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How to Sleep on Your Back

There are a number of benefits to be had from sleeping on your back, but that doesn’t mean that back sleeping is for everyone. It’s probably a good idea to check whether back sleeping or side sleeping is right for you, your body, and your lifestyle.

It’s also worth noting that bedding plays a huge role in your sleep patterns and in developing healthy sleep habits. Make sure your bedroom is fully equipped to guarantee the relaxing night you deserve. Let’s take a look at how to sleep on your back, when, and why.  

Why is back sleeping so well recommended?

The official name for back sleeping is supine sleeping. In general, there are a number of health conditions that are either improved or aggravated through sleep, and a range of wellness advantages to be had from lying on your back. So much so, that doctors and other health professionals tend to name supine sleeping as the best position for a truly regenerative sleep. 

 

Sleeping positions can reduce hip pain at night. The more we sit, the shorter our hip flexors become. When severely shortened, they can cause discomfort at night, which is why lying on your back can help. Sleeping positions that stretch the hips at night give your flexors room to move.

 

Let’s go into more detail about the positives of back sleeping and the route to better health.

1. Keep your spine aligned

When you sleep on your back, it relieves pressure on your spine, essentially because it mimics the position you’re in when standing up straight. Reduced pressure means improved spine health and it can also result in less pain if you happen to be someone who suffers from back complaints. 

 

Lying on your back is a good idea. If you fall asleep on your stomach, your head is turned to one side for hours. Imagine how sore your neck would feel if your head was turned to one side for a long period of time when standing up. Couple that with the fact that your head is tilted back when laying on your stomach and you’ll begin to appreciate why other sleeping positions can cause or worsen so many spine-related issues. 

2. Reduce headaches

When you fall asleep on your back, you get a restful night because it reduces the probability of tension headaches. When you sleep flat on your back, you relieve pressure on your neck and spine. This, in turn, means less pressure on your head, keeping cervicogenic headaches at bay. 

 

It’s important to note that these kinds of headaches, caused by pressure on the cervical spine, are often mistaken for migraines. People who suffer from these kinds of headaches tend to experience the following symptoms:

 

  • stiff neck

  • eye pain

  • sensitivity to noise and light

  • blurry vision

  • pinched nerves

  • tummy troubles

  • painful sensations when coughing and sneezing

  • a pain that throbs on one side of the head

3. Reduce pressure on the chest

Train yourself to sleep on your back. It can help to improve your breathing at night which, in turn, takes the pressure off of your chest. 

 

When the diaphragm is compressed, which is what happens when you start sleeping on your stomach or side, your breathing becomes shallower. However, when the diaphragm is allowed to expand, which is what happens when you sleep on your back, you’ll find you wake up feeling less stressed, in a better mood, and with a greater capacity to concentrate on tasks at hand throughout the day.

 

It’s similar to what happens when we’re awake and we meditate. We concentrate on our breathing and on expanding the breadth of each breath we take. Slow, deep breathing helps to produce melatonin, giving the body what it needs to achieve deep relaxation and sleep better. 

4. Relieve sinus buildup and acid reflux

In addition to sleeping on your back, it can also be a good idea to prop your head up on a small pillow. When the head is elevated above the heart, a congested sinus is relieved and nasal passages are opened. When suffering from a cough or cold, this elevated back sleep position helps to encourage a more restful sleep. 

 

If you happen to suffer from acid reflux, more clinically referred to as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), you’ll find that the symptoms are reduced when sleeping in this position. It can be highly liberating for someone who has suffered from poor sleep for a long period of time. 

5. Reduce spots and other face irritations

Are you tired of seeing your face plagued by blackheads and whiteheads, or covered in red blotches and other skin irritations? Believe it or not, the cause could be your sleeping position.

 

If you’ve washed your face in different ways and reduced the amount of sugar you consume, but still suffer from spots and irritated skin, give sleeping on your back a try. Why does it work? It’s simple… your face comes into less contact with the pillowcase and, as a result, is kept away from dirt, grime, and oils that plague your pillow… even when you wash your bedding regularly. 

