body or contorted in some bizarre amusement-park-ride pose.

Demonstration of spine alignment on Purple® mattress vs the ideal alignment.

Back Sleeping Cons

Unfortunately, back sleepers don’t have it all good. It can lead to problems with snoring since gravity pulls your tongue to the back of your throat, and it isn’t recommended for people who suffer from sleep apnea.

In young adults, scientists have noted that poor sleepers typically spend more time on their backs than other positions, so sleeping on your back doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get the best night’s rest of your life.

How to Make the Most of Sleeping on Your Back

If snoring is a problem, either find another position (or another sleep partner) OR rock some snoring aids like nasal strips and mouthpieces.

And don’t forget to find that ideal mattress that provides the best spinal alignment.

Stomach Sleepers

If you’re one of 7 percent of the population who sleep on their stomach, you’re a special breed. More often, you’re brash and gregarious. You also don’t like criticism, so we’re not going to chastise you for sleeping in the least-recommended position.

Stomach Sleeping Benefits

Stomach-sleeping can reduce snoring and help in some cases of sleep apnea. Unfortunately, there isn’t much of a benefit beyond that.

Woman on white bed sleeping on stomach.

 Stomach Sleeping Cons

If you’re a stomach sleeper, we love you, but your sleep style probably isn’t doing you any favors. Having your head jammed to the side all night can lead to a sore neck in the morning. Lying chest-down straightens your spine into an unnatural position, leading to all kinds of lower back pain. And if you’re pregnant? Fuhgeddaboudit.

How to Make the Most of Stomach Sleeping

If sleeping on your stomach really is the best way you can get a quality night’s rest, then here are a few ways to make it more comfortable:

  • Switch out that thick pillow for a razor-thin one (or no pillow at all)
  • Prop a pillow under your pelvis to add some curve to your spine
  • Do some stretches in the morning to ease back pain

Best Sleep Positions for Couples

Adding another person into the mix can definitely throw your sleep position game off, but it doesn’t have to. In fact, 94 percent of couples who cuddle (or at least have some kind of physical contact) through the night report being happy with their relationship. Meanwhile, only 68 percent of couples who don’t touch through the night report relationship satisfaction.

So, while there are plenty of variations of the above sleeping positions for couples, the best position for you and your partner is the one where:

  • You both get the best, high-quality rest
  • You touch in some way (unless that interferes with the above point)
  • A child or pet isn’t kicking you all night and commandeering the entire mattress

Also, a king size bed is the largest and best bed for couples, then you can sleep in any position you want.

Couple in white sleeping in eight various positions together.

The Best Sleep Position for Pregnant Women

If you’ve got a bundle of joy cradled inside your abdomen, it can make finding a comfortable sleeping position just a tad challenging. Also, you want to be sure that you’re not doing anything that could cause problems with your pregnancy or harm your baby in any way.

So what’s the best sleep position for pregnant women? As it turns out, sleeping on your left side is the best. It improves blood circulation and doesn’t put pressure on your liver. It’s even better to have your legs bent (again, to aid in good blood circulation) with a small pillow between your knees.

Pregnant woman on white mattress sleeping on side.

If you find it difficult to sleep on your left side during pregnancy (after all, many aspects of pregnancy are going to be uncomfortable, what with a sentient being growing inside you and all) try propping up various parts of your body with pillows. Pillows are your best friend. Stack ‘em up all around you until you find the comfort you so desire.

Tips for Transitioning to a New Sleep Position

The inevitable transition period required to get used to a new sleep position can be difficult. That’s in large part because you’ll likely be getting some pretty lousy sleep while your body gets used to your new position.

But, if you’re determined to change the way you sleep, here are some tips to shorten the transition period and start your new life of sleeping bliss!

You might have to be persistent for a while if you truly want to make a change to your sleeping habits. But if your goal is to reduce back pain and ultimately improve the quality of your sleep, it may be well worth it.

Conclusion

Here at Purple, we love you, and we don’t want you to change anything about yourself just for our sake! Keep doing what you’re doing. And if you think you’ll benefit from switching up your night-time routine, go for it!

Oh, and no matter what sleep position you prefer, you’ll always sleep better on a Purple® Mattress.

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