If you are one of the few people who naturally sleep on their back – good for you! I despise you and envy you at the same time.
You see, back-sleeping is one of the most natural and healthiest positions to sleep in, but it’s also difficult to train yourself to sleep in that position if you don’t already do so naturally. For me, it was an extremely difficult process.
I managed to do it in the end, and today I’ll share my experiences with you so you can also learn how to sleep on your back.
Why Your Sleeping Position is Important
Most people don’t give much thought to their sleeping position – as long as they feel comfortable, it’s fine to them. If it’s comfy, it has to be good for you! It’s a nice idea; I have to admit; it’s just too bad that it also happens to be wrong.
The truth is that your sleeping habits can impact your health in a lot of different ways. Almost every medical professional, psychologist, therapist and even most quack doctors agree on this.
It all starts at the spine – if it’s not aligned the way it’s supposed to be it puts stress on the vertebrae leading to slipped discs, dislocations, chronic pain and more.
Since the spine is not hanging in thin air, the problems quickly start transferring to every body part it’s connected to. The shoulders and the neck will probably start suffering first, but you’ll soon start feeling the effects in your hips and limbs as well. Not long after everything will start to creak and ache.
Stomach-sleeping is the worst when it comes to your spine – there’s no way for it to be aligned properly if you’re sleeping that way. Moreover, your neck is constantly turned to one side or the other, putting it under even more stress.
Your breathing also suffers when you’re sleeping on your stomach or in other bad ways. It becomes harder to breathe when you’re badly positioned due to your diaphragm not having enough room to expand. Soon your brain starts starving for oxygen and cells begin dying off. You won’t be rejuvenated when you wake up, and there will be long-term damage.
Speaking of long-term damage, you can even damage your nerves if you’re sleeping in bad and awkward positions and there’s no fixing that. It’s something you’ll have to live with forever, and it can be avoided if you just fix your sleeping habits.
One of the best ways to do so is to start sleeping on your back. There are a ton of benefits to sleeping on your back, and here I’ll discuss a few of them.
Why Sleeping on Your Back is Good for You
So, why is it that sleeping on your back is so good for you? Well, there’s more than just one reason, so buckle up! It’s time to go through them all – or at least most of them.
It’s Better for Your Neck and Your Back
Are you suffering from chronic back pain or an ache in your neck that just won’t go away? Well, sleeping on your back is one of the best solutions to it. Why? Well, if you’re sleeping on your back on a good mattress with your head position, so it doesn’t tilt forward, your spine will keep its natural shape instead of contorting into an unnatural one.
Due to this, your neck, back and shoulder muscles will all be more relaxed, easing any chronic tension that they may be under.
If you want to get into a perfect position for easing such chronic aches, make sure to keep your head straight instead of twisting it to the side, align your shoulders with your ears and hips and, if you have a bad mattress, fill the gaps between it and your body with pillows to compensate.
This will help keep any chronic pain in check, and it will stop it from appearing if you don’t have any. You will end up feeling more refreshed when you wake up in the morning, that’s for sure.
It’s Better for Your Stomach
At least one in five people experience acid reflux during their lifetime, and it’s probably even more than that, but who’s counting? It’s an incredibly common condition that can be quite difficult to deal with and it could keep you up at night.
The worst thing about it is that bad sleep could make acid reflux worse, which means it’s a self-perpetuating cycle of bad sleep and stomach acid in your mouth.
Sleeping on your back helps with acid reflux because of one simple fact – when your stomach is below your esophagus, the acid can’t go up and reach your mouth. If you sleep on your back with your head slightly elevated, you’ve beat acid reflux at its own game.
Of course, this isn’t a magic cure for acid reflux; you’ll still get it, it will just be rarer and less severe during sleep.
It’s Better for Your Arms and Legs
Another reason why sleeping on your back is one of the best positions out there is the fact that it’s probably the only position which won’t cause you to readjust yourself during sleep. Well, it won’t once you get used to it, but I’ll get to that part a bit later.
Sleeping on your back distributes the weight evenly across your entire skeletal frame, which can help you avoid a myriad of issues. These range from numbness in your limbs due to poor circulation all the way up to muscle cramps due to tossing and turning as well as high muscle tension. You won’t end up sleeping on your arm if you sleep on your back.
It’s Better for Your Face
Yes, seriously – this is not a joke. It’s even sort of logical. It’s the only position where your face isn’t halfway buried into your pillow and all wrinkled up.
Having one side of your face constantly on your pillow leads to more wrinkles appearing there. It also leads to more puffiness around your eyes when you wake up in the morning. Your skin regenerates better as well, and you get fewer pimples if you don’t have one side all pillowed-up since your dead skin cells can fall off freely.
Even better, you can treat yourself to a face mask or something similar if you’re firmly sleeping on your back since it won’t end up on your pillow.
The Bad Things About Sleeping on Your Back
Of course, it’s not all good. There’s a reason why some people hate sleeping on their back, and it can even be harmful in certain conditions. Here’s a bit of forewarning for you.
It’s Bad for Your Sleep Apnea
Far and away one of the worst things about sleeping on your back is that it could trigger or worsen sleep apnea if you happen to have it.
