Having Trouble Sleeping? Scientist Suggests Slumbering On Your Back

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.

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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. Choosing the right pillow for back sleepers can also make the transition to this sleeping position easier. This could help you from rolling and moving around too much.

Laura Schwecherl

Laura is a journalist with nearly a decade of experience reporting and covering topics in the health, fitness, and wellness space. She is also a marketing consultant, where she works with impact-oriented startups to build marketing and editorial strategies. Outside of work, you can find her reading Murakami novels, writing amateur poetry, or trail running in her hometown, Boulder, Colorado.

1 thought on “Having Trouble Sleeping? Scientist Suggests Slumbering On Your Back”

  1. If you sleep on your back, snoring can become worse. Not only will your partner hate you, if there is un-diagnosed sleep apnea, sleeping on one’s back is dangerous to a persons health. Most physicians and dentists don’t recommend what you are saying in high risk populations w/ un-diagnosed sleep apnea. If you have a Cpap, it is hard not to sleep that way, but the feeling of tiredness is more related to lack of sleep, interruptions of REM -sleep fragmentation due to apneas/hypoapneas, or waking up while in the wrong sleep stage. You should not promote this sleep posture. Undiagnosed OSA is rampant in the American Population due to obesity.


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