Sleep Positions
April 6, 2016 3:19 PM   Subscribe

Are sleep positions entirely personal, or are there positions which have been shown to be effective?

I started sleeping on my back. I flipped to my front because I snored too loudly. Now I'm older, that's not so comfortable anymore. Foetal position means numb arm. Where do I go now?
posted by Jakey to Health & Fitness (22 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
If you're getting a numb arm, this could mean your pillow is not fluffy enough. This can cause the weight of the head to get pressed into the shoulder and hurt your arm. Having a thicker pillow to properly support you head could help a lot.
posted by InkDrinker at 3:30 PM on April 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

Full disclosure, there are 12 pillows on my bed. Most are good quality memory foam pillows, but I also have 2 down pillows and 1 fiberfill pillow.

there is a lot of conflicting research on this, but after learning to sleep on my side with knee support (via a knee pillow) changed my life. I have a knee pillow on either side of me when I sleep, when I roll onto my other side, I'm still supported. Haven; been to the Chiropractor for 10 years, I sleep like a baby.
posted by bobdow at 3:33 PM on April 6, 2016 [6 favorites]

do people sleep in one position? i go side to side 2 or 3 times through out the night. very rarely end up with a sore arm.
posted by nadawi at 3:37 PM on April 6, 2016 [3 favorites]

Not sure what to do about your numb arm (different mattress maybe?) but sleeping on your left side is supposedly better.

That's just one of many similar arguments for this position.

I'll keep thinking about what to do about that numb arm issue, since I know what a very real pain that can be.
posted by whoiam at 3:46 PM on April 6, 2016 [3 favorites]

What position are you in when you wake up? When I did my sleep studies, we found that I spent about 85% of the night in the same position as when I woke up. It was kind of hilarious, actually, because I was totally certain I was on my stomach and I spent almost no time on my stomach or my back. I was basically wrapped around pillows on my right side, and flipped once to the left and then back again.
posted by SMPA at 3:46 PM on April 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'm an unreformable side sleeper and starting having the sore arm on waking a few years ago. My PT recommended holding a pillow when I go to sleep. It keeps my arm relatively straight instead of curled up in a tightly flexed fetal position, which is what causes the sore arm for me (tension on the ulnar nerve, technically).
posted by telegraph at 3:52 PM on April 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

I have an old injuries in both my lower back and both knees, now exacerbated by arthritis. I'm also overweight and have sizeable boobs, which can twist one's spine when lying on one's side.

I'm very much like bobdow above -- I have tons of pillows of different shapes/sizes/support on my bed and adjust as needed. Some nights are different than others for me, and it's nice to have my choice of appropriate pillow.

I find comfort in "wedging" myself between two microbead pillows in front and back, when sleeping on my side. I also use a knee pillow between my legs. I've found that this combination helps to keep my spine more aligned and my body is better supported, which results in less pain and stiffness for me in the morning.
posted by Jade Dragon at 3:57 PM on April 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

Have you tried hugging a pillow on your side? When I sleep on my side, I put one pillow between my knees (this helps if you have lower back aches--my PT suggested it because it keeps your hips in better alignment with your lower spine) and then I hug one and it's pretty comfy. I require a lot of pillows.

(If you're snoring that much, you might want to get checked for sleep apnea.)
posted by purple_bird at 4:00 PM on April 6, 2016 [3 favorites]

Dutch Wife
posted by TWinbrook8 at 4:05 PM on April 6, 2016 [4 favorites]

It matters if, like 20-40% of Americans, you have acid reflux. NYT:
Doctors recommend sleeping on an incline, which allows gravity to keep the stomach’s contents where they belong. But sleeping on your side can also make a difference — so long as you choose the correct side. Several studies have found that sleeping on the right side aggravates heartburn; sleeping on the left tends to calm it.
posted by John Cohen at 4:25 PM on April 6, 2016 [10 favorites]

You apparently get fewer wrinkles if you sleep on your back instead of your side or stomach. I'll let you know if this pans out in 10-20 years.
posted by Hermione Granger at 4:27 PM on April 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

My physiotherapist suggests that if you must sleep on your side, you should alternate. Sleeping on your left side may be good for your gastric reflux, but sleeping on the same side every night is bad for your bones.
posted by jacquilynne at 4:56 PM on April 6, 2016

I raised the head of my mattress by placing two large books under it. I have mild breathing issues when I sleep on my back and I find this makes it easier to find a comfortable sleeping position. A sleep doctor recommended this.

