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The Best Sleeping Positions

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You may not have paid much attention to how you sleep, but your sleeping position could impact how well-rested you feel. This is particularly true for those with certain health conditions, including sleep disorders.

While one posture could improve symptoms, another posture could worsen them. Furthermore, your ideal sleep position is going to be individual, meaning what works for some people may not be beneficial to others. This article will help you discover the best sleeping position for you.

What Is the Best Sleeping Position?

The best sleeping position often depends on the individual and their needs. For example, some positions are better than others for body alignment, while others may be more beneficial for breathing and certain sleep disorders. There’s also your personal preference and what you find most comfortable.

Back Sleeping

One of the most important things to consider for sleep posture is spinal alignment, and health experts1 say sleeping on your back is one of the best positions for your spine because it’s the most neutral posture. Back sleeping should help evenly distribute weight throughout the body and avoid uncomfortable or unnatural curves in the spine. 

Who Shouldn’t Sleep on Their Back?

  • People who struggle with sleep apneaAccording to experts2, sleeping on your back can cause your tongue and soft tissue to fall back and obstruct your airway, which could worsen or trigger obstructive sleep apnea symptoms.
  • People prone to snoring – For similar reasons to obstructive sleep apnea, sleeping on your back can trigger or worsen snoring
  • People with acid reflux or GERD – If you experience acid reflux or GERD, sleeping on your back won’t be as helpful. Instead, researchers found3 that left side sleeping was better for this condition compared to back sleeping.

Who Should Sleep on Their Back?

  • People with neck pain –  If you have neck pain4, sleeping on your back or side is going to be your best position. If you feel comfortable on your back, be sure you’re using a pillow that won’t interfere with your neck’s natural curve and will be higher under your neck than your head. 
  • People with hip pain –  Sleeping on your back should help take the pressure off your hips. However, make sure your mattress is firm enough to prevent the hips from sinking in. Explore our top picks for the best mattresses for hip pain.
  • People with kyphosis – While it’s natural for the spine to have a small curve, kyphosis5 refers to when the top of the spine appears to be more rounded than normal. This can result from age, abnormal vertebrae, improper spine development in the womb, and poor posture. Symptoms associated with kyphosis include back pain, stiffness, spine tenderness, and tiredness.5 Since kyphosis is directly correlated to the spine, you’ll want to sleep in a spine-friendly position, such as on the back with a pillow beneath your knees or lying on your side.
  • People with nasal congestion – When dealing with a stuffy nose, you’ll want to use gravity to your advantage. In this case, you should sleep on your back and use pillows to prop up the top half of your body. The incline should help drain your nasal passages.
  • Those with sciatica pain – For those dealing with pain in their sciatic nerve6, which reaches from your pelvis down to your leg, experts say the first step is to diagnose what specifically is causing the pain. This can help determine the right sleep position for you. Next, you should try to lie on your back in a neutral position and adjust to what feels good. If lying on your back doesn’t work, you may find that sleeping on your side alleviates pain better. Explore: Best Mattress for Sciatica,

Tips for Back Sleepers

  • Use a supportive mattress – Sleeping on your back requires a firm enough mattress that supports your spine and keeps it aligned all night. Sleeping on a mattress that’s too soft can lead to sinkage, and too much sinkage can put your spine in poor alignment, which could cause back pain. If you have spinal stenosis, check out our guide for Best Mattress for Spinal Stenosis
  • Use the right pillows – Back sleepers should benefit from a few pillows strategically placed under the head, lower back, and knees. Ensure your pillows aren’t too soft or too elevated, allowing your head and neck to stay in a neutral position. Pillows under your knees and lower back can also help keep your body in a healthy alignment.
  • Try stretching and breathing techniques – Stretch for about 20 minutes before bed, focusing on your neck, back, and legs. You may also want to try breathing methods such as the 4-7-8 method7, which is a great way to relax if you’re trying to get used to back sleeping.

Get More Info: How to Sleep Properly on Your Back or find the best mattresses for back sleepers.

