Healthy Sleep Positions for Adults

Our sleeping position(s) can have a major impact not only on the quality of sleep, but on overall health as well. Poor sleeping positions could potentially cause back and neck pain, impaired circulation, headaches, and even premature wrinkles.

For young adults and healthy people, the sleep position is not as important as when we get older or have medical issues. With age, or those with medical issues, the sleep position can make or break a good night's sleep. In addition to the sleep position, it goes without saying that the mattress quality and choice of pillow is really important to a good nights sleep. Let`s begin with these basics before discussing positions.

Choosing a Mattress

According to the Medical Centre at the University of Rochester, there’s little scientific research that exists on which mattress is best for maintaining a healthy back let alone for those with back issues. In reality, the mattress that's best for you allows you to wake up feeling fully rested and free of pain or soreness. Unfortunately when we shop for mattresses testing them in a showroom can be a different experience from actually sleeping on it permanently.

If you sleep with a partner, the bed size must allow enough space for both individuals to move into a comfortable sleeping position. Mattresses should be replaced about every ten years. If you have a back problem, ask a qualified healthcare provider or physical therapist to recommend the type of mattress that would be best for you.


Depending on your sleeping position, multiple pillows can help keep your spine in the proper position. The pillow for your head should support the natural curve of your neck and be comfortable. A pillow that's too high can put your neck into a position that causes muscle strain on your back, neck, and shoulders. Choose a pillow that will keep the neck aligned with the chest and lower back and it should be adjustable to allow you to sleep in different positions. Pillows should be replaced every one to two years.

Proper Body Alignment

Regardless of your sleeping position, try to keep in mind that it is important to keep your ears, shoulders and hips aligned.

If you sleep on your back then you are part of a small minority. Apparently it is estimated that only 8 percent of people sleep on their backs. Sleeping on the back is by far the healthiest option for most people, because it allows the head, neck, and spine to rest in a neutral position. However, it can cause the tongue to block the breathing tube, making it a dangerous position for those who suffer from sleep apnea. This position can also induce heavy snoring. It is recommended that when sleeping on the back, that a small pillow be placed under the back of the knees because this will reduce stress on your spine and support the natural curve in your lower back. If you suffer from osteoarthritis or any other ailment that affects your knees, this will also help to provide you some relief. The pillow for your head should support your head, the natural curve of your neck, and your shoulders.

Although sleeping on the stomach is good for low-to-no-snoring, it’s bad for practically everything else. Seven percent of adults tend to be stomach sleepers, but this can lead to back and neck pain, unless pillows are strategically placed to provide support. Stomach sleepers put pressure on their muscles and joints, possibly leading to numbness, tingling, aches, and irritated nerves. Sleeping on your stomach can create stress on the back because the spine can be put out of position. Placing a thin pillow under the stomach and pelvic area can help to keep the spine in proper alignment. If you sleep on your stomach, a pillow for your head should also be thin, or if you can manage it, sleep without a pillow.

Sleeping on your side (with your torso and legs being relatively straight) helps the spine to remain elongated therefore warding off back and neck pain. A big plus is that you're less likely to snore in this position because it keeps the airway open. For that reason, this is the best choice for those with sleep apnea. Sleeping on the side has one downside, it can lead to wrinkles, because half of your face pushes against a pillow. A firm pillow between the knees will prevent the upper leg from pulling the spine out of alignment if you sleep on your side. It also helps to reduce stress on the hips and lower back. Bring your knees just slightly toward your chest.

Almost fifty percent of people prefer to sleep in the fetal position. If you are pregnant then this is a good position because it improves circulation in your body and in the fetus. This position is also good for snorers; however, a tight fetal position can restrict breathing in the diaphragm. It can leave you feeling a bit sore in the morning, particularly if you have arthritis in your joints or back. Try to prevent these problems by straightening out your body as much as you can, instead of tucking your chin into your chest and pulling your knees up high. You can also reduce strain on your hips by placing a pillow between your knees.

Most important of all, when changing positions in bed try not to twist or bend at the waist but to shift your entire body. Keep your stomach pulled in and tightened and bend your knees toward the chest when rolling over. This will be a tough one to remember considering when we move we are in a slumber-state or fast asleep.

If you simply cannot find that perfect sleeping position and are experiencing sleep-related pain, then a qualified health professional can help.

Established in 2007 by Dr. Behalf Sanjari, Chiro-Med Rehab Centre has a proven record of commitment providing quality health care services in the Greater Toronto Area. Chiro-Med Rehab Centre has qualified professionals who can provide the services you need. Chiro-Med has clinics located in Richmond Hill and Newmarket, visit Chiro-Med online or call 905-918-0419 or 905-235-2620 for more information.

November 2, 2019

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