The Perfect Sleep Position

December 5th, 2017

Waking up with aches and pains is not normal, especially if you didn’t fall asleep feeling that way.  You should feel refreshed when rolling out of bed.  If the mornings are rough your sleep position may be to blame.


When choosing the best sleep position it’s important to look at a couple factors:

  • Does the position put the least amount of stress on the muscles and joints as possible?
  • Is this position ideal for you as an individual? Do you have back pain? Do you snore? Do you have sleep apnea?
  • Most importantly, can you actually sleep in this position?


The best sleep position is one that will allow you to sleep best.  Sleep is incredibly important and the vast majority of Americans are not getting enough of it.  If you find a sleep position (even if it’s not totally ideal) that provides you with quality slumber, sleep-on young grasshopper.  Adequate sleep in a “bad” position is better than too little sleep in a “good” position.


That being said, there are modifications that can be made to your sleep position of choice to allow you to sleep better and with fewer aches and pains when you wake up.


The most popular sleep position.  Common variations involve having the legs straight or tucking into the fetal position.  Side sleeping is great for those who snore or have sleep apnea, because it keeps the airways wide open.  If you snooze on your side you’ll want:

  • A firm pillow with thick cushion to support your neck and prevent shoulder-smushage.  If you find yourself putting a hand under your pillow or head you likely need a thicker pillow.
  • A softer mattress to ease pressure on your shoulder and hip.
  • A leg pillow to support your pelvis and prevent the low back from torquing out.


Sleeping on your back is usually the best option for those with back or neck pain.  If back sleeping is your thing you’ll want:

  • A thinner pillow to keep your neck in a neutral position.  There are pillows that are made with a thicker neck support and a depressed head cradle, which are great options for back sleepers.
  • A firmer mattress.
  • An additional pillow or two to place under your knees.  This helps take some stress off the low back.


This is the least ideal option of the three due to the stress it places on your neck and low back.  In order to breathe (unless you can do so through your ears) your neck has to be cranked to the side.  Hold this position for 7-9 hours and yeah… your neck will be stiff.  If you don’t have to sleep on your stomach, don’t.  Like I mentioned above, if that’s what it takes to get a good night’s sleep there are some modifications that can be made to set you up a little better.  If you sleep like you’re straight out of a Vicks Nyquil commercial you’ll want:

  • No pillow under your head.  It will push your neck into too much extension
  • A pillow under your chest and arm to prop yourself into a little rotation.  This will make it so your neck doesn’t have to be as rotated.  Another pillow under your knee will help keep your back in a happy neutral position.

Sleep position is not everything, however.  Mattress type, pillow type, bedtime routines, and so much more can impact how you sleep and feel when you wake up.  For additional tips on getting better sleep check out a previous blog posted called Tips For Better Sleep.


*Mattress firmness recommendations are just guidelines.  It’s totally fine to sleep on a soft mattress if you’re a back sleeper if that’s what you prefer.


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