The Best Sleep Po­si­tion For What Ails You

Reader's Digest - - Contents - MARISSA LALIBERTE

Tummy, side, or back? How you lie down at night can make a big dif­fer­ence in how you feel in the morn­ing.

Back Pain

One trick to re­duc­ing back pain is to keep your spine in its nat­u­ral curve. Your best bet is ly­ing on your back or side with a pil­low or two strate­gi­cally placed to take stress off your lower back, says Jef­frey Gold­stein, MD, chief of the Spine Ser­vice for Ed­u­ca­tion and the Spine Fel­low­ship at NYU Lan­gone Health. “Of­ten peo­ple are more com­fort­able on their back if there’s a pil­low be­hind their knees, or be­tween the knees if they’re on their side,” he says. Whether your hip pain comes from os­teoarthri­tis or overus­ing a ten­don while run­ning, the ad­vice is the same: Lie on your back with a pil­low un­der your knees, which will keep your spine neu­tral—twist­ing to nei­ther the right nor the left—and put less pres­sure on the hips, says Priyanka Ya­dav, DO, a sleep-medicine spe­cial­ist at Robert Wood Johnson Uni­ver­sity Hos­pi­tal. “More pres­sure means more pain, which could keep you from get­ting a good night’s sleep,” she says.

Knee Pain

“A lot of knee pain can be caused by the legs touch­ing each other,” says Charles Bae, MD, a sleep spe­cial­ist at the Penn Sleep Cen­ter at the Hos­pi­tal of the Uni­ver­sity of Penn­syl­va­nia. He rec­om­mends putting a pil­low or some­thing else soft be­tween your legs to re­duce the con­tact.

Neck Pain

The right pil­low or set of pil­lows will keep your head even with your shoul­ders, re­duc­ing neck pain. Find a height that stops you from strain­ing your neck up or down, says Dr. Gold­stein. Sleep­ing on your pain-free side could help but might even­tu­ally cause that shoul­der to hurt, too, says Dr. Ya­dav. Lie on your back in­stead, with a rolled-up towel un­der your neck to help dis­trib­ute the pres­sure more evenly. Or al­ter­nate be­tween your back and your pain-free side. Plac­ing a body pil­low next to you can stop you from rolling onto the achy shoul­der.

TMJ Pain Shoul­der Pain

If you’ve got tem­poro­mandibu­lar joint (TMJ) dys­func­tion or another type of jaw pain, sleep faceup. “Sleep­ing with your face on its side can put pres­sure on the joints or the

jaw it­self and make the pain worse,” says Ana Paula Fer­raz-dougherty, DDS, a spokesper­son for the Amer­i­can Den­tal As­so­ci­a­tion.


Your sheets can col­lect oil from your skin, lead­ing to break­outs. While this isn’t the main cause of acne, try to keep your fa­cial skin off your dirty pil­low­case by sleep­ing on your back.


If your part­ner is com­plain­ing about your bear­like snores, try to sleep on your side. “When you’re on your back, grav­ity pushes ev­ery­thing into the air­ways and makes them smaller, with dis­tur­bances in air­flows,” says Dr. Ya­dav. If your snor­ing is caused by nasal con­ges­tion, one less ob­vi­ous trick she rec­om­mends is to el­e­vate your head with two or three pil­lows to help drainage.

Ob­struc­tive Sleep Ap­nea

On the other hand, if ob­struc­tive sleep ap­nea is the root of your snor­ing (or night­time tooth grind­ing), ly­ing on your side may stop it be­fore it starts. “It’s most com­monly caused when you lie on your back and your tongue

falls back and causes the ob­struc­tion,” says Dr. Fer­raz-dougherty. When that hap­pens, your up­per air­way is par­tially or to­tally blocked, so you wake up briefly—some­times for too short a time to no­tice—for a good gulp of air. Talk to a doc­tor if your snor­ing per­sists even af­ter you switch po­si­tions.


READER’S DIGEST When your stom­ach valve re­laxes enough to let acid come up into the esoph­a­gus, you feel the burn­ing sen­sa­tion of acid re­flux. Stud­ies have shown that sleep­ing on your left side helps symp­toms, likely be­cause that po­si­tion doesn’t let the valve open as eas­ily, says David Johnson, MD, chief of gas­troen­terol­ogy and a pro­fes­sor at East­ern Vir­ginia Med­i­cal School and past pres­i­dent of the Amer­i­can Col­lege of Gas­troen­terol­ogy. No mat­ter what po­si­tion you sleep in, use grav­ity to your ad­van­tage by keep­ing your up­per body el­e­vated with a wedge-shaped pil­low that ta­pers down from a height of eight to ten inches. That’s bet­ter than us­ing a big stack of flat pil­lows, which puts your body at a harsher angle, con­tract­ing your abs as if you’re in a sit-up and putting pres­sure on your stom­ach.

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