Side Sleeping

Side sleeping – or sleeping in the fetal position – is considered the most popular position10. Cleveland Clinic adds that while sleeping on your side, your head should remain in a neutral sleep posture with your chin straight ahead.1

Some people who rest on their side prefer sleeping with a body pillow or head pillow for additional support. You can do this by laying your leg over a head pillow or tucking it between your legs, which should foster healthy spinal alignment. Body pillows can also be used this way. These pillows can provide the arm, which is facing up, more support.

Who Shouldn’t Sleep on Their Side?

  • People with a shoulder injury – Side sleeping may increase shoulder discomfort because your weight is more concentrated in this smaller area. If you already have an injury, this could worsen your pain.
  • BabiesMedical experts11 believe that side sleeping might increase the risk of sudden infant death syndrome in the first six months. 
  • Heart failure patients – People who have had a heart condition, such as heart failure, should avoid sleeping on the left side12. If you prefer to sleep on your side, sleeping on the right side is best.12

Who Should Sleep on Their Side?

  • People with heartburn or acid reflux – Side sleeping is the best position for heartburn and acid reflux – specifically, sleeping on your left side13
  • Heavier or overweight individuals – People who weigh significantly more typically find that the core of their body tends to sink further into a mattress, which can lead to an awkward spine posture and pain. You are likely to feel the least amount of sinkage by sleeping on your side. Those who are overweight are also at an increased risk of developing sleep apnea14, and a side sleeping position should help open the airways.9
  • People who are pregnant – According to Stanford Children’s Health15, the best sleep position during pregnancy is on your left side, as this provides optimum circulation to the fetus. Another major advantage of the side sleeping position is that you can support your belly and legs with pillows to reduce unnecessary strain and pressure.

Interested in exploring further? Read our full guide for sleep during pregnancy

Is One Side Better Than The Other?

This will depend on what feels most comfortable to you and any health conditions you may have. The left side is best for pregnancy and acid reflux.13, 15 The right side is best if you have a heart condition.12

Tips for Side Sleepers

  • Use the right pillow – Find a pillow that supports your head and neck, preventing them from sinking in. In most cases, the best pillows for side sleeping have a higher loft and are on the firmer side.
  • Try a body pillow – A body pillow can help if you don’t know where to put your arms when sleeping on the side. It can also provide pressure relief for the knees.
  • Try a softer mattress – Side sleepers often struggle with pressure buildup caused by a firm mattress. Consider buying a softer mattress or a mattress topper to adjust how your bed feels.

Need more info? Check out our guide to sleeping on your side here or check out our picks for the best mattresses for side sleepers.

Stomach Sleeping

Some people prefer a stomach sleeping position. Who doesn’t love to cuddle into their mattress after a long day? However, in this position, your head is forced to rest to one side while the rest of your body lies flat on the mattress. However, Cleveland Clinic officials say this strain could eventually cause neck pain8 from the poor spinal alignment.

Another challenge with sleeping on your stomach is the position it forces your spine to take. While comfortable for many people, this often places unnatural pressure on the lower back, leaving it vulnerable to strain or discomfort8. Remember, you ideally want the spine to be in a neutral position so as not to over-extend it.

Given the length of time we spend in bed, it’s wise to be sensitive to any back pain and adjust accordingly if necessary.

Who Shouldn’t Sleep on Their Stomach?

  • People prone to back pain – Sleeping on your stomach puts your midsection more at risk of sinking deep into the mattress due to the weight. This may result in an arched back and stretched spine that’s no longer in proper alignment, which may create strain on the lower back.

Related: Best Mattress for Back Pain

  • People with hip pain – Your midsection and hip area carry the most weight while lying down, and when you’re in the prone position, the pressure from your body weight can push your hips into the mattress. As a result, this could exacerbate any hip pain you might have, particularly if your mattress is firmer. 
  • Those struggling with neck and shoulder pain – Stomach sleeping is likely to increase the risk of shoulder and neck pain. This is because you have to turn your head to one side, twist your neck, and move it out of alignment. This also leads to arm and shoulder pain.

