The Best (and Worst) Sleeping Positions for Pain

What is the best sleeping position for you? Find out below!

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best sleeping positions for pain

Chronic pain can have a major effect on your overall quality of sleep. According to the National Sleep Association, pain is a main factor in Americans’ sleep debt. People who suffer from chronic pain experience lower sleep quality and higher stress levels. We’ve got a look at the best sleeping positions for pain – including back, neck and shoulder pain – to help you catch your best zzzzs.

Sleep quality 101

Physical pain often causes restless nights. If you’re living with chronic pain, you likely often struggle to find a comfortable sleeping position. The position you choose is critical: it can help to ease certain types of pain, make it easier to sleep and help prevent further aches.

If you consistently have trouble falling asleep or often wake up feeling sore, it might be time to change the way you’re sleeping. In general, it’s essential to:

  • keep your limbs long to increase circulation and prevent cramping
  • keep the spine straight and neutral to help prevent back and neck pain

Chronic pain in the back, neck and shoulder may make you dread bedtime, but it is still possible to get a restorative snooze. From adjustable beds to firm mattresses to finding the best sleeping positions for pain, there are many strategies and remedies that you can try to improve your sleep hygiene

Position #1: Sleeping on your back

Sleeping on your back is the best for overall health according to the National Sleep Foundation.

best and worst sleeping positions for pain sleeping on your back

When you sleep on your back, your weight is evenly distributed on your spine. This is important because it helps to reduce back pain. Additionally, your head, neck and spine are in neutral positions. This helps to eliminate strain and reduces neck pain.

This is also the best sleeping position for those who struggle with acid reflux, as it keeps your face turned upward and your head slightly elevated. This works to prevent acid from coming up through your digestive tract.

However, despite the obvious health benefits of sleeping on your back, it isn’t the ideal sleep position if you suffer from sleep apnea. The force of gravity that weighs down on your stomach and throat when you sleep on your back can cause your tongue to block your breathing tube, making snoring worse.

Position #2: Sleeping on your side

Sleeping on your side is another ideal position for those who suffer from back or neck pain. Side sleepers have the benefit of an elongated spine, which helps to reduce both back and neck pain. Additionally, this position keeps your airways open. This both reduces snoring and helps to prevent acid reflux.

best and worst sleeping positions for pain Sleeping on your side

If you do sleep on your side, your left side is ideal. Sleeping on the right side can constrict your rib cage and lungs and hinder blood circulation. Sleeping on your left side reduces acid reflux and promotes optimal blood flow, making it the preferable choice.

Position #3: Sleeping on your stomach

According to the National Sleep Foundation, the stomach is the worst sleeping position for overall health. Sleeping on your stomach pulls your stomach and spine into the bed. This places pressure on the curvature of your spine and strain on your back and neck. This position also cuts off circulation, which can lead to tingling or numbness in the limbs.

best and worst sleeping positions for pain sleeping on your stomach

Position #4: Sleeping in the fetal position

This is quite a common sleeping position. It helps to reduce snoring and improves circulation. 

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