Woman sleeping on her front

Is your sleeping position the reason you’re stressed, spotty or in pain?

Surprising new research suggests the way you sleep can affect everything from stress levels to skin quality

By Shannon Wilson, 25 January 2016
Is your sleeping position the reason you’re stressed, spotty or in pain?
We spend roughly a third of our lives doing it, yet we rarely spend any time thinking about the best position to sleep in, or how it might be affecting us. Whether you can only fall asleep on your side, loathe sleeping on your back, or can’t help face-planting the pillow, it’s time to analyse the way you sleep and find the best sleeping position for your needs.

To the left, to the left!

Sleeping on your left hand side can help alleviate heartburn symptoms, but it also can cause regular nightmares.



Me this weekend

A photo posted by Baby Animals ! �� (@thebabyanimals) on

According to Dr. Matthew Noble, a GP for the online medical consultancy babylonhealth.com, sleeping on your left can help alleviate heartburn symptoms. Although experts aren’t 100 per cent sure how it works, sleeping on the left hand side seems to help line up the internal organs in such a way that it helps to stem the flow of acid leaking out of stomach that causes heartburn in the first place. However, you may want to weigh this up with findings in the international Journal of Sleep and Hypnosis, where scientists at the Yuzuncu Yil University in Turkey found that a whopping 40.9 per cent of people who sleep on their left side reported regular nightmares, compared to a measly 14.6 per cent of those who slept on their right. You have been warned!


I’m bringing sexy back

Follow Sleeping Beauty’s lead by sleeping on your back for a fairer complexion, coupled with less back pain. But watch out - it can cause higher incidences of snoring, teeth grinding and even sleep apnea*.




A photo posted by Baby Animals ! �� (@thebabyanimals) on

If you suffer from back pain, sleeping on your back and utilising pillows under your head and knees may well be the way to go. According to osteopath Amy Hope of Hope Osteopathy in London, this position helps to align and support your spine, minimising pain while you sleep. However, as several studies have pointed out, it may also be one of the worst ways to sleep due to the bad habits it encourages. For example, sleep researchers in Israel found that 54 per cent of sleep apnea sufferers were ‘positional’, meaning they experienced trouble breathing and snoring only when asleep on their backs, while doctors regularly prescribe ‘side sleeping’ for sufferers. It’s not all bad though: as Cosmetic surgeon Dr. Goesel Anson points out, this position is also the least likely to give you wrinkles or spots, seeing as your face isn’t stuck to a sweaty pillow all night.
*Sleep apnea is a condition where a lack of muscle tone in airways causes the sufferer to stop breathing for ten seconds or more during sleep. 


Let’s get fetal

Sleeping in the fetal position is a great stress reliever, but can cause stiffness and neck pain.



Me trying to get up this morning��

A photo posted by Baby Animals ! �� (@thebabyanimals) on

As you would imagine, sleeping in the fetal position (on your side with your knees curled in towards your stomach), carries with it subconscious connotations of being in the womb. According to Sleep expert Professor Chris Idzikowski of the Sleep Assessment and Advisory Service, fetal sleepers tend to often unconsciously use the comfort associated with this pose to help them ‘work out’ any stress or concerns they may be worried about. This position doesn’t offer great head support though, so ensure to invest in a good firm pillow to make sure your head, neck and spine align and, if you suffer from back ache, one between your knees for extra support.


It’ll be all right, on the night

While sleeping on your right helps to alleviate pressure off your heart, it’s not said to be the best for pregnant women.


Sleeping on your right side may allow more space in your chest for important organs such as the heart, thus alleviating pressure, but if you are pregnant, researchers from the University of Auckland (New Zealand) found that sleeping on your right side in late pregnancy carries a higher risk of stillbirth, possibly due to restricted blood flow to the baby from this position.
Interestingly, according to researchers from Stony Brook University in the U.S. who trialed the effectiveness of different sleeping positions on bodily waste removal in sleeping rats, sleeping on your side (either left or right) could be helpful in staving off neurodegenerative diseases. This is because the glymphatic system, responsible for removing waste, was found to be up to 25 per cent more efficient at removing amyloid beta and tau proteins - waste products linked to Alzheimer's - when rodents were put on their sides rather than their backs or fronts. 


Now I’m free, free falling

Sleeping on your front may be bad for posture, but it could be good if you’re in need of more exciting dreams.



Me in the morning �� | Video by @jmarcoz

A video posted by Animals (@animals.co) on

If you want to wake up with a story to tell, sleeping on your front may be the way to go. Although possibly the worst position from a musculoskeletal point of view according to Rishi Loatey of the British Chiropractic Association, experts from Hong Kong’s Shue Yan University found people who sleep on their fronts tend to have more exciting dreams than those who sleep in any other position. This is possibly due to the added difficulty in breathing while lying on your chest. Sleeping on your stomach may also add extra strain to your body by putting it in an unnatural position, making lower back pain worse by accentuating the curve in the small of the back – ouch.
Does this explain any symptoms you’ve been suffering? Head over to George Home to pick up mattresses and pillows to help make your bedtime as comfortable as possible.