Sleep apnea is a serious condition that’s incredibly common and often goes completely undiagnosed and unnoticed. People usually notice most of the symptoms, including snoring, constant feeling of tiredness, unrefreshing sleep, daytime sleepiness, fatigue, constant waking during the night, dry mouth and so on.
However, sleep apnea sufferers rarely have any idea what’s causing such problems, and they dismiss them.
What happens when you have sleep apnea is that your airways become blocked while you’re sleeping leading to small bouts of choking or long pauses in breathing. You don’t notice this, but you notice the effects caused by your brain and body getting less oxygen than they need during the night.
If you have sleep apnea or suspect you might have it, sleeping on your back is a big no-no since it will worsen the condition. The best positions for people with sleep apnea include side-sleeping and sleeping with your upper body and head elevated. Properly ventilating your bedroom also helps when dealing with sleep apnea.
Of course, you should also seek medical help if you suspect you have sleep apnea and there are various treatments available, including assisted breathing machines and corrective surgery.
It’s Bad if You Snore
If you’re a heavy snorer and you happen to live around other human beings (or animals – I don’t condone animal cruelty either), don’t sleep on your back. Due to the way gravity works your tongue will fall back and block your airways, causing you to snore more. Even if you’re usually not a snorer, sleeping on your back might cause you to snore.
Sleeping on your side in the fetal position is a much better choice in this case, and it will also be beneficial for your spine and back.
It’s Bad if You’re Pregnant
It’s not quite as bad as stomach-sleeping – well, to be fair, few things are – but it’s still quite dire. Sleeping on your back while you have a baby on the way could interrupt the blood circulation to your stomach, leading to your baby being malnourished.
Yes, it is good for your neck and back pain, stemming from your baby bump, but don’t let that tempt you. The downsides far outweigh the benefits in this case.
How to Teach Yourself to Sleep on Your Back
If you’re aware of all the benefits and downsides that sleeping on your back comes with, it’s time to introduce you to the largest downside of all – how hard it is to train yourself to do it. It’s a struggle, but overall it’s worth it if the benefits outweigh the downsides for you.
Here’s how you can try, and hopefully succeed, to teach yourself to sleep on your back.
Stay in Position
Probably the most important thing about teaching yourself to sleep on your back is to stay in that position for as long as possible. If you keep rolling over into your usual position as soon as you doe off, you will achieve nothing.
Besides simple force of will, which rarely works, there are other ways to force yourself to stay on your back for the entire night. None of them are what you’d call comfortable, but if they are necessary, you should use them.
Use a Weighted Blanket
The most comfortable of these is using a heavy, weighted blanket that will make you feel more comfortable and stop you from easily turning onto your side or your stomach. The blanket should weigh at least one-tenth of your body weight to work. Of course, this isn’t an option when it’s warmer outside.
The second option is making a wall of pillows around your body which will keep you from turning to either side. Place them under each limb, your head and to the left and right of you. You could also buy special ‘wedge pillows’ that you can place under your head and body, designed to stop you from turning.
If you need some punishment to stop yourself from changing positions, forget the pillows. It’s time to use tennis balls or similar hard stuff. Tape them to the bed on each side of you or to your shoulders, hips, and knees. If you try to turn over it will be uncomfortable and painful so you’ll soon learn not to do it.
Make Yourself as Comfortable as Possible
I know this goes against some of the previous advice, but it still makes sense. While you need to take steps to stop yourself from changing positions, one of the ways to help with that is to make the back-sleeping position as comfortable as possible.
Use as many pillows as possible to make sure your position is comfortable, and you’re free of any back or neck pain. Having a pillow under your knees is especially helpful since it will keep your spine in the correct alignment.
Do Some Stretches!
Stretching your body before sleeping also helps with sleeping comfortably and avoiding back pain, especially your hip flexors and hamstrings.
To stretch your hamstrings, you’ll need nothing more than a towel and your bedroom floor. Lie on the floor and bend one leg while keeping the other one straight. Wrap the towel around the tight of your bent leg and hold the towel by its ends. Then, start straightening the leg until you feel the back of your thigh stretching – hold the position for up to 60 seconds, unless it starts being painful.
You can then repeat the process with the other leg.
Stretching hip flexors requires even less. Take a big step so one of your knees is bent in front of you and the other leg is outstretched behind you as far as it can go. Keep your spine straightened and started dropping your hips forward until you feel a stretch in the hip on the side of your back leg. Hold the position for up to 60 seconds, and then repeat with the other leg.
There! These stretches should ensure that you’re mostly free of pain when you go to sleep on your back.
Adjust Your Sleep Environment
Try to keep the temperature in your room at the right level as well, since that will help you fall asleep faster. Turn off any unnecessary light as well and reduce noise or use earplugs. Investing in a dehumidifier might also be a good idea. Try to do everything in your might to create the ideal environment for falling asleep in.
The faster you fall asleep and the more comfortable your environment is, the less likely you are to toss and turn during the night. This will help you retain your position, and soon you’ll associate it with sleep all the time.
How To Sleep on Your Back – The Final Word
So, there you have it! Hopefully, you now understand why back-sleeping is good for you and you can at least try to make it work. If you follow my advice, you are almost sure to get a handle on it though it might take considerable time and effort.
If you happen to have any further questions just post them in the comments and I’ll get to them as soon as possible. Until next time, sleep well!