What's Your Good Side? Sleeping Positions and their Effect on the Body

by LILLIE NGUYEN

How long does it take you to enter deep slumber? For the average person without sleeping problems, it takes about 10-20 minutes. During this time, the snoozer will change positions multiple times until the perfect orientation is achieved. Many are naturally inclined to doze off on their sides, while others lie on their back or stomach, but which is the best area to sleep on?
 

SIDES

FETUS:

  • Curled up like a baby in a mother’s womb

LOG:

  • Arms lie alongside the body

YEARNER:

  • Both arms are stretched in front of the body

 

Benefits

As the most common sleep position, the lateral state has few to no health problems related to its placement . Resting on the right half of the body takes off stress on the vital organs (liver, stomach and lungs). But between the left and right region, the left has a slight advantage in that it is better for circulation, helps relieve high blood pressure, and is the better side if heartburn relief is desired. According to a 2009 study published in the Journal of Sleep Research, this optimal sleeping position reduced mild snoring by more than 80% relative to the 20% by those in the supine position. If the head was rotated to 40o, the snoring rate could be reduced to approximately zero!

Problems

Few to none

Fixes

To further enhance the sleeping experience, place a pillow between the knees and one under the head so that it lines up with the neck and spine. By mitigating discomfort, night time disruptions will decrease in addition to alleviating insomnia and sleep apnea.


 

STOMACH

FREE FALl:

  • Known as the prone position, a sleeper’s stomach will face down, with the hands up around the pillow, and head turned to one direction

 

Benefits

According to a 2004 study published in Swiss Med Weekly, those with acute respiratory distress syndrome can increase the amount of oxygen delivered to their blood by lying in the prone position. Reposing on the stomach is also helpful for digestion, but make sure to eat light or nothing at all two hours before hitting the hay.

Problems

This position not only obstructs the upper-airway, but puts additional pressure on the spine and chest throughout the night, which may cause a nasty back ache the next morning.

Fixes

To lessen the induced weight on the back, use a long body pillow to elevate one part of the body, or do not use a pillow at all to level out the sleeping plane and straighten the spine.


 

BACK

SOLDIER:

  • Arms extend parallel to the sides of the body

STARFISH:

  • Arms and legs are splayed outwards

Benefits

Allowing the back to make contact with the bed relaxes the back muscles and re-expands the discs so that they can reabsorb fluids that were pushed out of them throughout the day.

Problems

Due to the supine position’s unfavorable placement of the face up and back down, the tongue falls inwards, causing breathing difficulties. As a result, many sleepers suffer from obstructive sleep apnea and snoring. The difference between the two is that snoring is the sound heard when a snorer inhales during sleep. Obstructive sleep apnea, on the other hand, occurs when the soft tissue in a person’s throat repeatedly collapses and blocks the airway during sleep in either small periods of reduction or completely.

Fixes

Rather than listening to a cacophony of snorts and wheezes, place a pillow underneath the knees and the back to restore the natural curves of the lower back, and enjoy a peaceful night of sweet silence instead.

 

BOTTOM LINE

We spend a third of our lives sleeping, so why not make the best of this time? Sleep quality plays a large role in mental and physical functions, but late night interruptions caused by unpleasant sleeping positions can lead to sleep deprivation. Mattresses that are worn out and/or saggy in the middle can affect the bend and curvature of the lower and mid-back, which affects the passage of airflow. In addition, a 2011 article in Laryngorhinootologie found that nasal volume had decreased significantly in smokers who relaxed on their backs whereas nonsmokers did not develop a nasal obstruction. Therefore, select mattresses that hug the body’s outline and use pillows to raise the head and body to different levels that allow maximal breathing capacity and comfort.

 

Winter 2013 | Vol. 13 | Issue 2