Related: Best Mattress for Hip Pain and Best Mattress for Shoulder Pain

  • People with sensitive skin – Stomach sleepers press their face into the pillow. This can lead to stretching, pulling, and compressing of the skin, causing premature wrinkles and other conditions.
  • Elderly people – Since stomach sleeping is generally considered to be the hardest on the body, people who are elderly should avoid this position. 

Who Should Sleep on Their Stomach?

Stomach sleeping is not recommended often. For one group of people, though, stomach sleeping is one of the better positions. 

  • People with sleep apnea – When someone has sleep apnea, their airways collapse and become restricted while they’re asleep. This causes pauses in breathing, which could lead to disruptive noises such as gasping for air or snoring. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine9, frequent snorers or those with sleep apnea should rest on their side or stomach to help the airways stay more open.

Tips for Stomach Sleepers

  • Use a thin pillow – Stomach sleepers should try sleeping with a thin pillow or no pillow at all. Thick pillows will prop your head up too much, which could strain your neck, whereas sleeping with a thin pillow or no pillow helps keep the spine better aligned. You can also add a pillow beneath your pelvis to prevent the hips from sinking into the mattress.
  • Try a firmer mattress – If you like sleeping on your stomach but experience lower back pain upon waking up, it may be time to invest in a firmer bed. We recommend a bed with at least a medium-firm feel for stomach sleepers, if not firmer.

Discover our top picks for the best mattresses for stomach sleepers.

Sleeping Position FAQs

How should I sleep to avoid wrinkles?

You probably wouldn’t assume that the way you’re sleeping could affect your appearance. However, research published in the Aesthetic Surgery Journal16 indicates that side and stomach sleepers are placing excess pressure on the skin near their face, which can result in lines around the eyes and mouth (so-called “sleep wrinkles”). To avoid wrinkles, try sleeping on your back instead.

How can I train myself to sleep on my back?

Consider investing in a bed that’s well-made for back support to help you feel more comfortable if you’re not used to this position. Next, you can try placing pillows under your knees and/or lower back to help support you if you’re feeling discomfort.

Ensuring you’re tired before attempting to sleep is also key to changing positions since the more awake you are, the more likely you’ll notice any discomfort and go back to your previous method. 

Most importantly, though, you must be persistent and understand that it will take you some time to get used to a new sleep position.

What is the best cuddling position for sleeping?

Spooning is one of the most popular positions for cuddling. This is when both partners face the same way, but one is hugging the other from behind. Half-spooning is when one partner is on their back while the other is on their side. This is an excellent cuddling position if one partner is a side sleeper and the other is a back sleeper.


The best sleeping positions aren’t the same for everyone. If you are pregnant or have back issues or any other health concerns, your best sleeping position will be different from someone else’s. If you are sleeping in a position that isn’t doing you any favors, you can always change it over time and with patience. If all else fails, you can always try upgrading your mattress and pillow game, too.

Jill Zwarensteyn

Jill Zwarensteyn


About Author

Jill Zwarensteyn is the Editor for Sleep Advisor and a Certified Sleep Science Coach. She is enthusiastic about providing helpful and engaging information on all things sleep and wellness.

Combination Sleeper


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  2. “Obstructive sleep apnea – adults”. Medline Plus. Last modified January 9, 2023.
  3. Godman, Heidi. “What’s the best sleep position to combat heartburn?”. Harvard Health. 2022.
  4. “Say ‘Good Night’ to Neck Pain”. Harvard Health. 2022.
  5. “Kyphosis”. National Health Service. Last modified May 12, 2022. 
  6. “How to Get Better Sleep With Sciatica Pain”. Cleveland Clinic. 2021. 
  7. “How to do the 4-7-8 Breathing Exercise”. Cleveland Clinic. 2022. 
  8. “Best Sleeping Positions for Pain”. Cleveland Clinic. 2023.
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  15. “Sleeping Positions During Pregnancy”. Stanford Medicine Children’s Health. Webpage accessed April 3, 2024.
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