We spend around 33% of our life sleeping or (trying to), so your sleep position can have a significant effect on your health. But is there such a thing as the perfect sleep position? No, each position has its benefits and drawbacks, and it all comes down to your needs.
But finding out how to sleep on your back properly can improve your health. For instance, it can lessen tension headaches, clear up acne, and improve back posture.
If you want to know more about the benefits of sleeping on your back, keep on reading!
How to Train Yourself to Sleep on the Back
If you try to sleep on the back after years of sleeping on the side or stomach, you might get backaches. Plus, you might unintentionally toss your body to the side. So, what’s the solution?
The best way to change your habitual sleeping position is to make sleeping on the back more comfortable and relaxing. This way, you won’t feel the need to sleep in any other position. Follow these tips to learn how.
1. Get a Flat Pillow
Back sleeping on a flat pillow puts your neck in a neutral position, which makes you more comfortable. What’s even better is sleeping without a pillow in the first place. But some people prefer to rest their heads on something soft.
2. Put Pillows Under Your Knees
Your body gets used to slightly curling when you sleep on the side or stomach. So when you switch to back sleeping, the spine experiences discomfort and pressure. This doesn’t mean that you’re sleeping wrong. It means that your body is adjusting to the new position.
To tackle this issue, put a pillow under your knees because it’ll reduce back pain. And if it feels uncomfortable at first, you can try stretching exercises.
3. Prevent Your Neck From Turning
If you’re used to sleeping on the side and turning your head, you might habitually turn it when you sleep on your back. This will lead to neck pains and discomfort. To prevent it, place two small pillows on the two sides of the neck to make rolling your head difficult.
4. Build a Pillow Fort
If you struggle with turning your entire body to the side and not just your neck, try to build a pillow fort! Sounds strange, but it’ll act as a barrier that prevents you from rolling to the side. You can at least place pillows next to your hips and below the arms. However, this isn’t a viable option if your bed is too small.
5. Get a Supportive Mattress
Nothing feels better than laying on a soft mattress surrounded by an even smoother blanket. But unfortunately, you might harm your neck and back.
A soft mattress doesn’t have any structure to help you sleep with the right posture. What happens instead is that your lower back sinks into it, giving you backache over time.
As an alternative to soft mattresses, get a firm one to help you align your spine in its resting state. There are also memory foam mattresses that are relatively soft but conform to the curvature of your spine.
However, if you’re a heavy person, a memory foam mattress won’t be able to keep your spine in good alignment. In this case, you should get a firm mattress.
6. Reduce Stress
People who suffer from stress like to sleep in a fetal position, so they suffer when they try to sleep on their backs. To make the transition easier, place a weighted blanket over your body to give you a sense of comfort.
Also, don’t use your phone an hour before bed because it makes you restless. But how does this relate to back sleeping? You already feel uncomfortable when you sleep on the back. So, screen time will make it even more difficult to adjust to this position, especially because people naturally tuck and turn when they can’t sleep.
7. Switch to Transitional Sleep Positions
Suddenly switching to back sleeping can be too difficult. In this case, you can sleep in “transitional” sleep positions where your body isn’t fully straight nor fully curved until you adjust to sleeping on your back.
I recommend starting with bending your knees while lying on your back because it feels similar to side sleeping.
Then, switch to straightening one leg and twisting the other one underneath the opposite knee. This position will keep your hips relaxed. You can also reduce rolling by placing your hands below your butt. After you adjust to this position, you can transition to back sleeping.
8. Have a Nighttime Stretching Routine
Your back might hurt a bit because it’s not used to sleeping on the back. You can tackle this by doing stretching exercises before bedtime because they’ll relax your back and neck muscles.
Benefits of Sleeping on Your Back
Even though sleeping in a supine position has many pros, a 2017 study says that only around 37.5% of people prefer to sleep with this pose, while 54% of people prefer to sleep on their sides.
But perhaps more people will switch to back sleeping if they become aware of its benefits—I certainly did! So, I’ve listed them below.
When you sleep on your side or stomach, your face, neck, and chest get stretched and pulled. This gives you premature wrinkles in the long run. However, when you sleep on your back, you avoid getting any lines because you don’t get near these parts.
Over time, your eyes can become more hooded, and your wrinkles can start to lessen.
Reduces Acne Breakouts
Have you ever gotten an acne breakout despite following a strict skincare regimen? Your sleeping position might be the culprit.
Whenever you sleep on the back or stomach, your pillow absorbs the oils from your face and hair. These oils clog up your pores, so you end up with acne and pimples.
However, unlike other sleeping positions, you avoid direct pillow-to-face contact when you sleep on the back. Thus, no pores get clogged, and you don’t get acne.
Reduces Eye Bags
When you sleep on your stomach, the lymphatic fluids sometimes accumulate around your eyes because gravity hinders their drainage, resulting in eye bags.
But when you lie on your back, you help the fluid drain into the lymph nodes, which lessens the puffy eyes. I also recommend elevating your head to facilitate lymphatic drainage even more.
