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What Does Your Sleep Position Say About Your Health?

“However much we all toss and turn at night, most of us have a favourite sleep position that we subconsciously adopt for much of the time. And different sleep positions have different advantages and disadvantages especially for back and neck health. See if you can find your sleep position and what it might mean for your everyday health.” Dr Ranj, Furniture Village sleep ambassador
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Considering that we spend a third of our lives asleep, which is around 25 years of the average lifetime, it’s also no surprise that our sleep positions also have different health benefits and effects.

So, what does your sleep position say about you and what does it mean for your health and the quality of your sleep? Is there really a best sleeping position? We explore the most common sleep positions and their meanings.

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Back sleepers

Back sleepers account for approximately 13% of the UK population. If you sleep on your back, you probably sleep in one of two positions. The starfish position means you sleep on your back with your legs stretched out and your arms raised above your head. If you sleep in the soldier position, you sleep on your back with your arms straight down at your sides.

There are both health benefits and disadvantages to sleeping on your back. Let’s start with the good news. If you’re a back sleeper, you’re less likely to experience neck pain when you wake up in the morning, as your head, neck, and spine are in a more natural position with your body weight more evenly distributed.

However, sleeping on your back can cause some issues. Some back sleepers may experience lower back pain. Also, if you snore or suffer from sleep apnoea, sleeping on your back may make things worse as sleeping on your back is more likely to pull your tongue to the back of your throat and obstruct your airway.

Side sleepers

Approximately 69% of people in the UK are side sleepers. Sleeping on your left side is more common than sleeping on your right side. There are also lots of ways to sleep on your side.

If you’re a log side sleeper, your legs are extended and straight. With your arms neatly at your sides, your spine is aligned which means you are less likely to suffer with neck and back pain. But be careful – sleeping on your side in this position may cause your arms to go numb and you may feel some discomfort in your knees and joints. If this happens, try placing a pillow between your knees.

If you’re a yearner side sleeper, you sleep on your side with your arms outstretched as if you’re reaching for something. As with the log sleeping position, this side sleeper position is good for your back as it follows the natural curve of the spine. You may, however, experience some numbness in your arms and some aches in your shoulders, neck and joints.

If you sleep in the foetal position, you sleep on your side with your legs curled up under you, much like a baby in the womb. This is one of the most common sleep positions and also one of the best sleeping positions if you are pregnant. Sleeping on your left side when pregnant helps prevent problems with circulation to the heart and blood flow to the placenta.

There’s some concern that the foetal position can put strain on back and neck joints of side sleepers, but if you’re curling up on a good quality mattress with a supportive pillow, then the foetal position can provide a good level of comfort and support.

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Stomach sleepers

Only 5% of the UK population are stomach sleepers, making it the least popular position. The most common sleep position for stomach sleepers is the free fall sleep position, sometimes known as the skydive sleep position. In the freefall sleep position, you sleep on your stomach with one leg stretched straight down and the other bent up towards your chest, with your head to one side and your arms are either wrapped around a pillow or behind it. Naturally, this sleep position takes up a lot of space so a double bed or even a king size bed may be needed.

While the freefall sleep position may look carefree, it can actually lead to neck and back pain as your spine tries to accommodate a fairly unnatural position. However, if you're a snorer and you prefer sleeping on your stomach, this could be the most comfortable sleep position for you.

That summarises the most common types of sleep positions. But don't worry too much about your sleep position, as it's likely you'll move between ten and 12 times an hour. In fact, most of us toss and turn as many as 70 times a night. If you’re struggling to get to sleep, read our top tips that help you sleep better or see if you’ve developed some bad sleeping habits.

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