Sleeping position is closely related to sleep quality, but what tends to work for one person will not necessarily work for another. Some individuals can benefit from supine sleeping, that is, sleeping on the back.
We cover the potential advantages of sleeping on the back in this article and clarify when it might not be right for a person. We also provide tips on good sleep hygiene.
Scientists call lying on the back the supine position.
People who sleep on their back could do so in a starfish position with their arms and legs spread out to the sides. Others might sleep with their arms at their sides.
The advantages of sleeping in a supine position differ from person to person, but the following can be included:
Easing neck or back pain
Sleeping on the back puts the entire spine in a neutral position, including the neck.
This position helps prevent compression and twisting, that can lead to lower back pain or neck pain.
Bad alignment of the neck can cause headaches during sleep. Cervicogenic headaches are one example of this.
People who have these headaches frequently wake up at night with pain beaming from the back to the back of the head and the forehead.
Possibly preventing wrinkles
Studies have shown that during sleep, pushing the face into pillows can compress the skin. Over time, this may contribute to visible signs of aging by causing sleep wrinkles.
This appears to impact individuals who sleep on their side or stomach. During the night, sleeping in a supine position will help prevent a person’s face from pushing into pillows.
some other ways of helping to minimize wrinkles include:
- quitting smoking, if applicable
- avoiding excessive sun exposure
- eating a healthful diet
- moisturizing the skin daily
How to train yourself to sleep on your back
Normally, the place in which a person sleeps is set early in life and is not always easy to change.
It is also worth noting that individuals typically do not remain in the same position they fell asleep in. During a normal 8-hour night, adults will normally change roles somewhere between 11 and 45 times.
What is more, for everyone, supine sleep is not right. While some people claim that it can help with aches and pains, others report that it makes them feel worse.
If a person decided to try to sleep on their back by training themselves, they could do so by:
- using a small rounded pillow underneath the neck and a flatter pillow under the head
- using a memory foam pillow
- placing a pillow underneath the knees
- using a pillow under the lower back
- ensuring that they have a supportive mattress
Whichever approach a person chooses, they should understand that developing new habits may take some time.
Good quality sleep doesn’t really start or end with the sleeping position. People who want to sleep better should start by developing good hygiene for sleep.
Great sleep hygiene refers to a set of routines that help a person fall asleep and stay asleep, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
The following habits help to encourage good hygiene for sleep:
- going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, even on weekends
- going to bed early enough to allow for at least 7 hours of sleep
- going to bed only when feeling sleepy
- getting out of bed if unable to fall asleep after 20 minutes
- setting a relaxing nighttime routine, such as having a warm bath or reading before bedtime
- using the bed only for sleep and sex
- making sure that the bedroom is quiet, relaxing, and at a cool, comfortable temperature
- switching off all electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bedtime
- exercising daily
- avoiding caffeine in the late afternoon and early evening
- avoiding alcohol before bedtime
When you shouldn’t lie on your back
Sleeping on your back is not the best thing for everyone.
Sleeping in a supine position should be avoided by people with obstructive sleep apnea ( OSA).
OSA is a common medical condition in which all or part of a person ‘s airway collapses while they are asleep. This prevents and wakes them from breathing.
It can make OSA worse by lying on your back. Typically, individuals with the condition are better off sleeping on their side or stomach.
Sleeping on the back can also make it more likely for individuals to snore and make back pain worse.
In their third trimester, doctors warn pregnant individuals to avoid lying on their backs because it can minimize the amount of blood flowing to the fetus. It is normally more comfortable for the person to sleep on their side.
Sleep position is closely related to the quality of sleep, but for all, the best position is different.
On the back and neck, supine sleep may be kinder because it holds the spine in a neutral position. It can also help a person avoid nighttime headaches and sleep wrinkles.
However, it can make issues worse for certain individuals. In their third trimester, people with OSA and pregnant individuals can stop sleeping on their backs if they can.
If they want to, a person may train themselves to sleep on their back. Some strategies include using extra pillows and making sure that a person has a mattress that is comfortable.
It is also worth noting that many times in their sleep, everyone changes place. Even if a person falls asleep on his or her back or side, it does not mean that during the night they will remain in that position.