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Best Sleeping Positions

Dive into this article for comprehensive insights into the best sleeping positions. Learn how aligning the spine from hips to head, adapting to health needs and using strategic pillow placement can transform your sleep quality, alleviate back pain and reduce snoring for a rejuvenated morning.

Key insights:

  • Choosing the correct sleeping position ensures proper spine alignment from your head down to your hips.
  • Your health needs dictate the best sleeping posture and most people prefer sleeping on the side and back instead of on the stomach.
  • Side sleeping ranks as the most favoured position, potentially easing snoring, heartburn and back discomfort.
  • Back sleeping, holding the second spot in popularity, ideally supports the neck and alleviates nasal congestion.

During sleep, the body embarks on a crucial journey of self-repair and rejuvenation. The position in which we sleep plays a significant role in this important process by either facilitating or obstructing the natural curvature of our spine. Unfortunately, the wrong sleep posture can lead to the development of new aches or exacerbate existing pains, negatively impacting our sleep quality and overall health.

Considering we dedicate approximately a third of our lives to sleeping or resting, selecting an appropriate sleep posture is vital for our physical well-being. An optimal sleeping position can significantly reduce the strain on our spine, enhancing our sleep quality and minimising the risk of waking up with back pain, arm soreness, or shoulder stiffness.

What is the best sleeping position?

Determining the best sleeping position is paramount for fostering a healthy spinal alignment that extends from your hips to your head. This ideal alignment varies from individual to individual and is heavily influenced by personal health conditions and comfort preferences. However, it’s widely acknowledged that certain sleeping positions are superior in promoting spinal health.

Sleeping on one’s side or back is more advantageous than resting on the stomach. These positions facilitate more balanced spinal support, significantly reducing pressure on the spine. This, in turn, allows muscles to unwind and rejuvenate more effectively. Each sleeping posture offers distinct benefits, which are precious for individuals experiencing back discomfort or specific health issues. For those affected, experimenting with a new sleeping position could significantly enhance the quality of rest.

The research underscores the potential benefits of adjusting sleeping positions. A study involving adults suffering from back pain revealed that participants coached to sleep on their side or back reported considerable pain alleviation within weeks. Transitioning to a new sleeping arrangement may require time and patience, yet the health dividends are palpable.

Nevertheless, if you find relief in sleeping on your stomach, there’s no pressing need to alter your habit abruptly. Selecting an appropriate mattress and pillow can mitigate pain risks and augment spinal alignment. This strategic choice can provide the necessary support, ensuring a restful night’s sleep without compromising spinal health.

It’s imperative to make informed decisions about your sleeping environment and posture, as these can profoundly impact your overall well-being. Opting for a sleeping position that aligns with your health requirements and comfort level is essential. Investing in quality mattresses can enhance your sleep quality, promoting a healthier spine and more rejuvenating rest.

Sleeping on your side

More than half of the adult population prefers sleeping on one’s side. Studies indicate that men spend more of their sleep time in this position than women. This tendency towards side sleeping becomes more pronounced as we transition from childhood, where sleeping positions are more varied, to adulthood. A possible explanation for this shift is the natural decrease in spinal flexibility with age, making side sleeping more appealing due to its comfort to the ageing spine.

Sleeping on one’s side has numerous advantages. Notably, it supports the maintenance of healthy spinal alignment, significantly reducing the likelihood of experiencing back pain. This benefit is further enhanced when additional support, such as pillows, is incorporated. Side sleeping is also associated with a reduction in snoring and may alleviate symptoms for individuals with specific conditions, making it an advantageous position for:

Pregnant women

  • It improves circulation for both the mother and the baby, can help reduce heartburn and minimises the risk of developing sleep apnoea.

Individuals with acid reflux

  • Elevating the head while side sleeping can prevent stomach acid from travelling back into the oesophagus, relieving discomfort.

People experiencing back pain

  • It relieves pressure on the spine, allowing for a more comfortable rest.

Those who snore or have sleep apnoea

  • Side sleeping keeps the airways open, potentially reducing snoring and the effects of sleep apnoea.

