Sleeping Positions

If you have done much research about snoring and how to prevent it, then you have likely heard that changing your sleeping position can do a lot to help.

But is it true?

Yes, there is actually a lot of merit to this idea. The most popular theory is that you should avoid sleeping on your back – and as it turns out, this is a pretty accurate theory. Sleeping on your side is generally regarded as the ‘healthiest’ way to sleep, from a snoring standpoint.

Sleeping on your stomach is supposedly no better on the airway, but is more strenuous on the back and neck… making ‘side sleeping’ the preferred position for sleep if snoring (or even sleep apnea) tends to be a big problem for you.

Some people have even gone as far as to sew tennis balls to the back of their pajamas to help keep them off of their back during the night!

Here is what you need to know about this stop-snoring method.

How Is It Meant To Work?

Changing your sleeping position is meant to work by changing the alignment of your airway. So basically, this is how it works.

When you sleep on your back, the loose tissue and muscle in your soft palate will relax. When this happens, it may close in on your airway and ‘collapse’ your airspace. This causes the air to rush through faster when you breathe, which in turn causes the soft tissue to ‘vibrate.’

This is a phenomenon known as soft palate vibration, and is one of the predominant causes of snoring.

But when you flip over and sleep on your side, it becomes more difficult for that loose tissue to collapse in on your airway. So this decreases your chances of suffering from snoring or sleep apnea. Even if it doesn’t completely get rid of the problem, it does tend to help make it less severe – and let’s face it, every little bit helps when it comes to snoring!

Of course, rolling over and sleeping on your back can be very habitual, and may happen unconsciously while you sleep. For this reason, a lot of people either sleep with pillows, sew tennis balls to the back of their night-shirt, or go to some other lengths to make sure that they remain on their side instead of on their backs throughout the course of the night.

This is one of the challenges of attempting to use a different sleep position as a snoring remedy.

Do We Believe That Changing Your Sleeping Position Can Actually Work?

Yes, we do believe that changing your position can help. We also believe that this can be a very beneficial supplemental remedy when used in conjunction with other remedies (in other words, changing your sleeping position while also using a stop snoring device, etc.).

Changing sleeping positions

For some people, just changing the sleeping position is not enough. But for others, it can do a world of good. This is actually a better potential remedy than a lot of people give it credit for – so trying this one out early in the game could save you a lot of wasted time and energy (and sleeplessness).

The Positives

Here are some of the positives to using a different sleeping position as a snoring remedy…

  • It doesn’t cost anything
  • You can literally try it right now, without having to buy anything
  • It works surprisingly well in some cases
  • There are a lot of creative ways to try to make it work

 

The Negatives

Here are some of the negatives to using this method…

  • It just doesn’t always work
  • It can be tough to stay off of your back while you are asleep if you are used to sleeping that way
  • For some people, changing positions can make it hard to fall asleep
  • It may not make enough of a difference to fix the problem
  • Sleeping on your side can be hard on the neck for some people

Who Should Try This Method?

Literally anyone can try this method – including children. As long as you do not have some physical ailment that keeps you from sleeping on your side, you should be good to go to give this one a try. Obviously, if you have a neck problem that keeps you from being able to comfortably sleep on your side, then you might have to work on that problem a little bit before you can hope to make this work.

Propping your head up with plenty of pillows, or doing a bit of research into how to make this process easier on your spine, are some possible ways to help yourself to make this work better.

Who Should Avoid Trying This?

People with complicated back problems might not benefit from changing their positions too much – especially since sleeping on your back is one of the healthier ways to sleep where spine health is concerned.

Should You Sleep on The Right Side or The Left Side?

At first, you may not think that there is any difference between the two sides. But this is not entirely true!

First of all, you should know that the healthiest position to sleep in for your back is on your back. This stands in stark contrast to the idea of sleeping on your side to cure snoring problems… but don’t grab your torches and pitchforks too soon!

Snoring and sleep apnea may very well be more dangerous to your long-term health than any back pain you could experience as a result of sleeping on your side.

Obviously, if you never have snoring problems, then feel free to sleep on your back. But if you snore, and want to experiment with sleeping on your side as a remedy, you might want to move further into the topic and figure out which side is actually better.

For example… many people do not know that sleeping on your right side can actually make heartburn worse. Therefore, you may want to sleep on your left side if heartburn is a pretty big issue for you.

Sleeping on your left side also promotes better digestive health. Because of how the stomach is situated, people who sleep on their left side are much more likely to experience a morning bowel movement than people who sleep on their right side.

But sleeping on the left side could also put a strain on some of the internal organs… most notably the liver, the lungs, and the stomach. This means that sleeping on your right side may be advantageous if you don’t eat food late at night, as sleeping on the right side can be bad for both digestion and acid reflux.

People who suffer from acid reflux while sleeping may be tempted to raise their pillow, to keep their head above their stomach. But this is actually really bad for your neck.

Instead, you can place bed risers beneath the top part of your bed, angling the entire thing so that your head is higher without requiring you to change your pillow setup.

If you are pregnant, you are actually supposed to sleep on your left side, to promote optimal blood flow.

While we are discussing it, it is probably important to point out that sleeping on your stomach is generally considered the unhealthiest way to sleep.

This position…

  • doesn’t support the natural curve of the spine
  • places pressure on several joints and muscles
  • forces you to rotate your neck
  • and compromises your breathing and circulation

The only real exception to this, ironically, is for snoring. Sleeping on your stomach can, in theory, keep the airway more open.

