Back Sleeping vs Side Sleeping vs Stomach Sleeping

Written by Antonio DeRose

We all sleep, but chances are, all of us tend to sleep in different positions. The three primary sleep positions are back, side, and stomach sleeping. Some people sleep in the same position every night, all night long, while others rotate throughout the night between one, two, or even all three positions. Each of the three sleep positions presents itself with certain pros and cons, so let’s look at which sleep position is best for you.

Side sleeping seems to be the most common sleep position, with one survey stating 74% of people report sleeping on their sides. [1] Research on side sleeping even indicates that it aids in the removal of brain waste, which is an important physiological process for proper brain health. “The analysis showed that glymphatic clearance is more efficient in lateral and supine than in the prone position.” [2] Side sleeping isn’t just good for you, it can also be good for your baby. The American Pregnancy Association recommends side sleeping during pregnancy because it improves circulation, increasing blood and nutrient flow to the baby. [3] Although side sleeping is common and seems to have many benefits, it’s not for everyone, and can be accompanied by negative side effects, like shoulder and other joint pain.

Back sleeping can be a great choice for some, and not so great for others. The main benefit of sleeping on your back is improved spine alignment. Laying flat on your back discourages movement in your spine while you sleep, promoting better posture. However, people with certain sleep conditions, like sleep apnea or acid reflux, should avoid back sleeping because it is known to trigger negative symptoms.

Stomach sleeping seems to be the sleep position with the least amount of benefits, and the highest amount of potential risks. Sleeping on your stomach reduces snoring, but it is commonly associated with back and hip pain due to spine and hip misalignment. This makes side and back sleeping the two top contenders for the best sleep positions.

Determining the right sleep position for you is a matter of personal preference and your individual circumstances. Clearly, pregnant women are better off side sleeping, while people who may be experiencing back and hip pain could benefit from the positive spine alignment from sleeping on their backs. Rotating between different sleep positions may be the best way to get the specific benefits each sleep position has to offer.



1- National Sleep Survey Pulls Back The Covers On How We Doze And Dream. PR Newswire. 2012. –https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/national-sleep-survey-pulls-back-the-covers-on-how-we-doze-and-dream-184798691.html

2- Lee, H., et al., The Effect of Body Posture on Brain Glymphatic Transport. The Journal of Neuroscience. 2015 Aug 5; 35(31): 11034–11044. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4524974/

3- Best Sleeping PositionsDuring Pregnancy. American Pregnancy Association.https://americanpregnancy.org/healthy-pregnancy/pregnancy-health-wellness/sleeping-positions-while-pregnant-1012/

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Antonio DeRose

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