Older adults

  • As the spine becomes less flexible, side sleeping offers a comfortable posture that can alleviate pressure on the back and joints.

To optimise the benefits of side sleeping, using a supportive pillow between the knees can further align the hips, enhancing spinal alignment and overall comfort. Moreover, choosing a mattress that provides adequate support and cushioning can maximise the positive outcomes of side sleeping, contributing to a night of deeper and more restorative sleep.

What is the best sleeping position for pregnancy?

For those expecting, health professionals universally advocate for side sleeping, particularly with knees gently bent, as the optimum position during pregnancy. This recommendation stems from the need to alleviate the added pressure a growing belly exerts on the body. Side sleeping not only eases this pressure, making it more comfortable for the expectant mother, but also enhances cardiac function, allowing for more efficient blood circulation throughout the body.

The left side is often highlighted as the preferred side for sleeping during pregnancy. This specific orientation helps to avoid undue stress on the liver, which is positioned on the right side of the body, while simultaneously promoting enhanced blood flow to vital organs, including the fetus, uterus, kidneys and heart. This position supports the body’s natural circulation process, contributing to both the mother’s and the baby’s well-being.

It’s acknowledged, however, that maintaining a single sleeping position throughout the night can become uncomfortable, particularly as pregnancy progresses. For those who experience discomfort while resting on their left side, alternating to the right side can offer a reprieve from continuous pressure on the left hip. This adjustment can be beneficial in preventing discomfort and ensuring restful sleep.

Employing pillows can be remarkably effective in further alleviating tension and supporting the body. Placing a pillow under the belly supports the baby bump, easing the strain on the back and hips. Similarly, situating a pillow between the legs can help maintain hip alignment, reducing stress on the lower back. For additional comfort, a pillow at the small of the back can offer extra support, ensuring a more comfortable and restful night’s sleep.

What is the best sleeping position for back pain?

For individuals experiencing back pain, adopting the side sleeping position is often recommended by healthcare professionals as the most beneficial posture. This advice is supported by evidence suggesting that side sleeping, especially when enhanced with the strategic placement of a pillow or blanket between the knees, can significantly alleviate discomfort in the back, as well as in the neck.

When selecting a pillow for side sleeping, it’s crucial to consider its loft, or thickness. The ideal pillow should fill the gap between your neck and the shoulder adequately, ensuring that your neck remains in a neutral position, aligned with your spine. This alignment is key to preventing any strain or discomfort that might otherwise arise during sleep. A pillow that is too thin or too thick can disrupt this alignment, leading to potential pain and stiffness in the neck and back areas.

Moreover, maintaining proper spinal alignment while sleeping on your side not only helps in reducing existing back pain but also aids in preventing further discomfort. It’s a proactive approach to ensuring that your body rests in a posture that supports spinal health and overall well-being.

Health organisations such as the American Chiropractic Association emphasise the importance of ergonomic sleep positions and the correct use of pillows to mitigate back pain. These guidelines highlight how minor adjustments in sleep setup can significantly improve sleep quality and reduce discomfort for those suffering from back pain.

For those looking to ease back pain through better sleep posture, side sleeping with an adequately chosen pillow for neck support offers a practical and effective solution. This strategy addresses immediate discomfort and contributes to long-term spinal health, as validated by healthcare professionals and through scientific research.

Are there any drawbacks to sleeping on your side?

While sleeping on one’s side is often praised for its health benefits, including improved spinal alignment and reduced snoring, it’s not without its potential drawbacks. Specifically, individuals suffering from shoulder pain or those concerned about developing facial wrinkles may find this position less than ideal.

For those experiencing shoulder discomfort, the side sleeping position can exacerbate soreness or lead to a feeling of tightness. This is because the weight of the body may put additional pressure on the shoulder, aggravating any existing conditions. To mitigate these effects, health professionals advise alternating sleeping positions throughout the night and ensuring the use of an appropriate pillow and mattress.