6. Prevent sleep wrinkles and lines

On a similar note, if you sleep on your back you can prevent facial aging. Yep! Sleep wrinkles are a thing. When you fall asleep on your face, or your side, and your skin is squished and squashed for a number of hours every single night, the friction can create premature aging. 

 

These wrinkles can appear on the neck too for the same reasons. Avoid sleeping in positions that force your neck and stretch your skin.

7. Sleep habits reduce facial puffiness

If you wake up every morning with a puffy face, caused by pools of fluid that build up in certain areas, you might want to reconsider the position you sleep in. Laying on your back at night is one of the most effective ways of reducing puffy eyes or a swollen face when morning comes. 

 

Elevating your head slightly, through the use of a firm pillow, can also help to reduce the problem even further. 

Back sleeping and young children

It’s important to remember that sleeping advice differs for children and adults. Babies and very young infants should always be positioned to sleep on their backs, as this simple rule at nighttime helps to significantly reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). 

 

When babies and young infants sleep on their stomachs, there’s a notable increase in nasal bacterial load. Stomach, or prone sleeping, in infants also makes it more difficult for children to breathe with ease. There’s also a significant increase in upper airway secretions when children sleep on their stomachs, all of which contributes to an increased risk of health complications. 

 

While we tend to sleep more and more on our sides as we age, stomach sleeping is very common when we are little, so it’s important that new parents keep an eye on their little ones, encouraging them to back and side sleep as much as possible; particularly as we know that children tend to sleep equally on their sides, backs, and stomachs. 

When adults shouldn’t sleep on their backs

Despite the many benefits of sleeping on your back, it’s not the perfect position for everyone. Someone who suffers from sleep apnea (OSA) could exacerbate their condition by sleeping on their back.

 

Sleep apnea is a very common sleep disorder in which the airways collapse during sleep, breathing stops for a significant amount of time and an inner alert is triggered, causing the person to wake up. Sleep experts confirm that symptoms are reduced and sleep is improved when those suffering from the condition learn to sleep on their side or stomach. 

 

Sleeping on your back can also worsen snoring. If you’re already prone to snoring during sleep, supine sleeping does nothing to help the situation. 

Can sleeping on your back cause sleep paralysis?

Heavy snorers or sleep apnea sufferers may find that sleeping on their back causes sleep paralysis, which is the feeling that you’re unable to move. It generally happens when someone is abruptly brought out of their sleep and it’s more likely to happen, studies show, when laying on your back.

Getting the mattress right

You need to get the right mattress if you intend to enjoy sleeping on your back. Some mattresses are firm, others are soft, and there are a variety of materials to choose from. Material type affects body temperature. Firmness will affect spine position and general comfort. 

 

In general, the firmer the mattress, the better it is for the body, helping to keep spine, neck and head aligned. 

 

Also, while aches and pains may be intensified by a firm mattress at first, in the long run the firm mattress is the ideal route forward toward pain-free or pain-reduced sleep. Particularly when lying on your back on a firm mattress.  

 

The best bedding for back sleeping

Creating the best bed environment for successful back sleeping goes way beyond the right mattress. Sheets, extra pillows, duvets, and other accessories all play a significant role. When you’re not accustomed to sleeping in a certain position, quality sheets can help by creating a soft bed environment. Special pillows that keep your head propped can also really make a difference to your overall sleep experience by helping to properly support your spine.

Quality sheets

Once you’ve chosen a supportive mattress, it’s time to select the type of bed sheet material most conducive to a comfortable night’s sleep. Synthetic sheets and organic cotton sheets are popular choices, as both fabrics are highly breathable and very easy to keep clean. 

 

The Mellanni Queen Sheet Set - Hotel Luxury 1800 Bedding is an option that comes in a range of bed sizes and colors. These sheets are made from microfiber, a material known for its fade, stain, shrink and wrinkle-resistant properties. The Mellanni Organic Cotton is a slightly more expensive choice, benefitting from the GOTS Certified Organic Cotton and promising no pilling, shrinkage or fading. 

