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There are many ways you can optimize your sleep. You can purchase the best mattress for your sleeping habits, complete with pillows and sheets, use a sleep mask, and have your bedtime routine down to a T. And yet, you could still wake up feeling groggy. Why?

The issue could be your sleep position. Sleep expert Professor Shelby Harris, who does research at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, recently spoke to a few publications about sleep position and its connection to sleep quality. Her research found that people who lie on their backs have the best chance of waking up well rested. Why? Back sleeping ensures the spine and neck are safely supported while the head is elevated above the chest. The body is less prone to move into any unnatural contortions, which reduces the risk of aches, pains, and heartburn.

Despite back sleeping being really good for you, it’s one of the least common sleep positions. According to the National Sleep Foundation, only eight percent of people sleep on their back! The most common sleep position is on your side, which according to Harris can lead to hip and shoulder pain, as well as acid reflux. (Not-so fun fact: Side sleeping can cause your food pipes to loosen.) Lying on your stomach is uncommon, with only seven percent of the population sleeping on their bellies. Which is good, considering stomach sleeping can be tricky, since you’re putting a ton of pressure on your frontside. This can lead to muscle and joint pain.

That said, if you’re a side or stomach sleeper, no need to panic. Despite Professor Harris’s research, she reiterated that at the end of the day, it really comes down to comfort:

“Although it is commonly recommended that sleeping on your back is the best position to sleep in, comfort is key.”

Just make sure you have the best mattress if you sleep on your side, or invest in finding the best bed if you prefer your belly.

It’s no secret that sleep posture and position is key to a good night’s rest. Still, every body is different, and there are a myriad of factors that can make or break your quality of sleep. But if you’re constantly waking up in a fog, Professor Harris would probably suggest giving back sleeping a try.

If you’re curious, she has an interesting suggestion. She told Business Insider to sew a tennis ball into the lining of your pajamas to make that position uncomfortable and near-impossible to sleep in, forcing the body to move to a new position. If that’s not your cup of tea, you can can also try placing pillows on either side of you, along with one under your knees. This could help you from rolling and moving around too much.

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Laura Schwecherl

Laura Schwecherl

Laura is the Director of Marketing & Communications at Uncharted, a social impact organization that is coming up with a new methodology for solving some of the world's most pressing problems. Prior, Laura led marketing at the global health organization Possible, managing a team in New York City and South Asia to help improve access to healthcare in remote areas of Nepal. Outside of work, you can find her reading Murakami novels, writing amateur poetry, or trail running in her hometown, Boulder Colorado.

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