Reliefs Tension Headache
A tension headache happens when the muscles in your head and neck are pressured. It often feels like there’s tightness all around your forehead, which explains its name.
Back sleeping can relieve this headache because your neck and spine stay in good alignment without getting strained.
If you want to improve your posture and get rid of a hunchback, I highly recommend back sleeping. This sleep position helps you keep your spine, neck, and head in a resting position where you’re not hunching or twisting your spine.
I must admit, though, that if you have a hunchback or bad posture in general, back sleeping won’t feel comfortable at first. But it does get better with time.
When to Avoid Sleeping on Your Back
While back sleeping certainly has its benefits, you should avoid this position if you have one of the following conditions. I’ll also mention which sleeping position to opt for in every case.
If you’re pregnant, especially in the late trimesters, avoid back sleeping because it can constrict blood from flowing to your baby, which may lead to him being born underweight.
Not only that, but this position will also put pressure on your body organs like the spine and gut because gravity pushes the baby’s weight on them.
As an alternative, I recommend sleeping on the side, preferably on the left one, because it has a major vein that provides excellent blood circulation to the baby.
If you snore a lot, sleeping on the back won’t be ideal. Snoring results when the end of your tongue goes to your throat and blocks the airways. This is more likely to happen when you lay on your back, which is why I don’t recommend this position if you already snore a lot.
Sleeping on your side, in this case, is much better because you’re less likely to put pressure on the airways. If this position doesn’t help either, you might have a condition called sleep apnea, where your breathing pauses while sleeping. So, you should check with a doctor if you suspect that.
Do you get heartburn often? If yes, back sleeping isn’t suitable for you. Acid reflux happens when the acids from your stomach go back up to the esophagus. This process is much easier when you sleep on your back, so you’re more likely to get heartburn.
So, what’s the correct sleeping position in this case? According to a study in 2015, sleeping on the left side is the best. This is because, in this position, your esophagus is above your stomach, which ensures that the acids can’t go back up.
Plus, even if reflux happens, the acids will instantly go back to the stomach, thanks to gravity.
Tips to Get Good Sleep
I used to struggle with dozing off when I switched to back sleeping at first. If this sounds like you, here are some tips to improve your sleep quality.
Use Blue Light Blocker in the Evening
Imagine getting exposed to sunlight during the night; you wouldn’t be able to sleep, right? That’s what blue light from smartphones does to you. And since not all people are ready to ditch using their phones before sleeping, I have an alternative idea for you. You can prevent this by downloading an anti-blue light app or getting glasses that block it.
Reduce Nap Time
There’s nothing wrong with a quick 30-minute nap. In fact, a study says it can boost your energy throughout the day. But long naps or napping too many times can disrupt your circadian rhythm, which is the clock responsible for regulating sleep. Consequently, you might not be able to sleep at bedtime.
So, if you nap for too long and struggle with sleep, try to reduce the nap time to 30 minutes max.
This might be a tough one for coffee addicts, but you won’t be able to sleep well if you take caffeine six hours before bedtime. Instead, you can satiate your coffee addiction by drinking decaf coffee, which tastes the same as regular ones, but you’ll sleep better.
Can I Sleep on the Right Side If I Have GERD?
No, sleeping on the right makes your stomach above the esophagus. Plus, it relaxes the esophagus sphincter, which makes the flowing of the acidic content up to your throat easy. However, sleeping on your left side does the exact opposite of this. It hinders acid reflux, which is why I highly recommend it.
How Long Does It Take to Train Yourself to Sleep on the Back?
There’s no set rule because people’s abilities vary. Some easily adjust to back sleeping from the get-go, while others take lots of time, so patience is key. But you’ll eventually get used to it if you follow the tips I’ve mentioned, such as placing a pillow under your knees.
How Can I Stop Sleeping On My Stomach?
Stomach sleeping can be comforting, but it harms your back by misaligning it. It can even lead to upper back pain. You can stop sleeping in this position by laying a weighted blanket over your body whenever you sleep on the back. This will give the same sense of comfort minus the bad posture.
What’s the Best Sleeping Position if I Have a Hunched Back?
Sleeping on your back is the best position for a hunchback because it’s the closest to your spine’s natural alignment. Plus, it evenly spreads your weight to your body.
Does Sleeping on the Back Cause Sleep Paralysis?
Unfortunately, yes. There’s a study that says you’re three to four times more likely to get sleep paralysis if you sleep on the back.
It’s not exactly clear why. But one possible reason is that your tongue sometimes rests on the back of your mouth, which can make breathing difficult. This can disturb your REM cycle, causing sleep paralysis.
By the end of this article, you should know the why and how of back sleeping. To quickly recap, the best way to train yourself to sleep on the back is to do the following:
- Support your knees with a pillow (or two).
- Sleep on a firm mattress that follows the “S” curve of your spine.
- Get a 3-5 inch pillow to prevent straining your neck.
- Sleep in a transitional position, like straightening one leg and bending the other one underneath it.
- Do stretching exercises to relax your muscles.
At first, you might struggle with back sleeping, but you’ll eventually adapt and reap lots of benefits, like improving your posture and getting rid of puffy eyes.
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