Did you know we spend one-third of our lives sleeping or trying to? (1) Woah, that is a crazy statistic.

Sleep is vital for recovery and repair, to help you feel rested and ready to take on the day. The great thing is that it requires minimal effort.

Such a crucial factor for health, yet it takes nowhere near the effort as other healthy habits. Like exercising or meal prepping and eating clean, so you might as well do it right and maximise your sleep habits.

First of all, quantity and quality are both critical! How much we sleep combined with our sleep position can help maximise the body's natural ability to recover.

As we all know, at least six to eight hours of sleep is recommended by experts as it's a highly spoken-about topic. Personally, if I don't get at least eight, I'll be in a mood until noon. Not nearly as widely covered is the best sleeping position, which can affect sleep quality and how you feel when you wake up.

In this article, we'll explain the different sleep positions, which one is best and recommended for specific ailments. So read on to find the optimal sleep position to wake up refreshed and revitalised.

Healthy vs Unhealthy sleep positions

According to a 2019 study (2), your sleep position can aggravate existing back pain. Additionally, you might find that you’re stiff or aching after sleeping.

A healthy sleep position supports the natural curvature of your spine and aids your body with physical recovery. Sleep Foundation (3) advises that the best sleep position will have your spine aligned from your head to your hips.

The best sleep positions are ones where you’re lying on your back or side rather than your stomach. Sleeping on your stomach is considered the unhealthiest position, as your spine will be out of alignment.

Sleeping on your back

Sleeping on your back is arguably the best way to sleep, but ultimately, it's down to the individual and what works best for your body. According to The Sleep Doctor (4), sleeping on your back distributes your weight evenly, keeps your spine in alignment, and is unlikely to cause you to wake up with new aches.

Sleeping on your back is recommended for:

Neck pain

Sleeping on your back or side is reportedly the best position for neck pain. Harvard Health (5) advises using a pillow to support the natural curve of your neck, with another flatter pillow cushioning your head, helping to keep the neck and spine in alignment.

Shoulder Pain

A variation of sleeping on your back involves putting your arms above your head, known as the starfish position. According to Medical News Today (6), the starfish position is less associated with causing shoulder pain than the other positions. Sleeping on your side can cause shoulder pain due to the pressure applied over a whole night's sleep.

The starfish position, as well as preventing shoulder pain, can help relieve shoulder pain, but best to test and check what's comfortable for you.

Your arms by your side may feel more comfortable for shoulder pain, and if you are concerned about rolling onto your sore shoulder during the night, try placing a pillow to your side to prevent you from doing so.

Nasal congestions, allergies and asthma

Sleep position can affect your body's ability to properly drain sinus fluids and affect the overall function of your respiratory system.

If you suffer from allergies, asthma or have nasal congestion such as the cold or flu, it's best to prop yourself with pillows into an upright position.

According to Healthline (7), elevating your neck and shoulders will open up your airways, allowing your sinuses to drain more during the night. In addition, sleeping with pillows under your shoulders gives the drainage a gravity boost so that you can breathe easy while you sleep.

Sleeping on your side

Sleeping on the side is the most popular position, with a 2019 study (2) finding that more than 60 percent of European adults sleep on their side for most of the night.

Sleeping on your side is considered a healthy sleeping position as it keeps the spine aligned, is the least likely position to cause back pain, and is recommended to help relieve existing back and neck pain.

Sleeping on your side is recommended for:

Back Pain

According to Sleep Foundation (3), if you suffer from back pain, you should try sleeping on your side with a blanket or pillow between your knees.

Neck pain

If you suffer from neck pain, Sleep Foundation (3) recommends choosing a thick pillow to help your neck stay aligned with your spine while sleeping on your side.


Sleeping on your side can help prevent snoring. According to Web MD (8) when you sleep on your back, your tongue blocks the airway which can lead to snoring.


Experts recommend sleepers with acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) should sleep on their left-hand side to relieve symptoms. A study (9) showed that sleeping on your right side can intensify symptoms, as it takes longer for acid clearance from the oesophagus.


Sleeping on your side is the most popular position amongst pregnant women as it’s more comfortable. Medline Plus (10) reveals that sleeping on the left side can improve blood flow around the body and to the fetus while keeping pressure off your liver. It’s ok to alternate sides if this becomes uncomfortable.

The NHS also advise that sleeping on your side is best. In fact, after 28 weeks, sleeping on your back can double the chance of stillbirth. We strongly encourage pregnant women to speak to a specialist.

Sleeping on your stomach

According to a 2019 study (2), sleeping on your stomach is clinically believed to increase the load on the spine, reducing recovery and can cause aches and pains upon waking up.

This position requires you to turn your head to the side, taking your spine out of alignment and putting pressure on it. As well as causing pain in the short term, it could impact the health of your spine over time.

However, if this is your favourite position and allows you to sleep comfortably without aches or pains, here are some tips from sleepfoundation.com (3) to make it healthier.

  • If your mattress isn't overly firm and your hips tend to sink in, placing a pillow underneath your hips is best to help align the spine.
  • To rest your head use a thin pillow to prevent raising your upper body too high.

The best position for beauty sleep

We often refer to it as "beauty sleep". But did you know your sleep position can affect your skin?

For example, if you sleep on your side or front, the contact with your pillow or mattress can pull at the skin, encouraging sagging and wrinkles over time. This definitely isn't beauty sleep.

According to Healthline (12), lying on any part of your face causes fluid pools in that area, resulting in puffiness around the eyes and swelling in the face.

Lying on your back and elevating your head is best for beauty sleep. It will help avoid eye bags and puffiness to wake up looking well rested.

Try our Sleep Calculator

We hope this article helped you find the best sleeping position for you.

For more tips on how to sleep well, use our fantastic sleep calculator tool to get tailored recommendations.

Try the Sleep Calculator Now


11 Sources

  1. Aminoff MJ, Boller F, Swaab DF. We spend about one-third of our life either sleeping or attempting to do so. Handb Clin Neurol. 2011;98:vii. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-444-52006-7.00047-2. PMID: 21056174.
  2. Cary D, Briffa K, McKenna L. Identifying relationships between sleep posture and non-specific spinal symptoms in adults: A scoping review. BMJ Open. 2019 Jun 28;9(6):e027633. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2018-027633. PMID: 31256029; PMCID: PMC6609073.
  3. www.sleepfoundation.org/sleeping-positions
  4. www.thesleepdoctor.com/sleep-hygiene/best-sleeping-position
  5. www.health.harvard.edu/pain/say-good-night-to-neck-pain
  6. www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/shoulder-pain-from-sleeping
  7. www.healthline.com/health/asthma/how-to-sleep-with-asthma-positions
  8. www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/features/easy-snoring-remedies
  9. Khoury RM, Camacho-Lobato L, Katz PO, Mohiuddin MA, Castell DO. Influence of spontaneous sleep positions on nighttime recumbent reflux in patients with gastroesophageal reflux disease. Am J Gastroenterol. 1999 Aug;94(8):2069-73. doi: 10.1111/j.1572-0241.1999.01279.x. PMID: 10445529.
  10. www.medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000559.htm
  11. www.healthline.com/health/asthma/how-to-sleep-with-asthma-positions
  12. www.healthline.com/health/sleep/sleeping-on-your-back-may-help-you-get-the-rest-you-need#puffiness