You should be spending nearly a third of your life sleeping. That’s a lot of time, so if the position you choose is bad for your health, it can have a serious impact on you. To protect yourself from serious health problems, make sure you use a healthy sleep position.

Since sleep apnea is a severe health risk, it should weigh heavily in your sleep position decision.

Side Sleeping Is Usually Best

Annoyed man holds his hands over his ears while wife snores next to him

For most people, side sleeping is the best choice for health. Side sleeping is the best position for reducing the intensity of sleep apnea. While side sleeping alone is unlikely to alleviate your sleep apnea, it can make it easier for sleep apnea treatments to provide great results. Both oral appliance therapy and CPAP benefit from the effects of side sleeping. It can also help with snoring.

In addition, side sleeping can help alleviate gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which can disrupt your sleep.

With these benefits, it’s no wonder that most Americans choose to sleep in this way. Nearly three-quarters of Americans sleep on their sides, according to this survey.

To help ensure you get the best benefit from side sleeping, choose an appropriate pillow that supports your head to keep your spine and airway straight.

Side Sleeping Variations

But not all side sleepers use the same sleep position. There are three main side-sleeping positions.

The most common side sleeping position is the fetal position, where you sleep with your back bent, legs pulled up, and arms in front of you partially bent. This position helps the arms avoid constriction by the body’s weight and brings the legs up closer to the body for better warmth and circulation. Some people find putting a pillow between their knees makes sleeping in a fetal position more comfortable.

The yearner position is the second most common side-sleeping position. It involves sleeping with your arms out in front of you. This helps keep the arms unobstructed.

The least popular side sleeping position is called the log position, where you sleep with your arms straight beside you.

Left Side or Right Side

In general, the consensus seems to be that sleeping on your left side is better for most people. It may reduce GERD and sleep apnea more than sleeping on your right side.

The only exception is that people with congestive heart failure or heart palpitations might benefit from sleeping on their right sides. Heart palpitations worsen when you sleep on your left side. In addition, people with congestive heart failure might see more related heart problems when sleeping on their left side. Fortunately, research shows that people with congestive heart failure naturally shift more to their right side during sleep, likely because of discomfort related to right side sleeping.

Stomach Sleeping Might Be Okay

Stomach sleeping is much less popular than side sleeping. It’s also not nearly as good for you if you sleep on your stomach, either with your face down into the bed / pillow or turned to the side.

While gravity will pull your tissues to open your airway, burying your face in the pillow or turning your head to the side can reduce airflow.

Stomach sleeping may also be worse for GERD and back pain than other sleeping positions.

Back Sleeping Is the Worst

In general, sleeping on your back is the worst for most people. Back sleeping encourages gravity to close your airway, making snoring and sleep apnea worse. Back sleeping can also worsen GERD and back pain.

If you are going to sleep on your back, make sure you adjust your sleep apnea treatment appropriately. You may need a more advanced position for oral appliance therapy and a higher pressure setting for CPAP.

In addition, make sure you choose the right pillow–or pillows. It’s often good to support your legs to help avoid back pain when sleeping on your back.

Your Best Sleep Position in Omaha

The best sleep position is where you get the best restorative rest. If sleeping on your back makes you snore, likely, this is not the best position for getting a restful night’s sleep. And it may be doing much more harm by exposing you to cardiovascular risk, psychological and mood disorders, and serious accidents. If you are unsure about the best sleeping position for you, talk to your doctor about the issue, and if you snore, get evaluated for sleep apnea.

Have additional questions about snoring and sleep apnea? Please call (402) 493-4175 to talk to a sleep dentist at the Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center in Omaha. He can either answer your questions or refer you to someone who can.