Side Sleeper: Pros, Cons & Which Side Is Best to Sleep on?

Simply put, a side sleeper is someone who prefers sleeping on their side. Rather than sleeping on their back or stomach, they choose either the left or the right side as it offers optimal levels of comfort. 

Side sleeping is one of the healthiest positions to sleep. Preferred by almost 60% of adults, this sleep position helps reduce snoring, helps you prevent heartburn, and maintains spinal alignment. If you want to know about all the pros and cons, keep reading to know more. 

Benefits of Sleeping On Your Side

While sleeping on your back has long been thought to be the best sleep position, it is seen that there are many benefits to sleeping on your side such as:

  • Reduced Back Pain

Sleeping on your side can help you combat lower back pain. When you opt to sleep on your side, it aids proper alignment of your body, thus reducing back pain. 

  • Reduced Snoring

Another advantage of sleeping on your side is that it reduces snoring, which is a common symptom of obstructive sleep apnea. 

  • Brain Health 

When you sleep on your side, your glymphatic system in the brain gets cleansed and all the toxins get flushed out. This improves your brain health and can help reduce the risks of the development of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s. 

  • Better Gut Health

Finally, if you sleep on your side, you may have better gut health. This position improves the function of your digestive system, which can alleviate gastrointestinal issues such as heartburn, constipation, and bloating.

  • Helps in Pregnancy

Sleeping on the back is something pregnant women must avoid, especially after their first trimester as it can adversely affect the fetus. The best sleeping position for pregnant women that most doctors recommend is sleeping on the side as it keeps you from putting too much pressure on the uterus. 

Drawbacks of Sleeping On Your Side

Of course, every list has a con. There are a few disadvantages to side sleeping, which you must know to make an informed sleep decision. 

  • Increased Heart Pressure 

This only affects left-side sleepers. Your chest cavity presses against your heart when you lie on your left side. An increase in heart pressure can impact cardiac output and heart rate. 

  • Develop Bad Posture

It’s easy to have bad posture while lying on your side. Too much twisting might deviate the spine from its neutral position.

Check your posture as you lie down to sleep. Your shoulders should be relaxed and your head should be between them. Avoid tucking your chin into your chest as this can cause neck strain.

If you have trouble sleeping with good posture, try using more pillows. Knee and body pillows might help you stay upright.

  • Risk of Developing Shoulder Pain

Side sleepers’ shoulders can push too far into the mattress, producing spinal misalignment.

If you have shoulder aches, consider putting a tiny cushion under your arm. Try sleeping on the other side to relieve shoulder pain from conditions like Shoulder Impingement. If you raise your body too high, your head cushion may not be substantial enough to support you.

  • Increased Risk of Acne

Sleeping on the side of an adult for 7–9 hours a night. Aside from increased acne on one side of the face, side sleepers may experience increased acne on the other. Adult acne can be avoided by sleeping with clean pillowcases and caring for their skin during the day.

  • Awkward Arm Position

You don’t want your arms to “fall asleep” and go numb when trying to sleep. But this is a common concern for side sleepers Many side sleepers tuck their arms under their pillows, causing arm and shoulder pain. Therefore, choose a sleep position wisely.

Instead, try expanding your arms. If your mattress is too small, you can hug a cushion to keep your arms in place. Side sleepers should also check their pillow to see if it’s firm enough.

Which Side Should You Sleep On?

Sleeping incorrectly can cause or aggravate neck or back pain, pressure during pregnancy, heartburn, heart failure, and other problems. It may also obstruct the airways to your lungs, resulting in conditions such as obstructive sleep apnea. According to some studies, sleeping in the wrong position may cause toxins to filter out of your brain more slowly. Therefore, continue reading to find out which side you should sleep on.

Sleeping position for GERD

It’s natural for people suffering from GERD to want to know how they can alleviate their symptoms and sleep better. Although there is no one-size-fits-all solution, there are actionable steps to alleviate heartburn and GERD and get more restorative sleep.

Several studies have found that sleeping on your left side is the best sleeping position for people who have GERD. Sleeping on your left side reduces reflux and esophageal exposure to stomach acid. Sleeping in other positions, including on your back, can increase the likelihood of reflux.

Pregnancy sleeping positions

Experts have traditionally recommended sleeping on your left side when pregnant, though sleeping on the right side is also perfectly acceptable. For obvious reasons, lying on your stomach becomes impossible after the first trimester.

