Most of us don't think twice about the way we sleep — we just get into bed and find a position that's comfortable. However, the way you orient your body is important, as there are a number of sleep positions that affect your health. Changing the way you sleep can not only help improve the quality of your rest but help prevent other health issues such as muscle aches and pains.
"Sleep positions are a very personal thing," Dr. Robert Oexman, Director of the Sleep to Live Institute, tells Bustle. "Side, back, and stomach each take a different toll on the body, and each has a different effect on individuals. Many people visit doctors each year for idiopathic pains, meaning they have no injury or illness, but are feeling pain specifically in this case, throughout their shoulder and hip. Most of the time this is linked to our sleep positions."
To combat these pains, it is a good idea to try and find the best position that relieves stress on your body. It might take some time to train yourself to sleep that way, but it will be worth it. Here are six sleep positions that can cause harm to your health, according to experts.
1. Lying On Your Stomach
If there's one position experts say everyone should stay away from, it's sleeping on your stomach. "This is considered one of the worst positions," says Oexman. "It is not only bad for the bad for the neck — since the head is turned all night — but it can also be bad for the nerves and cause numbness in your hands."
2. Lying On Your Back — If You Have Sleep Apnea
Sleeping on your back is one of the best sleep positions, as it is known to relieve shoulder and hip pain. However, if you snore or have sleep apnea, you'll want to avoid this position. "Snoring can be worse for back sleepers because the throat becomes relaxed as you rest, and gravity can limit breathing, meaning this position can become dangerous to those effected by sleep apnea," says Oexman.
If you sleep on your back, Oexman suggests flexing your knees slightly to relieve lower back pain.
3. Lying On Your Side — If You Have Shoulder Or Hip Issues
Although sleeping on your side can prevent snoring, it is often associated with shoulder pain or hip issues, says Oexman. "If this is your chosen position, try alternating sides to relieve the stress," he says. "This is a common issue with sleep partners, as they are usually assigned to one side of the bed. Try switching sides every three to four months to prevent any morning aches."
4. Resting Your Arm Under Your Head
It might be a cozy way to sprawl out in bed, but laying with your arm under your head isn't the best way to rest. "This could cause pressure on the nerves that interval the arm and cause numbness and tingling, also known as dead fish arm," says Oexman.
5. Twisting One Leg Over To The Side
Twisting one leg over to the side ends up rotating the pelvis and lumbar spine. "Prolonged periods of time in this position may cause back pain," says Oexman.
6. Sleeping With Your Jaw Clenched
Many people sleep with their jaw clenched and don't even realize it. "This is usually caused by grinding the teeth and may cause dental issues and TMJ pain," says Oexman. If you think you're clenching in your sleep, see your dentist, who might be able to get you fitted with a mouthguard.
Not one sleep position is perfect for everyone, so pay attention to your needs, and make sure you're choosing the type that's best for you.