Vol.1, No.4

Switch positions for better sleep

Examines the different sleeping positions and how switching these positions can result in a more restful night's sleep.

Man sleeps in different positions
Photo Credit: Niels Laan
Sleep deprivation is a serious and oftentimes chronic problem that affects millions of Americans on a daily basis. While frequently overlooked, sleep disorders costs sufferers billions of dollars each year in related medical expenses, missed days at work, and accidents. Indeed, sleep deprivation is now considered a major health crisis that is blamed for countless serious injuries and deadly mishaps each year. Studies have even shown that driving while sleep deprived is just as dangerous as driving while intoxicated.

Sleep deprivation doesn't only affect our physical health adversely, it also affects our emotional health, particularly our sense of well being. People who do not get ample sleep not only lack physical energy and stamina, but they also report feeling more irritable, have difficulty concentrating, display marked decreases in productivity, and report feeling anxious or depressed more often.

Sleep aids in the form of adjustable beds, contoured pillows, and medications flood the market, each promising to deliver a good night's sleep to the consumer. While some of these products may enable certain individuals to rest better, many people suffering from sleep deprivation may be able to get a better night's rest merely by switching sleep positions.

There are three main sleep positions frequently employed by the majority of the population: side, back, and stomach. Specialists in the field of sleep research recommend sleeping on one's side in order to rest more comfortably and decrease the likelihood of interrupted sleep. While there are many variations of sleeping on one's side, all of which are beneficial in helping to alleviate insomnia and chronic sleep deprivation, the most comfortable position involves bending the knees slightly upwards towards the chest area and placing a pillow between the legs. Sleeping on one's side is encouraged for those suffering from back or hip pain, as it does not further aggravate the pain in these specific areas.

Sleeping on one's back is not highly recommended for those seeking to achieve a better night's sleep as it may actually induce lower back pain and even episodes of apnea which interfere with normal sleep and restfulness. However, for those who prefer sleeping on their back, there are a few minor alterations to this position that can help one sleep more soundly. Persons sleeping on their backs should place a pillow under their knees to better mimic the natural curvature of the spine. A second option that further aids the spinal alignment is placing a rolled up towel under the small of one's back. Both adjustments to the back position contribute to a more restful night's sleep uninterrupted by lower back pain.

Sleep professionals do not recommend sleeping on one's stomach as it causes lower back pain and possible neck pain. People who sleep on their stomach report increased restlessness caused by frequent tossing and turning in an effort to get comfortable. The use of a pillow is up to the individual sleeper as some people are more comfortable sleeping on their stomach without a pillow while others prefer a pillow for additional neck support. Sleeping on one's stomach is especially discouraged for those suffering from frequently interrupted sleep.

Of course, each person should experiment with the different sleeping positions to determine which one is right for them. Switching sleep positions is an alternative means of correcting faulty sleep patterns that doesn't require a great investment of time or money. Simply put, switching sleep positions is a sound remedy to a sleepless night.