What's the Best Position to Sleep for Your Health?

Discover the best sleep positions for your body—and the ones you may want to avoid.

More than 40% of Americans sleep less than they should (according to a Gallup poll), leaving us weary, bleary, and at greater risk for depression, weight gain, high blood pressure, and several chronic health conditions. But even if you are clocking the expert-recommended 7 to 8 hours a night, your time in bed may be messing with your health in unexpected ways. According to sleep experts, your preferred sleep position could be giving you back and neck pain, tummy troubles, even premature wrinkles.

Here, discover the best p.m. pose for your body—plus the one you may want to avoid—so you can score the refreshing snoozetime you deserve.

01 of 09

The Best: Back Position

Good for: Preventing neck and back pain, reducing acid reflux, minimizing wrinkles, maintaining perky breasts

Bad for: Snoring

The scoop: Sleeping on your back makes it easy for your head, neck, and spine to maintain a neutral position. You're not forcing any extra curves into your back, says Steven Diamant, a chiropractor in New York City. It's also ideal for fighting acid reflux, said Eric Olson, MD, a sleep medicine specialist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. "If the head is elevated, your stomach will be below your esophagus so acid or food can't come back up."

Back-sleeping also helps prevent wrinkles, because nothing is pushing against your face, said Dee Anna Glaser, MD, a professor of dermatology at Saint Louis University. And the weight of your breasts is fully supported, reducing sagginess.

02 of 09

Back Sleepers: Consider This

"Snoring is usually most frequent and severe when sleeping on the back," said Dr. Olson.

Perfect pillow: The best pillows for back sleepers are puffy, and their goal is to keep your head and neck supported without propping your head up too much. Try the Coop Home Goods Adjustable Shredded Memory Foam Pillow, which is stuffed with shreds of memory foam so you can adjust the density.

03 of 09

Next Best: Side Position

Good for: Preventing neck and back pain, reducing acid reflux, snoring less, sleeping during pregnancy

Bad for: Your skin and your breasts

The scoop: Side-sleeping is great for overall health—it reduces snoring and keeps your spine elongated. If you suffer from acid reflux, this is the next best thing to sleeping on your back. The downside: "Sleeping on your side can cause you to get wrinkles," said Dr. Glaser. Blame all that smushing of one side of your face into the pillow.

This pose also contributes to breast sag, since your girls are dangling downward, stretching the ligaments, said Roshini Rajapaksa, MD, Health's contributing medical editor.

04 of 09

Side Sleepers: Consider This

If you're pregnant, sleep on your left side. It's ideal for blood flow.

If you're a side sleeper, you should know about mattresses best for this position.

Perfect pillow: The best pillows for side sleepers are thick and firm, helping keep your spine in alignment as you snooze. "You need to fill the space above your shoulder so your head and neck are supported in a neutral position," said Ken Shannon, a physical therapist at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. Many sleep experts recommend side sleepers choose a pillow with a divot in the middle, such as the Tri-Core Cervical Pillow.

05 of 09

Not Ideal: Fetal Position

Good for: Snoring less, sleeping during pregnancy

Bad for: Preventing neck and back pain, minimizing wrinkles, maintaining perky breasts

The scoop: When you snooze with your knees pulled up high and chin tucked into your chest, you may feel it in the morning, especially if you have an arthritic back or joints, said Dr. Olson.

"This curved position also restricts diaphragmatic breathing," said Dody Chang, a licensed acupuncturist in Irvington, NY. And if you make this your nightly pose, you may bring on premature facial wrinkles and breast sag.

06 of 09

Fetal-Position Sleepers: Consider This

Just straighten out a bit—try not to tuck your body into an extreme curl.

Perfect pillow: One plump pillow—the same as side position, to give your head and neck support. Try the Sleep Restoration Gel Pillow.

07 of 09

The Worst: Stomach Position

Good for:

Easing snoring

Bad for: Avoiding neck and back pain, minimizing wrinkles, maintaining perky breasts

The scoop: "Stomach-sleeping makes it difficult to maintain a neutral position with your spine," said Shannon. It puts pressure on joints and muscles, which can irritate nerves and lead to pain, numbness, and tingling. "Think about the soreness you'd feel if you kept your neck turned to one side for 15 minutes during the day," said Dr. Diamant.

In this position you have your head to one side for hours at a time. You won't necessarily feel it the next day, but you may soon start to ache.

08 of 09

Stomach Sleepers: Consider This

Do you snore? "Stomach-sleeping may even be good for you," said Dr. Olson. Facedown keeps your upper airways more open. So if you snore and aren't suffering from neck or back pain, it's fine to try sleeping on your belly.

Perfect pillow: The best pillows for stomach sleepers are thin; one that's about 3 inches thick will keep your spine aligned while you sleep. Try the DC Labs Ultra Slim Sleeper Memory Foam Pillow.

09 of 09

You Don't Move at Night?

Think again. While you generally spend the most time in the position you fall asleep in, even those who barely have to make their beds in the morning move two to four times an hour, which may add up to 20 or more tosses and turns a night, said Dr. Olson. "That's completely normal, and you'll still go into deep REM sleep, the restorative kind," he said.

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