How To Sleep on Your Side Properly
There are plenty of reasons you feel like your best self after a night of good sleep.
A good night of rest allows your body to rejuvenate. Without it you may experience higher stress levels, anxiety, decreased performance, and be more susceptible to long-term health conditions (Medic, Wille and Hemels, 2017). Getting high-quality sleep should always be your goal.
Did you know that some sleeping positions are better than others? From back sleeping to tummy sleeping, each has unique benefits. Side sleeping can be particularly beneficial, but only with the best position for side sleepers. Otherwise, you might be causing aches and pains.
This article focuses on the benefits of side sleeping and how to sleep on your side property. Scroll down to learn the best position for side sleepers ASAP.
5 Benefits of Side Sleeping
If you’ve been worried that side sleeping isn’t healthy — don’t worry. It is! Side sleeping comes with a host of health benefits that many of us don’t ever consider. When you sleep on your side correctly, you unlock the following benefits.
1. Improved Digestion
A 2015 study found that sleeping on your left side reduces esophageal acid exposure (heartburn) and aids digestion (Person et al., 2015). This is because lying with your left side facing down helps your body digest food better, as it’s flowing the same way as gravity.
When laying on your back or right side, food may move slower through your intestines, and you could experience acid reflux — two factors that won’t help you sleep or leave you feeling fresh in the morning.
2. Reduced Snoring and Sleep Apnea
Sleeping on your side clears airway obstructions, allowing you to breathe deeper and easier at night while reducing snoring and improving overall sleep quality (Ravesloot et al., 2013).
When you’re sleeping with your head turned to the side, your airways are less likely to be blocked than when you’re on your back or stomach. This lessens the effect of snoring and, in some cases, sleep apnea. So, save your partner a sleepless night by sleeping on your side next time you have a heavy meal and a drink or two.
3. Better Heart Health
Sleep, in general, is crucial for heart health, and without it, you’re at a higher risk of cardiovascular diseases (Columbia University Irving Medical Center, 2022).
Did you know that sleeping on your right side protects your heart? Data has proved that your heart’s position may shift slightly when lying on the left side (Pan et al., 2018).
For most people, this minor shift isn’t an issue — and laying on your left side has its own benefits. However, if you have underlying heart issues or congestive heart failure, sleeping on your right side may ease breathing problems and discomfort at night (AARP, n.d.).
4. Better Brain Health
When you sleep, your brain refreshes, organises memories, and removes rubbish.
Recent research has shown that sleeping on your side isn’t only good for digression and breathing. Still, it enhances your brain’s ability to eliminate built-up waste that can eventually lead to neurological diseases (www.mymdnow.com, 2015). This leaves you feeling more organised and ready to tackle the morning. Perfect.
Finally, some people simply find side sleeping more comfortable than other sleeping positions. The more comfortable you are at night, the easier it is to sleep, and the more you’ll benefit from a good night of ZZZs. If this sounds familiar to you, your best side for sleep might be on your side!
Is It Better To Sleep on Your Right or Left Side?
The best side to sleep on depends on what feels comfortable, so don’t worry if you favour one side over the other. It’s also normal to switch between both.
Left-side sleeping is generally better for anyone with acid reflux, slow digestion, or pregnancy. In contrast, right-side sleeping is thought to be better for people with pre-existing heart conditions. If in doubt, ask a healthcare professional for personalised advice based on your medical history.
Best Position for Side Sleepers: A Step-by-Step Guide
Around 74% of people are side sleepers. But the percentage of those sleeping in a healthy position is likely much lower.
When sleeping on your side, keeping your spine in a neutral position and your head supported is critical. Otherwise, you might be left with neck pain or back aches. Follow the steps below to keep your spine protected while sleeping on your side.
How To Sleep On Your Side
1. Lie on your chosen side and place your head on a pillow.
2. Keep your chin and neck aligned in the centre of your shoulders.
3. Align your shoulders and hips.
4. Keep your head looking forward — don’t twist your neck or tilt your chin.
5. Ensure your arms and hands are aligned, either in front of you or by your sides.
6. If you want, add a pillow between your legs for extra support.
Most people toss and turn between three to 36 times per night, so don’t worry if you wake up in a different position. Just aim for a healthy position as often as possible.
What Pillows Should You Use For Side Sleeping?