Choosing your pillow

Head elevation is important when sleeping on your back. It can help to reduce sinus reflux and keep the spine perfectly aligned. Placing the right pillow underneath your head is just as important as choosing the ideal mattress for your body. How do you make the correct choice?

 

When it comes to regular pillows, go for a firm yet fluffy bed pillow. The premium bed pillow from Mellanni is a breathable and moisture-wicking cotton-blend shell that’s generously filled with 100% virgin-grade polyester fiber. Mellanni’s Premium Body Pillow is a 54” long durable, cotton blend shell, made using 100% virgin polyester fiber filling and designed to provide ultimate comfort while sleeping, reading, or watching TV. 

Upgrade your mattress with a mattress pad

If you’re not ready to make a new mattress purchase, but you know that your back could do with a little more support, you might find that the Microplush Mattress Pad from Mellanni is the ideal solution. It’s constructed with quilted squares that act as tiny pillows, providing added comfort throughout the night. It’s 100% hypoallergenic and fits mattresses up to 16” deep.



Extra tips

If you find it uncomfortable, but you know it’s the best route forward in the long run, is it possible to train yourself to sleep on your back? The answer is, yes! But the adjustment period is different for everyone.

 

Signing up for a session with an up-to-date sleep expert might be the solution if you’re finding the change particularly challenging. You may even find that you reap a lot of benefits from participating in a controlled pilot study to help you sleep on your back.

 

Peer reviewed studies indicate that a warm beverage, low lighting, relaxing scents, and less screen time before bed are extra steps you can take to better prepare yourself before sleep. Physically active seniors might also benefit from rolled up towels that support the body’s natural curves - under the knees and beneath the lower spine - helping to shift pressure away from the back. 

Other sleeping positions and their benefits

Not everyone will benefit from sleeping on their back and, in fact, some people should avoid it altogether. So, what other kinds of positions are there and what do we know about them?

1. The Fetus Position

This gentle natural curve, with bent arms and legs, mimics a fetus in the womb. While it’s a highly preferred sleeping position all round, notably twice as many women describe this as their preferred sleep position compared to men.

2. The Log Position

When you sleep on your side, with straight legs and arms by your side, your position is the log. This is a personal preference for people thought to be easygoing and relaxed in social situations. It’s a neutral position that keeps the body fairly free from stress. 

3. The Yearner Position

The yearner is another side sleeping position in which the arms are stretched out in front of the chest. If this is your favorite sleeping position, you most likely have an open nature. 

4. The Soldier Position

The soldier is a back sleeper neutral position. The upper body is straight and the back sleeper is on his or her back with both arms down by their sides, like a soldier. Lying face up might make you prone to snoring, but if you suffer from spinal issues, it’s preferable to lying on your stomach. Some of us are destined to become back sleepers.

5. The Free Fall Position

This is the specific position you find yourself in when lying face up with your arms wrapped around your pillow. It’s not the best sleep position for anyone suffering from back pain. Nor is it the best sleeping position if you’re trying to reduce facial aging, for reasons mentioned earlier. 

6. The Starfish Position

The starfish is the same position as the free fall, but on your back. You spend the entire night looking at the ceiling with your arms wrapped around your pillow above your head. Research suggests that starfish sleepers tend to be good friends and listeners. 

What are the best positions during pregnancy?

Pregnancy changes everything. Even your sleep. Certain sleep positions in pregnancy can be detrimental, because they reduce blood flow, particularly during late pregnancy, and can cause reduced birth weight in newly-born infants as a result. 

 

As a general rule, pregnant women should avoid lying on their backs during the second and third trimesters. Back sleeping can cause backaches, breathing issues, digestive troubles, hemorrhoids, low blood pressure, and a decrease in circulation to your heart and your baby. 

Final Thoughts

In summary, creating the right bed environment plays an important role in learning to sleep better.

If you enjoyed this blog, we’d love for you to share with others in your circle via social media. 

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