Pillows are essential, both in terms of quantity and variety. Sleeping on your side is much more comfortable when you have support.

Sometimes my arm goes numb when I sleep because my body seems determined to contort itself into weird positions regardless of how I fell asleep. Doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to it and it usually passes on its own.
posted by fox problems at 5:01 PM on April 6, 2016

Supposedly, sleeping on one's side may more effectively remove brain waste, and thus help reduce the chances of developing Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other neurological diseases.
posted by invisible ink at 6:38 PM on April 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'm too lazy to google this, but I remember my chiropractor asking if I was a stomach sleeper before he estimated how many visits I'd need. Evidently the stomach sleepers are the ones who have to keep coming back for adjustments over and over again. I guess maybe it's because you have your head cranked to one side when you sleep on your tummy?
posted by bluebelle at 6:51 PM on April 6, 2016

Many backpackers say you should sleep on your back to get what little comfort you can out of sleeping pads. I didn't find any scientific research on it, but plenty of anecdotes.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:49 PM on April 6, 2016

I'll agree with that, because I find that sleeping on one's side isn't really possible on those mattress-pads. But it's impossible now for me to fall asleep on my back on a regular mattress; I'm another who switches from side to side during my 40 winks.

an unreformable side sleeper
if you must sleep on your side

Hmmm... Is there in fact some clear benefit* to sleeping on your back?

So far, the only positive I'm seeing is Hermione Granger's wrinkle prevention; while on the negative side, to be sure there's snoring.

* I mean, if you're not an infant

posted by Rash at 11:09 PM on April 6, 2016

I agree with the majority - side sleeper, one leg over a pillow (or between my knees), usually hugging another pillow (I have a satiny throw pillow I use for this purpose as the coolness of the fabric feels good to me). It varies but this has caused the least achy joints so far.
posted by celtalitha at 11:58 PM on April 6, 2016

I vaguely recall reading that it doesn't matter much except in terms of what helps you get to sleep, because everyone moves around and thrashes about quite a bit during the night anyway. Mrs Segundus certainly does.
posted by Segundus at 4:45 AM on April 7, 2016

I think I have a might random way of sleeping. I like sleep on my side with a pillow between my legs. I don't know why but I think it's comforting haha
posted by Krislarsson at 6:57 AM on April 7, 2016

Alternative to hugging a pillow: put a corner of a flat-ish pillow under your ribs/stomach with the pillow coming forward and then folded up to support your head. This leaves a space for your shoulder to drop down into. You can also end up in a sort of half-on-your-stomach position this way, the pillow under your stomach supports your back and keeps it from aching.

I also do pillow between my legs sometimes (or sometimes just a fold of comforter). It keeps the bony part of my knees from pressing together, which I find intolerable in a very Princess and the Pea sort of way.
posted by anaelith at 7:17 PM on April 7, 2016

Due to back surgery and sciatica, I was told to sleep with a pillow between my knees, and sleep on my side. Back sleeping becomes painful, but by that time I've usually woken myself up with my snoring (or been punched awake by Mrs. Ghidorah). Stomach sleep only works when my back isn't angry.

The pillow between the legs supposedly aligns the hips to the spine, stopping the poor sleeping posture that aggravates back issues. However, I've been dealing with numb hands and janky shoulders for a while as a result.
posted by Ghidorah at 12:16 AM on April 8, 2016

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