A regular pillow is fine for side sleeping. But you can ensure extra support with a memory foam pillow. With a memory foam pillow, you should place the lateral raised side of the pillow underneath your shoulder.
This specially designed material takes stress off your pressure points and reduces backache, among other memory foam benefits. You can also opt for a memory foam mattress for extra body support.
Alternatively, you can use a lower back pain memory foam pillow between your legs to take pressure off your hips and keep your knees in place overnight. These are specially designed for side sleeping.
Where Should You Position Your Hands and Legs?
When side sleeping, it’s best to position your hands and arms in front of you or by your side. Both are okay as long as your arms are in alignment and not in an awkward or twisted position.
Many side sleepers tend to bend their legs or curl them up towards their chests. This foetal-like position is okay if you’re not curled up too tight.
Curling up too tightly can hurt your back or even make breathing difficult. In this case, putting a pillow between your legs can help to keep your legs comfortable.
Challenges of Side Sleeping
Side sleeping isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. A few common challenges are associated with this position, and if you’re a side sleeper, you’ll already know what we’re talking about. Luckily, there are some tips and tricks to keep these at bay and get better ZZZs.
Common challenges faced by side sleepers:
- Shoulder pain
- Ear fullness
- Am numbness
- Hip pressure
- Neck and back aches
These issues can generally be overcome by adopting a healthy side sleeping position and maintaining it as often as possible. This way, you can align your back and neck, take pressure off your hips and arms, and reduce shoulder pain.
You can also choose special pillows for neck pain or back aches. Adding these to your bedtime routine can make you more comfortable and protected from unpleasant challenges.
Finally, you should also consider regularly switching sides. This allows each side of your body to relax and be pressure-free for part of the night.
Optimising your sleeping position will unlock better sleep, a healthier back, and other health benefits. But there’s no “one-size-fits-all” sleeping position. You’ll need to experiment and see what feels most comfortable to you!
Hopefully, this side sleeping article has helped you elevate your sleeping position. However, if you need a helping hand, trust the Groove Pillow to provide extra support. Our specially designed memory foam cervical pillows are designed to eliminate pain, improve posture, and give you a deeper sleep.
- AARP. (n.d.). Best Sleeping Position for Your Health. [online] Available at: https://www.aarp.org/health/healthy-living/info-2022/best-sleeping-position.html#:~:text=Sleep%20on%20your%20right%20side%20to%20protect%20your%20heart&text=Sleeping%20on%20the%20left%20side [Accessed 22 Aug. 2023].
- Columbia University Irving Medical Center. (2022). Sleep Is Good for Your Heart. [online] Available at: https://www.cuimc.columbia.edu/news/sleep-good-your-heart.
- Medic, G., Wille, M. and Hemels, M. (2017). Short- and long-term Health Consequences of Sleep Disruption. Nature and Science of Sleep, [online] 9(9), pp.151–161. doi:https://doi.org/10.2147/nss.s134864.
- www.mymdnow.com. (2015). Don’t Close Your Eyes to the Best Sleeping Position for Your Brain. [online] Available at: https://www.mymdnow.com/blog/dont-close-your-eyes-to-the-best-sleeping-position-for-your-brain/#:~:text=If%20you%20sleep%20on%20your [Accessed 22 Aug. 2023].
- Pan, H., Xu, Z., Yan, H., Gao, Y., Chen, Z., Song, J. and Zhang, Y. (2018). Lying position classification based on ECG waveform and random forest during sleep in healthy people. BioMedical Engineering OnLine, [online] 17(1). doi:https://doi.org/10.1186/s12938-018-0548-7.
- Person, E., Rife, C., Freeman, J., Clark, A. and Castell, D.O. (2015). A Novel Sleep Positioning Device Reduces Gastroesophageal Reflux. Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology, 49(8), pp.655–659. doi:https://doi.org/10.1097/mcg.0000000000000359.
- Ravesloot, M.J.L., van Maanen, J.P., Dun, L. and de Vries, N. (2013). The undervalued potential of positional therapy in position-dependent snoring and obstructive sleep apnea—a review of the literature. Sleep & Breathing = Schlaf & Atmung, [online] 17(1), pp.39–49. doi:https://doi.org/10.1007/s11325-012-0683-5.