How Your Sleep Position Affects Your Sleep Quality

As a child, it is more likely that you could sleep almost in any position. One of the things that change with adulthood, is how you need to sleep in a specific position to enjoy a good night’s sleep.

Every sleeping position requires something different from a mattress. So getting a mattress does not come down only to outstanding reviews, but it is also a matter of how it fits your sleeping position to offer the best kind of support. If your mattress does not complement your sleeping position, then it is likely that you will regret your buy.

There are typically eight recognized sleeping positions, which are grouped into three categories: side, stomach, and back. While certain research in the past sustained that sleeping on your back is the best for your health and posture, this theory has been overruled.

What is now trendy among sleep specialists is to link your sleeping position with a specific personality type.

We have gathered the latest on pros and cons for which mattress support is best depending on your sleeping position.

The information below will give you heads up regarding the following:

What are different sleeping positions there?

It is no secret that as adults, we don’t enjoy sleeping in any position. Truth is, most of us have very particular habits when it comes to sleeping. And while it is often the case that we could be sleeping in different positions, there is usually one predominant position to which we adhere to during the night. Interestingly enough, the position you sleep for the most hours could be different than the one you prefer to fall asleep.

The primary position in which we like sleeping in falls into three categories in general: back, side or stomach. So, which position is best? Back, stomach, or side? And how easy it is to switch to another if your favorite one is not recommended for your health?

Science has come to several conclusions. Experts suggest that we are naturally inclined towards a position that we feel better sleeping in. We usually tend to decide which is best based on how well we are able to breathe.

For example, scientists say that the smaller the airway in our throat becomes at night, the most likely it is to sleep on our stomach. Generally speaking, back sleeping is not recommended if you tend to snore or have sleep apnea. Side sleeping is best because it helps keep your airways open.

On the other hand, research evidence indicates you should better sleep on the left side to relieve heartburn symptoms, while right side sleeping makes them worse.

Tip: Sleeping on the left side is recommended if you are pregnant to improve circulation to the heart and reduce acid reflux, so it is good for both the mom and the baby (study)

Please include attribution to Positive Health Wellness with this graphic.

Sleep Position Mastery

Quick facts about sleeping positions

63% of Americans sleep on their side(see best mattress for side sleepers). Only 14% sleep on their back and 16% on their stomach.

Sleep experts have discovered a direct link between people’s favorite sleeping positions and their personalities. According to Professor Idzikowski, those who sleep in the fetal position (underside sleeping category) “may appear tough but are actually sensitive souls right to their core”.

A research back in 2014 led by psychologist Professor Richard Wiseman at the University of Hertfordshire asked 1000 people to describe their favorite sleep position and then rate their personality and quality of their relationship. They found that 42 percent of couples sleep back to back.

The research revealed the most popular sleep positions for couples, with 42% sleeping back to back, 31% sleeping facing the same direction, 12% spend the night less than an inch apart

There are certain characteristics to keep in mind for each type of sleeper. Below is a brief overview of each type of major sleeping position category and what you need to know.

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best sleeping position for back sleepers

Pros: For the past few decades, doctors have been suggesting that sleeping on your back with your arms at your sides is the best position for your bones, spine and body. You have probably heard your parents encouraging you to sleep in this position and even you probably suggest that your own children do it.

back arm on side position

Back sleeping is also considered the best position if you are looking to avoid facial wrinkles, according to empirical research studies.

Cons: Only a few people among the population tend to find this position comfortable. Of course, there is always a chance that the mattress you sleep in makes it even more uncomfortable to sleep on your back.

However, a supported spine does not mean necessarily a good night’s sleep. A study comparing the habits of good sleepers and bad sleepers suggested that people with worse-quality sleep spent more time on their backs than the good sleepers.

And it should be noted that this particular position is strongly associate with snoring and sleep apnea, as gravity forces the base of the tongue to collapse into the airway and obstructs breathing. In fact, the two are so closely related to back sleeping that doctors recommend switching to side sleeping as a treatment of this condition. Obviously, it is also susceptible to pain in the spine and back in general. This is due to the fact that there is a substantial amount of strain in your spine when you lie down.

To relieve any back pain, you could also try another back sleeping position called the “starfish”. This involves the arms being up and around your pillow, which however causes a significant amount of pressure to your shoulders that results in pain.

on your back arms up

Now if you are experiencing neck pain, consider sleeping on your back without a pillow, which will leave the neck in a neutral position.
Just remember that as a back sleeper, your spine needs a little extra help!

