Learn the Top Three Sleeping Positions

by Martin Reed Patient Advocate

The position of your body has a big influence on the quality of your sleep. Although your priority should be to choose a sleeping position that is comfortable for you, it's worth knowing the pros and cons of each -- particularly if you live with a sleep disorder or other health condition.

Young woman sleeping on her back with her head to the side.

Back sleeping: the pros

This sleeping position is great for relieving back and neck problems as the back is kept straight. Furthermore, most mattresses are constructed with back sleepers in mind. For maximum neck relief, try sleeping on your back without a pillow.

Man sleeping on his back and snoring.

Back sleeping: the cons

If you snore a lot or suffer from sleep apnea, sleeping on your back isn't the best option. When we sleep on our back, gravity can encourage our tongue to fall back toward the airway, obstructing breathing.

Pregnant woman sleeping on her side.

Side sleeping: the pros

Sleeping on your left side can ease heartburn and acid reflux. It’s often recommended during pregnancy since it relieves pressure on the spine and improves circulation to the heart and uterus. Side sleeping is particularly good for those who suffer with back and neck pain, and for frequent snorers.

Senior couple sleeping on their sides.

Side sleeping: the cons

When we sleep on our sides, many of us raise an arm for our head to rest on. This can restrict blood flow, leading to uncomfortable awakenings due to a pins and needles sensation and a numb arm. Side sleeping can also put additional pressure on the shoulder and neck.

Young woman in pajamas with stomach pain.

Stomach sleeping: the pros

This position can help alleviate snoring and in some cases it can be helpful for those suffering from sleep apnea. It can also be a good position if you're suffering from indigestion.

Young woman asleep on work in bed on stomach.

Stomach sleeping: the cons

Stomach sleeping is often regarded as the worst possible sleeping position. When we lie on our stomach, we put the spine in an unnatural, straightened position. Stomach sleeping also leads to neck strain since the head is turned to one side for most of the night.

Happy couple sleeping peacefully.

Which is best?

The bottom line is that you will naturally gravitate to the sleeping position that is right for you. Don't try to force yourself to sleep in a position that doesn't feel natural unless you have a health issue that requires you to do so. Experiment with different positions, and stick with whichever feels best!

Martin Reed
Meet Our Writer
Martin Reed

Martin is the creator of Insomnia Coach, an eight-week course that combines online sleep education with individual sleep coaching. His course helps clients improve their sleep so they can enjoy a better life with more energy and start each day feeling happy, healthy, rested, and refreshed. Martin also runs a free sleep training course that has helped over 5,000 insomniacs. He holds a master’s degree in health and wellness education and studied clinical sleep health at the University of Delaware.