If you are among the rare 10% of the world’s population that prefers to sleep on their back, you shall be excited to learn about the health benefits of sleeping on your back. If, on the other hand, you are a non-supine sleeper, let us help you reconsider your sleeping preference!
Thinking why exactly should you be sleeping in the supine position? Let us break it down for you and explain it in detail!
Should You Sleep on Your Back?
For your body to enter comfortably into the REM stage of a deep sleep, you need to ensure a healthy sleeping posture. While no single sleeping position works for all, the supine position generally caters to most individuals, with an exception of a few.
Sleeping on one’s back generally ensures a natural spinal alignment, which helps prevent pressure points from developing within your body. Your body utilizes the effect of gravity to evenly distribute your weight throughout the body. This ultimately helps prevent neck, shoulder, and back strains from developing and disturbing your sleep.
As a general rule of thumb, the less troubled you are as you hit the bed, the better you can sleep. The supine position lets you sleep comfortably through the night, and can therefore be adopted as a healthy sleeping position.
Benefits of Sleeping on Your Back
Not every individual has a natural preference to sleep on their back. It is, in fact, the lateral sleeping position which has been declared as the most popular sleeping position. The benefits of sleeping on one’s back are, however, incontestable.
Whether you are suffering from heartburn, got persistent neck pain that simply won’t leave your side, want to get rid of acid reflux, or simply need a comforting and rejuvenating night’s sleep, adopting the supine sleeping position can be trusted to offer significant relief.
Better spinal alignment
Sleeping on one’s back tends to go easiest on the spine. In this position, you lie flat on your back, with your arms lying flat on your sides. As you sleep on your back, your neck and head are not forced into unnatural positions. This helps your spine to maintain its natural position.
The key to reducing back pains is to minimize lumbar pressure. Since the supine position takes the help of gravity to equally distribute your weight across your body, you find that the pressure points within your body dissipate. Your lower back, therefore, stays strain-free as you sleep during the night.
Reduce Acid Reflux Symptoms
Though sleeping on the back is not an ideal sleeping position for patients suffering from acid reflux problems, it however can work. Acid reflux causes the acidic contents of your stomach to travel up your esophagus at night, thereby disrupting your sleep.
While lying down generally increases the occurrence of acid reflux, sleeping on your back while your head is slightly elevated tends to help you recover faster. This it does by enlisting the help of gravity to move the acidic contents from your esophagus back to your stomach. You can use a wedge pillow to raise your head slightly.
Prevent neck and shoulder pain
In order to prevent neck and shoulder pains, the natural curvature of your neck should not be disturbed and should be similar to how it looks as you stand upright with your shoulders back and head up.
Sleeping on your back with the right pillow underneath to maintain the natural position of your neck can help prevent your neck and shoulder muscles from getting strained. You can even add a pillow under your thighs to prevent your body’s weight from resting on your spine and disrupting its natural alignment. The least disturbed your neck’s curve and spinal alignment is, the more effective the sleeping position is in preventing neck and shoulder pains.
Relieves sinus buildup
Individuals with sinusitis often complain about sleepless nights due to nasal congestion and sinus pain. This is because lying down tends to constrict your nasal passageways. However, sleeping in the supine position with a few crucial amendments can prove to be instrumental in reducing the sinus symptoms from showing up.
Where side and stomach sleeping can potentially worsen the symptoms, lying on one’s back at a sufficient incline can help promote drainage of your sinuses instead. When your head and torso are elevated in comparison to the rest of the body, gravity plays its role to clear your nasal passageways, thus effectively preventing a sinus buildup. This ultimately helps ward off any risk of infections, congestions, and sinus pains from disrupting your sleep.
Avoid skin wrinkles
The science behind this one is relatively simple; you need to prevent your skin from folding over itself in order to prevent it from forming permanent wrinkles. There is no better way to do it than sleeping on your back. As you sleep on your side or stomach, your skin comes in contact with the pillow. The resulting pressure and friction against your pillowcase cause your skin to develop wrinkles.
When sleeping on your back, no pressure is exerted on your face, and thus it stays fresh and wrinkle-free. Moreover, back sleeping helps prevent infections by draining up your sinuses and reflux. You, therefore, are less likely to wake up with a swollen face or puffy eyes, which later cause your skin to wrinkle.
How to Train Yourself to Sleep on Your Back?
Even though there is no sleep position that works for all, sleeping on your back, can, however, be assumed as the safest option for most individuals. Making amendments to your sleeping position is no easy task. Therefore, if you find it difficult to sleep on your back, here are a few tips to help ease your transition. Remember, patient and persistence is the key! You need to keep trying even if you wake up to find yourself in any position other than supine.
Sleep on the Right Pillow
The supine position only works for you as long as you don’t wake up in the middle of the night complaining about a persistent body ache. To train yourself to sleep on your back every day, you need to invest in a back sleepers pillow that works for you.