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best sleeping position for side sleepers



Pros: You will be happy to hear that if you are a side sleeper, which is one of the most common of all sleeping positions, is now considered one of the healthiest positions to sleep in!
Sleeping in this positions helps:

Whether it is curling up in the cozy fetal position, or lying straight on one side, the vast majority of people report sleeping on their sides as their favorite position.

fetal position


There is another position popular among side sleepers, known as the “log” position, which is sleeping on your side with your arms and legs straight, like a log.

side sleeper arms on side

Another side sleeping position is the “yearner” position, where the legs are straight, but there is usually a slight curve in the back, and arms are extended out in front.

side sleeper arms on side

If you sleep on your right side rather than the left, you add extra strain to the liver, stomach, and lungs. Sleeping on your left side instead rather than the right is considered best as:

  1. It bolsters the lymphatic system.
  2. It may improve digestion.
  3. It’s good for your heart.
  4. It’s ideal for pregnant women.
  5. It may reduce heartburn.
  6. It may relieve back pain.

impact on different kinds of sleeping positions


Cons: It is not all rosy though if you sleep on your side. Generally, side sleepers complain about aches and pains in the shoulders and hips, as well as commonly referred is the dreaded squished-arm-numbness.

Side sleepers who enjoy the fetal position, most commonly have back pain or long-term back problems while this position also restricts deep breathing. To minimize these issues, you need to find the appropriate mattress.

The log position, whilst more comforting to the back, still contributes to skin aging because of gravity. The yearner position on the other hand which is also easier on your back applies more pressure to the nerves and restricts blood flow to the arms and shoulders.

Looking for a great mattress for side sleepers? Get our advice.

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sleep with your stomach good ?

Pros: Although this might be the most comfortable position for you, the truth is sleeping on your stomach is considered one of the unhealthiest positions to snooze in.

The reason for this is how the majority of our weight falls on the torso area, and when sleeping on your stomach there is excessive pressure on the spine.

The only real benefit of sleeping on your stomach is that it may help stop snoring.

Still, if this is your preferred position and you don’t want to change it, you should definitely consider buying a great mattress that will help alleviate the strain on your spine and ensure a better overall health, minimizing the negative effects.

Cons: Sleeping on your stomach can be the cause of different problems.
First, since you can’t breathe through a pillow, you probably have your head turned one way or the other, which strains your neck.

Using a pillow means that not only your neck is strained and you have headaches, but your back also bents slightly backward and since the curve is not supported in this posture, stomach sleepers often suffer from back pain problems.

Going belly-down at night makes it difficult to maintain a neutral spine position overall and puts substantial pressure on joints and muscles, causing numbness, tingling, and nerve irritation.

Tip: If sleeping on your stomach is your preferred position, try sticking a pillow under the hips and lower abdomen to give the bottom of the spine a boost while gradually training the body to sleep on one side.

Stomach sleeper sleeping tips


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Which type of mattress is best depending on your sleeping position

Your predominant sleeping position should inform your choice of mattress. In particular, choosing the right level of mattress firmness is related to your sleeping style or position as it creates pressure points in different locations and affects spinal alignment differently.

You don’t want a mattress that is either too soft or too firm as this will create several health problems, such as aches and pain while spending the night tossing and turning will mean you are likely to be unproductive and moody the next day.

Hence, it is very important to know your preferred sleeping position when you are buying a mattress. Although some people sleep in multiple positions, there is one they prefer the most. For optimum comfort and support, you should consider which firmness level suits your sleeping position.

Mattress firmness and sleeping positions

 Back sleepers

  • Prefer a medium firm mattress which will allow the spine to sit naturally with no pressure points
  • A thinner top layer at 2-inches works best

back sleeper smallAs a back sleeper, you should keep in mind that you need more support than someone who sleeps on their side. Therefore if you primarily sleep on your back, you need a mattress that will prevent muscle strain in the back and instead provide the best support for your spine.

For this to happen, a medium firm mattress is recommended, also referred to as the “luxury firm”, which is not too soft or too firm. A medium firm mattress is best to avoid pain in the lower back and keep your spine in an optimal position. Towards this end, you might find newer mattress options like a memory foam mattress more appropriate for you.

The best mattresses for back sleepers have at least 400 to 800 14-gauge coils. Innerspring mattresses feature firm coils to support the back yet still mold to the curvature of the spine.

Mattresses with box springs are great for those who sleep on their backs because they stabilize weight, offering back support and increasing the life of the bedding.

A comfort layer of approximately 2-inches should keep most back sleepers more than satisfied while catering for their lower back.

