series of woman in various sleeping posesWhat’s your go-to sleeping position? The position that just helps you get comfortable, settle in for the night and sleep the day’s worries away.

Well, there’s a little more to it than that. It’s more than just a position we naturally feel comfortable in. Whether you are a back, side or stomach sleeper—your sleeping position says a lot about you. It impacts your health, in addition to how well and how much you sleep.

Given that we sleep about one-third of our lives, knowing more about your sleep position and how it could affect you is important.

The sleep positions we choose make a difference in our lives. From the various benefits, drawbacks, and even what it says about our personality (think akin to horoscopes here) to how it might influence our dreams—we’ll dive into all the facets of sleep positions in this article. How can you be a better sleeper in your current position? And if you’re currently sleeping in a way that’s not conducive for your body, then it’s possible to train yourself to sleep in a new position.

What is the most common sleep position?

According to The Better Sleep Council, the most popular sleep position is the fetal position. 47% of Americans sleep curled up on their sides. Compare this to the least popular sleep position, the log position, which about 6% of Americans use to sleep.

How your sleep position makes a difference in your life

Stomach sleeping

So you’re a stomach sleeper…

We’re sorry to tell you this – but you’re in the minority. This is one of the least common sleeping positions. And unfortunately sleeping on your stomach isn’t particularly beneficial for your body or sleep. Many sleep experts and professionals don’t recommend it because of the strain and pressure it puts on your lower back and neck. You’re essentially pushing your body weight into your core.

That being said, if it’s a comfortable position, there’s ways to make it work for you without hurting your chances at good physical health or a good night’s sleep!

What this says about you and your dreams:

People who sleep on their stomach typically wake up with more anxiety than the average person, are more on the defensive side and feel like they have little control over their life.

If you sleep in the freefaller position

You’re sleeping with your arms wrapped around the pillow with your head turned to the side. Generally, a freefall position personality is assertive and bold yet doesn’t respond well to criticism.

When it comes to your dreams in la la land, sleeping on your back is likely to have you very restless. But apparently, sleeping on your stomach may lead you to experiencing erotic dreams, based on students in this study who reported more intense, vivid and sexual dreams

Benefits of stomach sleeping

  • For some people, this is the most comfortable position

  • Helps to reduce breathing related sleep disorders and decrease snoring

  • May decrease heartburn and acid reflux

Drawbacks of stomach sleeping

  • Decreases blood flow

  • Flattens the curve of your spine and pushes it out of alignment

  • Puts unnatural strain and pressure on your muscles and joints

  • Might experience interrupted sleep if you have consistent muscle pain and strain

Tips for stomach sleepers

If you want to continue using this position, some best practices for stomach sleepers include:

  1. Stomach sleepers need a slightly firmer, contouring mattress in the 6.5 to 7.5 firmness range. Anything softer will cause discomfort because your body will sink too much into the mattress and cause discomfort.
  2. Sleep with a pillow under your pelvis to support your hips and spine.
  3. Try to sleep without a head pillow so your neck is more aligned with the rest of your body. Alternatively, use a very flat pillow because you don’t want your head and neck being angled too awkwardly.
  4. Take a few minutes every morning do some light neck, head, shoulder and arm stretches.
  5. Avoid this sleep position if you’re pregnant, especially in the later stages.

Back sleeping

So you’re a back sleeper…

After side sleeping, sleeping on the back is one of the more popular sleep positions and offers many health benefits, especially if you sleep with your arms at your side. Doing this ensures your spine remains in a more natural position, which is necessary if you want to avoid neck, shoulder and lower back pain.

However, back sleeping is linked to sleep apnea and loud snoring because gravity will cause your tongue to block the airway. As a result, you’re more likely to experience disruptions in your sleep quality and quantity. If this continues to happen on a regular basis, you’ll find yourself feeling worn out and exhausted. So if you’re snoring and waking up because of it, you may want to consider switching sleep positions or using pillows correctly.

What this says about you and your dreams:

If you sleep in the soldier position….
With your arms straight by your side, you’re more likely to seem reserved and quiet if you sleep. You generally like structure and have high expectations.

If you sleep in the starfish position
You’re a unique person who likes to give to others and makes relationships a priority. You’re known for being supportive and a good listener.