But this also comes at a pretty big cost. You have to keep your head turned to the side for an extended period of time, which could cause aching.

It also probably goes without saying that this position should be avoided if you suffer from any sort of back or neck pain.

What About The Fetal Position?

You may not know this, but the fetal position is actually the most popular way to sleep. 4 out of 10 people sleep curled up on their side, with women choosing the position almost twice as often as men do.

For the most part, this is a pretty healthy way to sleep. It still promotes side-sleeping, which is good for snoring. It also helps your spine to rest, and may even help to ward off conditions like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. Recent research on animals suggests that the brain clears waste better when you sleep in this position… so that is definitely a bonus.

But what are the downsides?

Well, if you curl up too tightly, your lungs may get squeezed. Stretching out and relaxing a bit, however, helps to rectify the problem.

Tips For Making Sleep More Comfortable

If you have trouble sleeping on your side, you may want to try a few of these tips to make yourself more comfortable.

First of all, you can place a pillow or folded blanket between your knees. This helps to ease pressure on your hips, and can make sleeping on your side a lot more comfortable.

Next, take stock of your mattress. Does it support your neck and waist? These are the ‘curved’ areas of the body, and supporting them correctly is important if you want your back ligaments and muscles to heal well over the course of the night.

Your mattress should be firm enough to be supportive, but gentle on the shoulders and hips.

If you can’t immediately replace your mattress, consider at least using small rolled towels to fill the gaps. Place one under your neck, and one under your spine. These areas, when supported, should feel much better and cause you to feel less pain.

You should also pay close attention to your pillow. Your pillow should support the natural curve of your neck. If your head curves upwards or downwards, you will end up having pain.

For best results, make sure that your ears, shoulders, and hips are all aligned.

If your current pillow isn’t doing the trick, consider buying a new one. You can also help to give your pillow a bit more height by placing a folded towel underneath it.

Sleeping on your side can also put a lot of pressure on your shoulder. To alleviate this, you should be using three different pillows: one under your head, one between your knees, and one more in front of your stomach.

With a pillow in front of your stomach, you will have support for your arm… and you wont’ be in danger of damaging your rotator cuff as you ward off snoring with a side-sleep position.

Does Side Sleeping Help to Get Rid of Toxins?

There has been some hype lately about the idea of ‘side sleeping’ to remove toxins from the body.

But is it true?

According to recent research, it actually may be!

Researchers at Stony Brook University have used dynamic contrast magnetic resonance imaging (also known as MRI) to take pictures of the brain’s waste-clearing pathways. In doing this, they have discovered that the lateral sleeping position seems to be the most effective position for removing toxins.

The brain cleans out toxins and waste while we sleep. In fact, it is believed that a buildup of these toxins and wastes could be part of what leads to conditions like Alzheimer’s.

The results of these studies were published in a paper called The Effect of Body Posture on Brain Glyphomatic Transport

The doctors in charge of the study also noticed something else. In both humans and many animal species, it would actually seem that the lateral position is actually the most common sleeping position… even in the wild.

Some speculate that humans may have adapted the lateral sleep position to efficiently clean our brains while we sleep.

What About Sleep Apnea? Can Sleep Positioning Help That As Well?

Obstructive Sleep Apnea is a little bit different from snoring… though snoring is one its more common symptoms. It is a sleep disorder in which the individual suffering from it actually stops breathing periodically throughout the night.

This is quite dangerous, for a number of reasons… but basically, it deprives the brain of oxygen. This keeps you from sleeping soundly, but it also puts you at an increased risk for a number of different diseases and conditions. These can include, but are not limited to… heart problems, stroke, diabetes, etc.

Your sleeping position can help you to overcome your sleep apnea problem… but there are also a couple of problems with this approach as well.

First off, if you suffer from sleep apnea in one position, the odds are simply too good that you will end up suffering from it in another position as well. Even if it doesn’t happen as often, it is still happening… and that is a problem.

Secondly, even if sleeping on your side does help you to overcome your sleep apnea completely, you may still be at risk for it in the future… and that means that you should still seek treatment for it.

Sleep apnea is certainly no joke. Even if you only casually suspect that you may be suffering from it, you should visit your doctor for a sleep study.

Snoring, on the other hand, isn’t always that big of a deal… unless it is keeping you or someone else awake. If you are snoring, you should definitely try to fix the problem. But snoring is still not as dangerous as obstructive sleep apnea.

Final Thoughts

Changing your position can be an awesome way to help improve the quality of your sleep, even if it does not completely remove the snoring problem altogether. It may seem like a simple solution, but the position of your body does have a lot to do with how much you may or may not snore – so it is certainly worth a shot.

Of course, if you fear that you may be suffering from sleep apnea as well, then a visit to your doctor should most certainly become a priority… as OSA is much more severe than regular snoring.

Sleeping on your side may help to reduce or resolve your sleep apnea risk… but if you are already noticing some of the symptoms, you should still get it check out. Sleep apnea is nothing to joke about. It can lead to some pretty serious health risks later down the road, and should never just be ‘left alone,’ no matter how minor it may seem.

 

Updated 2.23.2019

Josh Sigafus Editor

Joshua Sigafus is just a writer trying to make the world a better place. You can find him on Facebook.