Side sleepers

  • Prefer a soft or medium firm to maintain proper spinal alignment as the hip and shoulders sink in a bit
  • A comfort layer at 3-inches works best

side sleepers

Side sleeping is of the most common positions and most recommended for sleepers, yet it is one of the hardest positions to shop for. When you sleep on your side, it is significantly curvier than others, and therefore pressure relief is vital since there is pressure on the shoulders and hips.

What you need in this case is a mattress that will form a cradle to fill the recessed areas between your body and the mattress. This will balance the weight across the mattress to relief from too much pressure on certain points. To succeed the latter, you should go for either a soft or a medium firm mattress if you prefer this position.

A firm mattress will most likely be uncomfortable for sleeping on your side while your shoulder and hips may experience excessive pressure and this could make you toss and turn a lot. A firmer mattress could also cause a bad posture while sleeping, which in turn results in body aches and pain.

On the other hand, a mattress that is too soft, will not offer the support you need to keep the spine in proper alignment. You should look for mattresses that have 300 to 400 14-gauge coils, which will ensure the mattress is soft and comfortable, providing enough “give” to reduce the pressure on your hips and shoulder.

For your body to sink into the mattress, a softer and thicker comfort layer is needed. In this respect, it is recommended to use a comfort layer that is about 3 inches thick, give or take an inch.

Having a traditional spring mattress won’t help much in terms of pressure points across your body. The most recommended option is a mattress that has supportive coils, with a memory foam topper to provide comfort to the joints of the body.

 Stomach sleepers

  • Prefer a firm mattress which will provide minimal give to relieve pressure on the knees, while no sinking to cause stress on the back
  • A thin comfort layer is ideal

stomache sleepers small

If you are the type of person that prefers stomach sleep, then you should keep in mind that while it might feel comfortable, still this position can increase pressure and strain on your neck and back.

In this sense, you should prefer a firm mattress as the last thing a stomach sleeper needs is a soft and/or thick comfort layer, because there are little to no recessed areas to support.

A mattress that is too soft can cause neck and back pain because your chest and stomach can sink further than you want it to. If your mattress is too firm, it won’t let your spine fall into its natural curve and hence will also cause you problems. In general, go for a more firm rather than a plush mattress.

You should also definitely avoid coil spring mattresses as they are not designed to support the pressure points across the body.

In addition, if you sleep on a softer surface your stomach, there is the risk to hyperextend the lumbar area. Therefore it is best to opt for a thin and firm comfort layer, although you might want an inch of softness to provide cushioning to bony areas. Still, you must have a firm enough mattress to avoid creating an unnatural backward curve of the back and support good posture.

 Combo sleepers

If you don’t stick to one sleeping position and tend to switch from one position to the other, you should prefer a medium-firm mattress. Choosing a mattress that is in the middle of the firmness scale, will provide good support for any position.
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The Takeaway

Regardless of any health issues that may arise, people tend to sleep in the position they feel more comfortable to snooze in at night. If you are interested however in adopting a more healthy position, trying out different sleeping positions will do no harm. Just keep in mind that people naturally incline towards the position that feels “closer to home” and they fall asleep easier . In this respect, unless a doctor specifically recommends switching, you should probably stick to your current sleeping position, whether it’s back, side, or stomach.

If there is one thing to remember from this post, is how the right level of firmness is very important in choosing the right mattress based on your sleeping position. It is, therefore, significant to know which position you usually sleep in so that you eliminate the potential of developing chronic body aches and pain. You also need the appropriate mattress in terms of firmness to ensure a proper spinal support and alignment, as well as a unique cradle based on the recessed areas created between your body and the mattress. The most appropriate mattress will cater to these gaps, providing pressure relief of sensitive points and the right amount of support.

Now, if you are the only one using the mattress, it is easy to choose a mattress because you only have to worry about your personal preference. Things get a bit more complicated when you sleep with a partner. Both of your sleeping positions should play a leading role than in deciding which mattress you want to buy. What is recommended usually for couples, is to prefer a medium-firm mattress to cover both partners’ needs?

Below is a summary of which mattress firmness is best depending on your sleeping position.

Sleeping position and mattress scale relationship

While there is no fixed recipe, our experience suggests that you might want to follow these basic guidelines in order to avoid any health problems related to your mattress.

Hope you found this article of value, many more to come.

Stay tuned and sleep tight!

  1. We spend a great part of our life sleeping so education like this is very informative and helpful. Very useful in selecting the correct mattress.

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