Setting aside enough time to catch Z’s is a good place to start if you want to get rid of those bags under your eyes, but you’re going to need to do a little more than just hit the sack on time in order to fall asleep and stay that way until morning.
You already know that to get a good night’s rest, you need to cultivate good habits like limiting your alcohol and caffeine intake and finding the right mattress that suits your body.
But that’s easier said than done! If you want to start tracking your sleep habits — it is essential for mattress selection, after all — you should probably start by figuring out your sleep position, because the way you orient your body can affect both your sleep quality and your overall health.
Not sure what kind of sleeper you are? Each night before bed, take note of what position you assume right when you get into bed, and then pay attention to how you wake up. If they are the same, you have a match!
If you try this several times and the results keep changing, that just means you don’t have a preferred sleeping position, which can make things a little easier if you’re trying to mindfully select the best one for your own needs.
Here’s the lowdown on the four most common sleeping positions:
On Your Back
Only 3.8 percent of participants in a poll we conducted reported that they are back sleepers, making it one of the least popular ways to snooze, but here’s the kicker: for most people, sleeping on your back is the healthiest option, as it keeps your head, neck and spine in a neutral state and keeps them from ending up at weird, unnatural angles. You’re likely going to feel less pressure on those areas, so if you tend to get back or neck pain, this position could alleviate a good deal of that.
While this is one of the more natural positions out there, it’s important to note that everybody is different, and back sleeping can spell trouble for those with sleep apnea or problems with snoring, since back sleeping will magnify these troubles.
On Your Side (Legs Straight)
This is the second healthiest sleeping position for most people, and it’s pretty popular, too: 26.9 percent of folks sleep on their right side alone, either with their legs straight or curled up. Keeping your spine elongated wards off a fair bit of back and neck pain, and it also keeps your airways open, which is great for anyone who struggles with breathing problems like snoring or sleep apnea. It even reduces acid reflux!
On Your Side (Fetal Position)
Sleeping on your side with your legs and torso curled in improves circulation to your body — especially when you sleep on the left side — which makes it particularly good for pregnant women. It also keeps those airways open, just like the other side sleeping position.
Side sleepers might find that their arm sometimes go temporarily numb when they’re in the midst of a good dream! To avoid this, don’t put your arm under your body, head or pillow and consider using a large, firm pillow to keep your head elevated.
Though quite popular — around half of our poll respondents picked this position — stomach sleeping is not that great for you. It can unnaturally bend your spine, putting stress on your back and neck. You’re also putting a bit of pressure on your lungs, so it can even impact your breathing. While any of the other positions are preferable, if you absolutely must sleep this way, consider ditching your pillow entirely or using it to prop up your forehead and sleeping face down. It might feel strange at first, but you’ll adjust in the long run, and your back will thank you.
Remember, it’s never too late to break a bad habit, especially when the change leads to better sleep, better breathing and reduced pain.
Now go forth and get some rest!