Normally, back sleepers who prefer to lie down flat should opt for a thinner pillow that mimics their neck’s natural curvature. Some donut-shaped pillows are slightly firmer at the edges to support your head and softer in the middle to conform to your neck’s natural curvature.
On the other hand, wedge pillows tend to be a great option for back sleepers who prefer to lie down at an incline. It is recommended that you try both and see for yourself what works for you.
Get the Right Mattress
Investing in the right mattress is crucial to getting a restful sleep. When sleeping on your back, your mattress can make a whole lot of difference between a sore and energized body.
A mattress that’s too soft will fail to keep your spinal alignment in check. You will find your torso and lower body continuously sinking within the mattress, thus resulting in a rather abnormal spine positioning. The resulting back, shoulder, and neck pain will keep you up the entire night.
An extremely firm mattress on the other hand will only exert more pressure on your body’s pressure points. So any benefits that your supine position brought about to your back, will become useless.
What you should be aiming for is a mattress that offers a combination of support and comfort. It should feature an ability to conform to your spine’s natural curvature. A medium-firm mattress would therefore be an ideal choice for most back sleepers.
Place a Pillow Under Your Knees
Lying flat on your back can often aggravate pain in your lower back, especially when the support provided by your mattress is not enough. Individuals who are relatively new to the supine sleeping position will find it difficult to continue waking up to excruciating back pain.
On the other hand, simply placing a pillow underneath your knees can prove to help prevent back pain as you sleep on your back. The pillow underneath your knees prevents the pressure of your body weight from falling onto your lumbar spine. By evenly distributing the weight across your body, it, therefore, minimizes back strains and improves the quality of your sleep.
Sleep like a Starfish
The starfish sleeping position involves you sleeping on your back, with your legs spread apart and your arms stretched out above you on either side of your head. In contrast to the soldier sleeping position where your arms and legs rest in a parallel direction to your body, the starfish is way more comfortable. It allows your weight to be evenly distributed throughout the length of your body, and thus prevents pressure points from straining your muscles.
Build a Pillow Barrier to Prevent Rolling Over
Making the necessary transition to any sleep position is going to be difficult in the beginning. You will find yourself rolling over in your sleep, and are equally likely to find yourself in your habitual sleeping position when you wake up.
To prevent this, you can build a pillow barrier around yourself so as not to roll over while you sleep on your back. Use slightly firm and high-loft pillows to place on both sides. The discomfort of having to roll over them will force you to keep lying on your back and within a few days, you will find yourself getting used to the supine position.
Is Sleeping on Your Back Bad?
There are some speculations as to the flip side of back sleeping. Some individuals indeed complain of persistent lower back pain that accompanies the supine position. Similarly, lying flat on your back is thought to worsen the symptoms of sleep apnea and snoring, while disrupting your sleep.
Even though the cons of sleeping on your back do exist, there is nothing that can’t be tackled by making a few necessary amends as you sleep. All you need to focus on is keeping your spinal alignment in check in order to make the supine sleeping position work for you.
Getting the right pillow to place underneath your head will help you in this regard. For example, for neck pain, there are certain contour pillows that are ergonomically designed to offer adjustable support that can adapt to your neck’s natural curvature. These prevent your neck and shoulders from getting strained and allow for a comfortable sleep at night.
Similarly, the use of wedge pillows to help elevate your head and torso has been proven to be effective in preventing acid reflux symptoms in back sleepers. An elevation of around 20-30 degrees helps gravity to enable drainage of your sinus congestion as well as any acidic stomach contents that reflux into your esophagus. This also helps ease your breathing and prevents symptoms of sleep apnea from triggering.
Frequently Asked Questions
When should I stop sleeping on my back?
If you are pregnant and in your second or third trimester, it’s time to stop sleeping on your back. This is because the growing weight of the uterus in addition to that of your body can cause pressure to be exerted on your lower back as you lie down flat on your back. The resulting pressure can interfere with your blood circulation and reduce the rate at which nutrients are supplied to the growing fetus, thus resulting in stillbirth.
In addition to that, if you feel that your back pain persists even after the use of adjustable beds or wedge pillows, avoid sleeping on your back and consult your doctor immediately.
Is it OK to sleep on your back all night?
It is actually recommended that you sleep on your back all night, to witness the extensive benefits that it brings. Your body needs to maintain it’s spinal alignment for the length of time you spend lying down, and the supine position is ideally suited to prevent your spinal curve from getting disturbed.
If you toss and turn at night, you will not be able to reach the REM stage of sleep and rest wouldn’t even be a viable option. Similarly, if you change sleeping positions at night, your spinal curvature will be thrown off balance and you will wake up to neck or back pains.
Is it better to sleep on your back or side?
No sleeping position works for all individuals. The preferred sleeping position tends to vary from one person to another, based on their lifestyle and medical conditions.
For example, for a pregnant woman, sleeping in a supine position can prove to be dangerous, especially during the later stages of her pregnancy. However, those experiencing neck or back pains prefer supine over the lateral sleeping position, owing to the ability of supine position to keep your body’s spinal alignment in check.