Sleep

8 Reasons Sleeping on Your Back Can Help You Get the Rest You Need

8 Reasons Sleeping on Your Back Can Help You Get the Rest You Need

Many people sleep on their side, in the fetal position, or spread out on the bed. Some even sleep on their stomachs.

While you might think that sleeping on your back is only for vampires, zombies and Frankenstein, it turns out that sleeping on your back can be a simple, cost-effective solution to a multitude of ailments: from sleeping problems to health.

It may seem like an uncomfortable way to hit the hay, but sleeping on your back can be worth it.

Read on for details on why this sleeping posture just might reign supreme.

Sleeping on your back, more formally known as supine sleep, offers a host of health benefits that you might not have considered.

Sleeping on your back can benefit you by:

  • keep your spine aligned
  • reduce tension headaches
  • reduce pressure and compression on the chest
  • relieve sinus buildup
  • prevent wrinkles and irritation on your face

When it comes to infants, American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies sleep on their backs to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

It could be due to the fact that when infants sleep on their stomachs, or on their stomachs, it increases:

  • nasal bacterial load
  • breathing work of breathing
  • upper respiratory tract secretions

A 2019 review found that back and side sleeping are associated with less back pain than stomach sleeping in adults.

While supine sleeping may have some benefits, it’s certainly not the most popular position.

According to a study 2017, most people prefer to sleep on their side as they approach adulthood. Interestingly, the study noted that children also sleep on their sides, backs, and stomachs.

The same 2019 review mentioned above noted that more than 60% of European adults sleep on their side or side.

Still, there are plenty of reasons to make the switch, even if you’re a stomach or side sleeper. Here are a few.

Sleeping on your back helps reduce pressure on your spine. This position mimics the straight standing position.

Sleeping on your stomach with your head to the side is equivalent to having your head turned in one direction for hours while sitting or standing, which causes pain. It also compresses the spine as your neck is tilted back.

It’s much easier to rest your spine by lying on your back, using pillows for comfort, and maintaining the natural curve of the spine.

A study 2017 noted that sleeping on your back with both hands at your sides or chest is the best way to prevent pain.

If you lie on your stomach or on your side, you risk congesting your breathing space.

The diaphragm is the muscle responsible for breathing, and compressing it makes your breathing shallower.

Several studies have linked deep diaphragmatic breathing upon waking with:

  • stress reduction
  • mood improvement
  • improved attention span

A study 2018 noted that slow, deep breathing leads to the production of melatonin, a hormone that promotes relaxation, induces sleep, and increases parasympathetic nervous system activity.

Washing your face, keeping your hands away from your face, and cutting down on sugar intake are frequently mentioned solutions for clear skin. What about what happens while you sleep?

Pillowcases absorb oil from skin and hair as well as product residue. These are easily transferred to the face during sleep.

This can contribute to skin problems, such as:

  • black dots
  • whiteheads
  • redness and irritation

While satin, silk, or copper pillowcases can help, why not avoid pillow skin contact altogether?

Sleeping on your back keeps your face away from the pillowcase and, by extension, dirt and oils that can irritate it.

Sleeping on the face can pinch, pull and irritate the skin, leading to wrinkles. When your face is directly on the pillow, the resulting friction can cause fine lines and wrinkles.

The same goes for the neck, which can get wrinkled and twisted while you sleep on your stomach.

Sleeping on your back also helps keep your skincare products on your face and off the pillow.

By sleeping on your back, you avoid face-to-face contact with the pillow and keep your neck straight, preventing the premature development or deepening of fine lines and wrinkles.

When you lie on any part of your face, fluid builds up in that area.

Fluid buildup causes puffiness around the eyes and swelling of the face. By lying on your back, you discourage this buildup and reduce puffiness.

Be sure to elevate your head a bit to help control where the liquid is going. It can help you avoid puffiness and puffiness, so you can wake up as rested as you feel.

Sleeping with your head elevated above your heart helps relieve congestion and prevent blocked nasal passages. When the head is lowered, mucus accumulates in the sinuses.

If you support your head, gravity will do its part to help drain mucus and keep your airways clear.

According to a 2016 reviewthis position also helps with acid reflux, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

Similar to its effect on your neck and spine, sleeping on your back relieves pressure on your head.

Cervicogenic headaches, or headaches rooted in the cervical spine, start in the neck and are often mistaken for migraines. Symptoms may include:

  • shooting pain on one side of the head or face
  • torticollis
  • pain near the eyes
  • pain when coughing or sneezing
  • sensitivity to light and sound
  • blurry vision
  • stomach ache
  • pinched nerves

By keeping your head, neck, and spine in a neutral position, you relieve pressure and avoid pain.

Pro tip: Even when sleeping on your back, it may be usual to turn your head. Use pillows to support the neck and keep your body from giving in to temptation.

When facing up, you notice changes in light more easily.

When sunlight enters your bedroom, you can better receive the signal from the sun that it’s time to wake up.

You may find this way of waking up more pleasant than the sound of an alarm clock. Plus, light helps regulate your circadian rhythm, so you can sleep and wake up at optimal times.

If you want to try sleeping, make sure you have several pillows and a rolled up towel handy.

Try placing a pillow under your knees or a rolled-up towel under your lower back. This will help support your body in areas with natural curves and shift pressure away from your back.

There are also many products on the market that can help your transition to supine sleep go as smoothly as possible.

Wedge pillows can help with head elevation, and a bolster can go below the knees to support the lower back.

It can also help create a bedtime routine to make it easier to fall asleep in an unfamiliar position, like sleeping in a different bed.

Consider:

While there are many ways to sleep, sleeping on your back offers multiple benefits that are hard to ignore, including:

  • improved breathing
  • reduction of back pain
  • smoother and clearer skin

If you decide to make the switch, take your time and arm yourself with the tools to make the transition as easy as possible. Once you get there, you’re probably on your way to a sweeter, healthier sleep.


Alicia A. Wallace is a queer black feminist, women’s human rights advocate, and writer. She is passionate about social justice and community development. She likes to cook, cook, garden, travel and talk to everyone and no one at the same time on Twitter.