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Feel Better by Switching Sleep Positions

We all know that sleep is very important to our health in a number of major ways: it affects metabolism, memory, mood, immune function, and cardiovascular health. A lack of sleep can make it difficult to carry out basic tasks and can even be dangerous, if the deprivation levels get too steep. Caffeine and other energy-boosting substances are swilled and swallowed often to compensate for low energy levels, work apathy, and muddy concentration, but these aids may just be ‘band-aids’ for symptoms of a bad night’s sleep.

Have you considered that it might be time to try a new sleep position? Your favorite way to curl up or sprawl out at night may be taking a toll on you in various ways. Certain positions may be putting excess strain on your back or making it more difficult to breathe. If you find yourself tossing and turning at night, it could be your body trying to tell you it needs a change. Here are some comparisons of the most popular positions and their benefits.

The most popular sleeping posture involves some variation of lying on one’s side, whether with arms stretched out or tucked away somewhere near the head. Knees can be straight or bent up in a fetal-like manner. Many folks consider this to be the most comfortable way to fall asleep; it eases breathing and complements a natural spine curvature. If you tend to stretch your arms out, it can have negative effects on circulation, sometimes putting too much pressure on nerves and vessels, which can often cause you to wake up in the middle of your sleep to reposition. Arms down low at your sides can really help to relieve back and neck aches. Try sleeping on the left side to ease acid reflux and other stomach issues that may trouble you. Give the right side a shot to reduce pressure on certain internal organs such as lungs and liver. Being too curled up in a fetal position can restrict deep breathing and is not ideal for your back, though it’s recommended for comfort and as a remedy to snoring. Snuggling up with a pillow can alleviate pressure on joints by offering additional support – try placing one between your knees for the night.

Also known as the ‘starfish’ or the ‘soldier’, depending on how much or how little you tend to sprawl, back-sleeping is considered to be the most beneficial position for spine relief, in general. An added benefit is that it’s purported to be the best way to sleep to avoid wrinkles, since your face won’t be scrunched up against anything for hours and hours. Sleeping on your back may take some practice if you’re not accustomed to this posture. Placing a pillow beneath your knees supports lumbar vertebrae for a more normal spine position. You can also put a pillow on either side of your body to create a place to rest each arm at your sides, effectively creating a snug little nest for yourself. Try not to raise your arms over your head, as this is not optimal for circulation and can cause disturbances in your sleep as well as shoulder discomfort. The downside to sleeping on your back is often heard in the form of snoring. Try to keep your sleep a little quieter by making sure your pillow is under your head and shoulders to ease breathing and neck position.

Face-down slumber is supposedly best for aiding digestion, but can put a lot of strain on the neck, due to the sharp angle you must turn to position your face for breathing. It is also the position most responsible for back discomfort and pain, while cutting off circulation in the arms and shoulders if they are placed up around your head. If you are very fond of sleeping on your stomach and don’t wish to change altogether, make small adjustments to this position by placing a pillow under your pelvis to reduce lower back trouble by preventing hyperextension. You can also increase cervical spine comfort by using a small pillow under the shoulder your head faces to decrease neck rotation.

Keep these tips in mind for your next snooze. A better overall sleep equals a better tomorrow for you (and for those around you, if your moods tend to fluctuate a lot!). Noted effects of a good rest include improved concentration and memory, higher energy levels, improved athletic function, increased motivation, and a more positive attitude. Research has even shown that proper sleeping habits can pay off in the form of more years tacked on to your lifespan, which is a great incentive for taking slumber seriously! If you aren’t able to obtain the recommended 7-9 hours every night, finding the best position can at least help you achieve quality, uninterrupted sleep that will carry over in to the tasks and endeavors of tomorrow.

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