What’s the Best Sleeping Position?

Written by
The Manual Team
Medically approved by
Dr Earim Chaudry
Last updated
6th November 2021

In 30 seconds…

The best sleeping position for you is the one that best promotes restful, satisfying, and healthy sleep. Typically, you will sleep best on your back or your side. That’s because both positions help support the health of your spine and your posture and comfort in general. However, if you suffer from back pain or another health condition, such as sleep apnoea, a different sleeping posture might be preferable. 

Finding the Right Sleep Position

Sleep is a healthy, wonderful thing. Yet, it doesn’t come easily to us all. 

According to one study, one in five Brits find it difficult to get to sleep at least once a week. Meanwhile, a large study by the NHS found that even among young people, over half are regularly struggling to get to sleep or stay asleep.

So, what can we do to improve our sleep quality? Among other things, it can help to find the best sleeping position. However, what that might be can differ from person to person.

Here’s what you need to know about sleep positions — as well as some other things you can do to help your sleep.

The Best Sleeping Positions: The Basics

Let’s start with the fundamentals. The best sleeping position for you is the position that enables you to get the most restful and healthy sleep — and supports your wellness overall. 

Typically, there are three positions that are thought to be best for you to sleep in, although these change from one individual to the next:

  • On your back
  • On your side
  • In the fetal position.

Most importantly, these positions help to support optimal spinal alignment. That means they reduce strain or pressure on your back and shoulders, which you’re much more likely to feel when sleeping on your stomach.

Note: You are likely to change position frequently throughout the night — possibly up to 36 times. That means the position in which you fall asleep may not be the position in which you spend the night. 

The Best Sleep Positions for Different People

Most people tend to prefer sleeping on their back or in the fetal position. However, this isn’t always the case. Better sleep comes with finding the position that’s right for you.

Let’s look at each of the different sleep positions in a little more detail.

  • Sleeping on your back: Back sleeping – or in the ‘supine position’, as it’s known – keeps your spine straight and in a neutral position. That means that back sleepers are much less likely to wake up in the morning with pain associated with poor sleep posture. 

However, if you have lower back pain already, it might not feel very appealing. Similarly, you are more likely to experience acid reflux, sleep apnea, and heartburn in this position. If you suffer from those conditions already, it might not be the best position for you.

  • Sleeping on your front: While it’s a common sleep position to fall asleep in, most specialists would not recommend staying the night on your front. Most commonly, it can cause neck pain, particularly if you sleep in this position regularly.

    There are some benefits to sleeping on our fronts, however. It helps us open our airways, preventing sleep habits such as snoring and sleep apnea.
  • The foetal position: Sleeping on your side can be one of the best positions for your overall health. The foetal position enables the natural curve of your spine, helping to avoid – and ease – back pain. This position also seems to support blood flow. However, if you suffer from shoulder pain, it might not be the position for you.
  • Side sleeping: left or right? Generally, the evidence suggests that sleeping on your left side is preferable to your right. Why? For two main reasons:
    • Studies suggest it eases GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), in which acid returns up your oesophagus.
    • It makes life easier for your heart — and, therefore, your circulation. That’s because the pressure of your body is not inhibiting the flow of blood back to your heart.

Tips to Aid Comfortable Sleeping

So, how can you improve your sleep posture? Whichever position you prefer, there are some things you can do to help improve comfort during your sleep:

  • Get the right mattress: You don’t need to invest in the best mattress in the world. But one that is firm, comfortable, and flat will help promote more restful sleep. No, softer is not better. Mattresses that are too fluffy can mean you’re more likely to adopt unnatural sleeping positions that cause discomfort over longer periods.
  • Try a flat pillow: Again, too fluffy – in this context, high and marshmallowy – is not best for pillows either. Studies show a low pillow will prevent too much strain on your neck and support circulation.
  • Place a pillow under your knees: If you want to sleep on your back, a strategically-placed pillow will stop you from turning over into less comfortable positions.

Meanwhile, good sleep is not all about your sleep position. Instead, there are many ways to boost your sleep quality, including:

  • Improve your sleep hygiene: That means creating an environment geared towards a good night’s sleep. This can involve removing digital devices from the bedroom, keeping your sleeping environment cool, quiet, and well-ventilated, and only using your bed for sleep. This way, you will keep your bedroom free of distractions.
  • Exercise: Moving throughout the day will help make you physically tired and mentally relaxed. Together, these can make falling asleep easier and contribute to a good night’s sleep. Exercise can help reduce muscle pain, too.
  • Relaxation: Mindfulness, meditation, quiet reading, and other practices you find relaxing can help your sleep — particularly when you do them before bedtime.
  • Sleep supplements: Natural ingredients such as chamomile, lemon balm, and tart cherry have been shown to help you fall asleep and maintain healthy sleep throughout the night.  
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Key Takeaways

There is no single best sleeping position for everyone. However, sleeping on your back or side is preferred by most healthy adults. That’s because it encourages good neutral posture and promotes circulation.

If you’re struggling to maintain healthy sleep or feel like you’re often tired, there are other ways to ensure you get a good night’s rest. Sleep supplements containing chamomile, lemon balm, and tart cherry, such as Manual’s Good Nights, can help improve sleep quality. 


Is It Better to Sleep on Your Back or on Your Side?

Between sleeping on your back or on your side, neither is exactly better. Both are great for your spine and your overall posture — and they are both popular, natural positions. However, if you snore or have sleep apnoea, you might prefer to sleep on your side.

What is the Healthiest Way to Sleep?

There is no single healthiest way to sleep. If you are getting seven to nine hours of restful, uninterrupted sleep and you don’t wake up in discomfort, you are probably sleeping healthily — no matter which position you sleep in. Remember, you’ll probably change position during the night.

Can You Sleep on Your Stomach?

While sleeping on your back or side is preferable, you can sleep on your stomach if that’s what you prefer. You may wake up in discomfort, however.

While we've ensured that everything you read on the Health Centre is medically reviewed and approved, information presented here is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns, please talk to your doctor.

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