A mattress with adequate give is essential, as it allows the hips and shoulders to sink slightly, relieving pressure points and maintaining a neutral spinal position. This advice is supported by ergonomic and sleep health research, as detailed by sources such as the American Chiropractic Association.

Furthermore, concerns about facial wrinkles are also associated with side sleeping. The consistent pressure and friction of the face against the pillow can lead to the stretching and compressing of the skin, potentially accelerating the formation of wrinkles over time. Dermatological studies have pointed out that altering sleep positions or investing in specially designed pillows can help in reducing this risk by minimising direct pressure on the face.

Is one sleeping position better than the other?

For those who prefer side sleeping, choosing to rest on the left side could offer additional health benefits over sleeping on the right. This preference stems from an understanding of how body positioning can affect internal organs and overall health.

Experts particularly advise left-side sleeping for pregnant individuals, as well as those suffering from acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), due to its potential to alleviate pressure on internal organs and reduce discomfort.

Sleeping on the right side, conversely, has been associated with an increased likelihood of exacerbating heartburn symptoms. The rationale behind this advice lies in the anatomy and positioning of the stomach and its relationship with the oesophagus; sleeping on the left side tends to be more conducive to reducing acid reflux into the oesophagus, thereby minimising the risk of heartburn.

Furthermore, a symmetrical side-sleeping position is crucial to prevent waking up with pain symptoms. Achieving proper spinal alignment from the hips to the head is essential for a restful and restorative sleep.

Utilising pillows effectively can aid in maintaining this alignment; placing pillows on either side of the body can help stabilise the sleeping position, while a small pillow between the knees can help level the hips, further supporting spinal health.

Sleeping on your back

Sleeping on your back holds the position of the second most favoured sleep posture, closely following side sleeping, yet it boasts a myriad of benefits that stand on equal footing. This position facilitates a natural spinal alignment, enabling an even distribution of body weight across your back. This equilibrium plays a crucial role in mitigating potential discomfort in both the neck and back regions, promoting a pain-free and restful night’s sleep.

Moreover, back sleeping can significantly benefit individuals experiencing nasal congestion or those with allergies. Elevating the head with pillows while lying on your back can aid in reducing congestion, making it easier to breathe and ensuring a more comfortable sleep. This adjustment helps in keeping the airways open, alleviating the discomfort that comes with a stuffy nose.

Another notable advantage of back sleeping lies in its positive impact on skin health. As this position involves lying face-up, it eliminates any direct pressure on the face from pillows or the mattress, which is a common cause of facial wrinkles. Therefore, individuals concerned about preserving their skin’s youthful appearance might find back sleeping especially advantageous.

Specific groups of people stand to benefit greatly from adopting the back sleeping posture, including:

Individuals with lumbar spinal pain

  • The even weight distribution helps in reducing strain on the spine, particularly in the lumbar region, offering relief from discomfort.

Those concerned about wrinkles

  • With no pressure on the face, the risk of developing sleep-induced wrinkles is minimised.

People experiencing neck pain

  • Proper head and neck support can alleviate stress on these areas, contributing to pain reduction.

Individuals with nasal congestion

  • Elevating the head promotes better drainage and reduces congestion, leading to improved breathing during sleep.

To enhance the benefits of back sleeping, selecting the right mattress and pillow is crucial. A mattress that provides adequate support while conforming to the body’s natural curves can enhance spinal alignment. Simultaneously, a pillow that maintains the head and neck in a neutral position can prevent unnecessary strain, ensuring optimal comfort and support.

What is the best sleeping position for neck pain?

For individuals suffering from neck pain, adopting the back sleeping position is highly recommended. This posture is optimal because it minimises the chances of neck misalignment, a common issue with side or stomach sleeping. Achieving proper support for the neck is crucial; thus, selecting the appropriate pillow is key. A pillow that provides firm support to the neck, allowing the head to rest comfortably at a slightly lower elevation, can significantly reduce discomfort.

Goose or duck-down pillows, known for their ability to contour to the shape of the neck and head, or pillows featuring a central divot to cradle the head, are excellent choices for this purpose. Alternatively, rolling a towel to place underneath the neck, coupled with a flatter pillow for the head, can also offer a makeshift solution that supports natural alignment.

