Most people have experienced the consequences of sleeping the wrong way – they can range from mild discomfort in your neck or back to feeling pain every time you turn for the rest of the day. The wrong position can also put pressure on your lungs and disturb your sleep. When your sleep gets affected, your overall health is bound to follow. Studies show that worse sleep can lead to problems with concentration, memory and balance and cause mood swings. Prolonged sleep deprivation could weaken your immunity, worsen heart health, decrease sex drive and increase weight.
A study published in BMJ Open in 2019 suggests that sleeping in an improper posture all night can increase your risk of cervical and lumbar pain. In 25-60 percent of cases, cervical and lumbar pain due to improper sleep postures can turn into chronic pain which, in turn, can lead to musculoskeletal disability. The study suggests that this is true for all age groups and recommends that sleeping in the correct posture should be practised by all.
While nobody chooses to sleep in the wrong position, we usually don’t make a conscious effort to sleep in the right one either. Here’s what you need to know about common sleep positions:
1. Fetal position
Fetal position is when one sleeps on their side with their legs pulled or curled up. This is one of the most commonly practised sleeping postures and helps in keeping the spine aligned. However, since the person is sleeping on their side throughout the night, the spine can get strained and discomfort can be felt on the neck. Being too tightly curled up while sleeping can also restrict breathing.
2. Log sleeping position
Log sleeping position is the one where the person sleeps on their side with their legs extended, while keeping their torso, arms and hips in an almost straight line. This is also a healthy position as the back remains straight and no strain or unnecessary torque is applied to the spine.
3. Stomach sleep position or freefall position
In this position, the person sleeps on their stomach with their head turned to either the left or right side. Though this sleeping position reduces snoring and is helpful for people with sleep apnea, it can put immense pressure on the neck and spine due to the negative curvature.
4. Starfish position
Starfish position is the one where the person sleeps on their back with their limbs splayed out at different angles. This position is not bad for your spine but it can lead to lower back pain as it flattens the lumbar region, which is the lowest part of your spine and is a little bit curved naturally. This position also makes you snore and is not recommended for people with sleep apnea.
Improving the position you sleep in
According to experts, there are certain things that can be done to improve your sleeping posture:
1. If you sleep on your back, you can keep a pillow under the back of the knees to reduce stress on the spine. This also helps in supporting the natural curve of the lower back.
2. If you sleep on your stomach, place a flat pillow under your stomach and pelvic area to keep your spine properly aligned. Do not keep a pillow under your head when you sleep on your stomach.
3. If you sleep on your side, place a firm pillow between your knees to keep your spine aligned and reduce the stress on the hips and lower back. You can also keep a rolled towel or small pillow under your waist to support your spine.
For more information, read our article on How to stop Snoring: Exercises, yoga and home remedies.
Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health.