Many experts also advise against sleeping flat on your back all night (but don’t worry if you roll over and wake up that way). This is also the best sleep position for lower back pain. 

Sleeping position for heart failure

If you are suffering from heart problems, it is important that you sleep on your right side as it takes away any pressure from it.

Types of Side Sleepers

Sleeping on one’s side is preferred by almost two-thirds of the world’s adult population, and it is also the most common position in which people fall asleep. When it comes to side sleeping, the following are the most frequently encountered sleeping positions:

The Fetal Position

In this position, the individuals curl their legs at the knees and draw them up to the chest. The position, which is similar to that of babies in the womb, is the most typical position for adults who sleep on their side.

The Log Position

People who sleep in this posture keep their arms close to their bodies, their backs straight, and their legs stretched out in front of them. Many people prefer to sleep in this position, despite the fact that it may be uncomfortable for some.

The Yearner Position

Sleepers, like those in the log position, prefer to maintain their arms spread out in front of them rather than keeping their arms straight. This has the appearance of someone or something trying to reach out to the sleeper.

How to Sleep On Your Side

Sleeping on one’s side isn’t always comfortable for everyone. Many people prefer to sleep on their stomachs or on their backs. There are, however, ways to train yourself to sleep on your side without losing sleep in the process.

  • Using additional pillows as a guide can provide the extra support needed to keep you from shifting around unconsciously during the night. 
  • Place a pillow between your legs, use a contoured pillow for neck support, or position your arms differently than usual to find relief from side-sleeping.
  • Make sure you have the right mattress if you are choosing to sleep on your side. Mattresses, like memory foam mattresses, are more suitable for side sleepers. 
  • Snoozing exclusively on the left side, on the other hand, may cause some issues. Pressure can be applied to the stomach and lungs, which can become uncomfortable after a while. Long periods of lying in one position can also cause shoulder and hip pain. Therefore, try to switch positions to keep it comfortable. 
  • Keep your knees a little close to the chest as it can make the position more comfortable.

How to Switch to a New Sleeping Position?

When it comes to changes in sleep positions, it is important to consider a few factors such as the mattress, your comfort, and the use of any medical devices. You’ll have to combine these factors (and you should talk to your doctor about sleep positioning, especially if you have or suspect you have sleep apnea). Some of the tips to help you sleep in a new position include;

  • Start by lying on your side. 
  • Now, choose the side that’s most comfortable.
  • Once you have chosen the most comfortable side, make sure you try different variations to check the position that offers the utmost comfort. 
  • You can start slow. Make sure you try the new position for the first 15-20 minutes or while napping. 
  • You can even try a new position when you are extremely sleepy and tired as you will fall asleep sooner than later and you may not even pay much attention to the new position.

Best Mattress for Side Sleepers

The memory foam mattress or a hybrid mattress is the most popular side sleeper mattress. A mix of memory foam and individually wrapped coils also make for a comfortable yet supportive sleep surface that’s ideal for side sleepers. The memory foam layer is essential as it provides pressure relief while the pocketed coil layer helps limit motion transfer.

The spine alignment and edge support offered by memory foam mattresses for side sleepers are excellent. Superior edge support means the perimeter of the bed is stable, so side sleepers and combination sleepers who roll around during the night feel more secure.

Best Pillow for Side Sleepers

Memory foam is the best side sleeper pillow. However, it is important to choose a pillow, which is slightly firm and offers the necessary support. Memory foam pillows are quite popular among side sleepers since they conform to your body and accommodate all sleeping positions. This enables your head and neck to shape the memory foam cushion into your preferred posture.

While the side sleeping position brings you a plethora of benefits, you must also make sure it offers optimum comfort. The most comfortable sleeping position for you is just the one that leaves you feeling the most rested and rejuvenated the next day. Remember, the best way to sleep is your way.

Frequently Asked Questions

The best mattresses type for side sleepers are foam mattresses and latex mattresses.

Sleeping on the left side is among the healthiest and comfortable sleeping positions. This is also one of the best sleeping positions for lower back pain.

The best position to sleep, when you are sleeping on the side, it is important to keep your hands on the side or towards the pillow. 

Yes, It is bad for your heart. The correct way is to sleep on the right side. 

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