Maintaining symmetrical arm positions while sleeping on your back further enhances spinal health. Keeping arms parallel and close to the body, rather than positioned asymmetrically (such as one arm resting on the forehead), helps prevent introducing imbalances to the spine. These imbalances can exacerbate or contribute to the development of shoulder and neck pain over time.

Implementing these strategies can lead to a noticeable improvement in neck pain, promoting a more restful sleep and contributing to overall spinal health. Ensuring the neck is adequately supported and maintaining a symmetrical posture are key components of this approach.

What is the best sleeping position for a stuffy nose?

For those dealing with allergies or a congested nose, elevating the upper body is key to alleviating discomfort. By strategically using pillows to prop up your upper back, you can achieve a semi-upright posture. This elevation is crucial not only for maintaining spinal integrity but also for ensuring that your airways remain open, facilitating easier breathing. Moreover, this slightly inclined position can aid in the drainage of nasal passages, providing relief from congestion.

It’s important to avoid lying completely flat, as this can exacerbate nasal congestion, leading to a more restless night. The goal is to find a comfortable angle that allows for unobstructed breathing while also supporting the natural curve of your spine. Opting for a set-up that keeps your head and shoulders elevated above the heart can significantly improve airflow and reduce the build-up of congestion in your nasal passages.

This approach to managing a stuffy nose during sleep is endorsed by health professionals and sleep experts, who highlight the benefits of an elevated sleeping position for respiratory health. For instance, the Sleep Foundation and Mayo Clinic offer guidance on sleep positions that can help ease breathing difficulties related to allergies and congestion. By following these recommendations, individuals can achieve more restful sleep and better manage the symptoms of a stuffy nose.

What are the drawbacks to sleeping on your back?

Sleeping on your back, though preferred by some for its benefits in promoting spinal alignment and reducing facial wrinkles, is not suitable for everyone. Specific groups who may face challenges with this sleep position include:

  • Pregnant women
  • Individuals who snore or have sleep apnoea
  • People experiencing certain types of back pain
  • Those with GERD or acid reflux
  • Heavier adults
  • Older adults

For individuals who snore or suffer from sleep apnoea, the back sleeping position can aggravate these conditions due to the increased risk of airway obstruction. Research shows that more than half of those with sleep apnoea experience more severe symptoms when lying on their backs. The pressure of gravity on the body can also make it difficult for older or heavier adults to breathe comfortably in this position.

In terms of back pain, not everyone finds relief from lying on their back. Depending on mattress firmness, a gap may form between the lower back and the mattress, creating potential for lumbar discomfort. This issue can be mitigated by placing a thin pillow under the lower back or under the knees, which helps maintain the spine’s natural curvature and relieves pressure.

Pregnant women are advised against sleeping on their back, especially during the later stages of pregnancy, as the weight of the growing fetus can place pressure on vital blood vessels, affecting blood flow and potentially increasing the risk of complications. While the link between back sleeping in the third trimester and an increased risk of stillbirth is being studied, conclusive evidence has yet to be established.

Alternating between back and side sleeping throughout the night might offer a solution for those seeking to reduce discomfort and address specific health issues related to their sleep position.

Sleeping on your stomach

What’s wrong with sleeping on your stomach?

Sleeping on the stomach is regarded as the least favoured position among sleepers, with studies indicating that less than 10% of our nightly rest is spent in this posture. Despite its rarity, stomach sleeping holds certain advantages, particularly for those who snore. This position aids in opening up the airways, potentially reducing snoring by allowing for easier breathing.

Stomach sleeping, while preferred by a minority, poses significant challenges and is generally advised against by healthcare professionals. This position is particularly unsuitable for:

  • Pregnant women
  • Individuals experiencing neck or back pain
  • Those concerned about facial wrinkles

One of the primary issues with stomach sleeping is its minimal support for the back, leading to increased spinal pressure. This can often result in waking up with discomfort or pain. For stomach sleepers, maintaining a neutral head and neck position is challenging, as the head must be turned to one side. This creates an unnatural twist in the neck and misaligns it with the spine, contributing to potential strain and discomfort.