According to research, sleeping on your back could lead to more intense nightmares due to the higher probability of snoring and sleep apnea. Researcher Calvin Kai-Ching Yu says: “Breathing-related sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, have been found to have significant impacts on the intensity of dreaming.”

Benefits of stomach sleeping

  • Decreases acid reflux problems if you properly support your head to keep it elevated above your stomach

  • Better at keeping your head, neck and spine aligned in a neutral position

  • Prevents wrinkles and sagging

  • Can help to relieve neck, shoulder and back pain

Drawbacks of stomach sleeping

  • Increases and aggravates snoring and obstructive sleep apnea symptoms

  • If you struggle with back pain, sleeping on your back could aggravate that further unless it’s properly supported.

Tips for back sleepers

To take full advantage of this position, some best practices for back sleepers include:

  1. Back sleepers need a solid medium-firm mattress and should aim for around a 6 to 7 on the firmness scale.
  2. Keep your head slightly elevated above your body with a pillow. This can also help to prevent sleep apnea and snoring.
  3. To avoid feeling pressure, do some light stretching before bed and place a pillow or rolled-up towel under your knees to distribute your body’s weight evenly.
  4. Use pillows under your arms to make you feel more cradled.
  5. Avoid sleeping on your back when you’re pregnant as it could decrease blood circulation.

Side sleeping

So you’re a side sleeper…

If this is the position you naturally gravitate towards, then you’re in luck: side sleeping is not only one of the most popular sleep positions but one of the best ones for your health. In particular, it’s ideal if you snore, have lower back pain and/or are pregnant.

Note that while sleeping on either side is beneficial, sleeping on your left side is preferred because this allows your stomach and pancreas to work with gravity rather than against it. Additionally, it’s good for pregnant women to sleep on their side in order to improve heart circulation.

What this says about you and your dreams:

That you’re relaxed, open-minded and able to compromise.

If you sleep in the fetal position….
You’re considered tough on the outside but tend to be sensitive on the inside.

If you sleep in the log position
You go with the flow. As a result, you tend to be easygoing, friendly and trustworthy. This is also a good position to have quality, restful sleep.

If you sleep in the yearner position
When you sleep on your side with your arms reaching out in front of you, you’re generally open-minded yet take your time to make decisions.

Studies have also shown that people who sleep on their right sides experience more positive dreams and fewer nightmares, however it could cause you to dream of swallowing or burning.

Benefits of stomach sleeping

  • Keeps the spine in a neutral position

  • Helps to prevent neck, shoulder and back pain

  • Decreases likelihood of snoring or sleep apnea because the airway is less restricted on your side

  • You might have better gut health as sleeping on your (left) side helps your digestive system

Drawbacks of stomach sleeping

  • It could increase your risk of shoulder pain

  • You have a higher chance at experiencing paresthesia – what could happen if there is too much pressure on your arm and it goes numb

  • Could cause wrinkles and breast sagging

  • If you’re curled too tight in a fetal position, you might limit your ability to breathe deeply due to constriction on the diaphragm

Tips for side sleepers

To take full advantage of this position, some best practices for side sleepers include:

  1. Invest in a medium-firm memory foam, hybrid or latex mattress to support your body. Ideally in the 5.5 to 6.5 range on the firmness scale.
  2. Go to your left side first and keep your chin neutral.
  3. Put a firm pillow under your head to keep your head in between your two shoulders and off the mattress.
  4. Put a firm pillow between your knees to create better body alignment and prevent hip/knee soreness (this is great if you have back pain).
  5. Try to be gentle on the shoulder and hip you’re sleeping on.
  6. Lessen pressure on your back by raising your knees toward your chest a little bit.

What is the best sleep position?

Conclusively, sleeping on your side seems to be the best balance for your overall comfort, health and wellbeing. That being said, everybody’s situation is different and the best sleeping position is one that allows you to fall asleep and stay sleeping.

Concluding thoughts

At the end of the day, you should sleep in whatever way is comfortable to you, as long as it isn’t painful and doesn’t jeopardize your long term health and wellbeing. But if you are curious or want to try out a different position – go for it! And whatever position you wake up in is likely what your body tends to gravitate towards the most.

The most important thing is that you’re getting enough zzz’s. And if you still find yourself tossing and turning after switching up positions, you might need to explore that further.