Moreover, if the mattress lacks firmness, there’s a tendency for the stomach and hips to sink more deeply than the rest of the body. Such an uneven distribution forces the spine into an awkward position, stretching it beyond its natural alignment. Over time, this asymmetrical posture can have detrimental effects on spinal health, leading to chronic discomfort or pain.

Additionally, stomach sleeping directly impacts facial skin, as it involves pressing the face against the pillow or mattress. This constant pressure not only contributes to the formation of wrinkles but can also exacerbate existing ones, due to the friction and compression against the sleep surface.

Healthcare and sleep research underscore these points, cautioning against the long-term consequences of stomach sleeping on both spinal health and skin condition. Medical journals and sleep experts, including those specialising in dermatology and orthopaedics, offer insight into the biomechanics of sleep positions and their impact on physical well-being. The consensus is clear, for those seeking to maintain spinal health and reduce the risk of wrinkles, stomach sleeping is a position best avoided.

How to sleep better on your stomach

For stomach sleepers, finding a comfortable and pain-free position can be challenging due to the potential for spinal misalignment. Nevertheless, with the correct sleeping accessories, achieving a restful night’s sleep is possible. If you prefer this position, consider using a very thin pillow or foregoing one altogether to minimise neck strain and prevent your spine from curving unnaturally. Additionally, placing a slim pillow beneath your hips can assist in aligning your spine more naturally, reducing the likelihood of waking up with discomfort.

Opting for a firm mattress can make a significant difference in preventing the common spinal alignment issues associated with stomach sleeping. A firmer surface supports the body evenly, preventing the midsection from sinking too deeply and straining the back.

Ultimately, the ideal sleep position is the one that allows you to sleep soundly through the night and wake feeling refreshed, without stiffness or pain. If stomach sleeping meets these criteria for you, there’s no imperative need for change. However, if you’re seeking improved comfort or experiencing sleep disturbances, experimenting with different positions could be beneficial. Transitioning to a new sleep posture might require some adjustment time, but with patience and the right setup, you can enhance your sleep quality significantly.

Sleep quality is fundamentally linked to your chosen sleep position. Exploring different positions and making adjustments, such as altering your pillow or mattress, is just one strategy among many for enhancing your sleep experience.


Sleeping positions play a crucial role in determining the quality of sleep and overall health. While each position has its advantages, side sleeping is often recommended for its benefits in promoting spinal alignment, reducing snoring and alleviating symptoms of certain health conditions like acid reflux and sleep apnoea. However, for pregnant women and individuals with specific health concerns, careful consideration and adjustments may be necessary to ensure comfort and safety.

Back sleeping, regarded as beneficial for spinal health and reducing facial wrinkles, may not be suitable for everyone, particularly those with sleep apnoea, certain types of back pain, pregnant women, heavier adults and older individuals. Adjustments like pillow placement can help mitigate some risks associated with back sleeping.

Stomach sleeping, the least popular position, can lead to neck and back pain due to poor spinal alignment and is generally discouraged, especially for pregnant women and those concerned about facial wrinkles. For those who prefer this position, using a thin pillow or no pillow and placing a pillow under the hips can help improve alignment.

Ultimately, the best sleep position is one that allows for restful sleep without causing pain or discomfort. Individuals are encouraged to consider their health conditions and comfort preferences when choosing a sleep position, potentially trying different arrangements and using supportive pillows and mattresses to find what works best for them. Consulting with healthcare providers for personalised advice based on specific needs is also recommended for optimal sleep health.


The information provided in this article was drawn from expert knowledge. It did not directly reference specific articles, authors, or publications. However, the guidance and insights are consistent with the type of information found in sources such as:

  • American Academy of Sleep Medicine
  • National Institutes of Health (NIH)
  • Obstetrics & Gynaecology journals
  • Orthopaedic research publications
  • Dermatological studies

Published: 19th March 2024 (Updated: 19th March 2024) | Isaah

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