Should you sleep on your back, stomach or side?

Should you sleep on your back, stomach or side?

We’ve all been there – you wake up with a pounding headache and throbbing back and you feel as though your only hope of putting some pep in your step is via a caffeine drip.

It could be that the way you’re sleeping is to blame.

“Patients with back and neck pain benefit from sleeping on their back,” explains Dr. Amit Gupta, a sleep medicine specialist with Aurora Medical Center in Oshkosh, Wis. “And patients with snoring and sleep apnea benefit from sleeping on their sides.”

Not only are there medical benefits to certain sleeping positions, but the way you sleep could be accelerating how old you look.

“If you’re concerned about face wrinkles, you should sleep on your back,” says Dr. Gupta, “as a particular side position or stomach-sleeping may promote wrinkling on that side of the face.”

It’s not too late to work on your sleeping posture. Check out the picture below to see what might be best for you.

Having trouble sleeping? Take a free online quiz to learn if you might have sleep apnea.

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  1. I always find that sleeping on my back causes more acid reflux. I end up sleeping on my side because of it. Usually on my left if I happen to be having reflux problem that night.

    • Exactly, Usually the only way I can sleep on my back when having reflux issues is when at a 30degree incline. I don’t know how you could sleep on your back having reflux without an incline. side sleeping on an incline also works.

  2. I’ll try to sleep on my side, but it won’t be easy!

  3. I will now try to sleep on my back every night! I didn’t know there was so much info about the way you sleep. when ever I sleep on my stomach my back always hurts and now I understand why. Every once in a while I sleep on my back I usually put a pillow under my legs to release the pressure on my lower back after a long night at work. Thanks for the info!

  4. I always go to sleep on my back, but always wake up on my stomach cause I must roll around a lot or something :/ any suggestions for me to stay on my back ?

  5. Todd Baker, MD May 22, 2020 at 11:05 am · Reply

    Thank you Dr. Gupta for your expert opinion on the impact of sleep patterns on facial wrinkles. While it is believed that repetitive pressures and motions may play a role in the formation of facial rhytids (wrinkles), we cannot overlook the most common causes of premature facial aging. As a Plastic Surgeon with a focus of facial aesthetics and skin cancer prevention, I strongly recommend all of my patients to avoid to apply SPF30 or greater mineral based sunscreen daily as part of a healthy skin regimen. Skin health begins with sun prevention and can be augmented by consulting with an aesthetic and skin health professional about simple products and minimally invasive procedures to avoid premature facial aging. As with many other health conditions, avoiding nicotine products will also help maintain a youthful appearance. For more information talk to an American Board of Plastic Surgery certified expert at Advocate Aurora Health.

  6. Sleeping on my back causes greater potential for “sleep paralysis” and it’s terrifying! Do sleep medicine specialists study this??

  7. Sleeping on my back causes my already severe reflux to be bad. I’ve always been told from my GI doc to NOT sleep on my back. Can’t say I agree with that comment about how sleeping on your back “can ward off acid reflux”. Best position for me with reflux is on left side. Even if I try to sleep on my right side, it causes non-stop caughing from reflux.

  8. I can’t lie on my back; it puts my back in an arch. Likewise if I lie on my stomach. If I lie on my left side, I feel a lump under my ribs the size of a tennis ball. The only position I can get comfortable in is on my right side.

    • You can always try putting a pillow underneath the backs of your knees if you sleep on your back, or between your knees if you sleep on your side. I have found both methods to be very helpful for me with the way my back is!

  9. I have heard about stomach/side sleeping causing wrinkles in the past. Also side sleeping in the same position causing hair line issues…even eyebrows! So…I have been a back sleeper for some time now. Thankfully I do not suffer from acid reflux.

  10. Arnie Lizakowski May 13, 2021 at 11:31 am · Reply

    I have found that I have back issues if I sleep on my back…none when sleeping on either side.

  11. Hello, I always sleep on my stomach and always have trouble feeling asleep and stay asleep , my husband is forever snoring which keep me up

  12. For side sleepers, which side puts the least stress on the heart?

  13. I never could fall asleep on my back. When I lie on my back, I get severe back pain and spasms. I have to sleep on my left side, because if I try to sleep on my right side, my left arm and leg experience shooting-pain.

  14. so after reading this article the other day, i specifically lay on my back when i went to bed last night. my pillow was too high (it was causing my chin to push toward my chest) so i switched to my flatter one. i fell asleep and woke up a couple hours later to go to the bathroom. i could barely move! my low back was so stiff.
    when i came back to bed, i grabbed the loftier pillow, curled up onto my left side, and went back to sleep. i tossed and turned from one position to another throughout the remainder of the night, as usual. when i woke up this morning, i was tired as usual, but thankfully not in pain.

  15. I wonder if the Dr. has an opinion of sleeping on your stomach using a massage table with a face cradle. As this always feels like a very neutral position when having a massage and easy to fall asleep. I prefer sleeping on my back, but sometimes, I would like to sleep on my stomach, but need a face cradle to go with a bed like that, so I can still breath and keep my neck in a neutral position. I get that it might cause face wrinkling, but would be nice to switch it up once in a while.

  16. I always sleep on my left side. Helps immensely with acid reflux. But I have always read that is best for taking pressure off your heart, improves blood flow and helps improve digestion.

  17. The only way I can sleep is on my stomach or sometimes on my side, but I don’t last long on my side. My lower back is curved and if I sleep on it, I wake up with horrible pain. Sometimes, flexing my leg inward will help me sleep on my back and reduce the pain, but again, I can only tolerate this for a bit of time.

  18. Being large chested I cannot sleep on my back without feeling suffocated. I have always sleep on my stomach with my top half turned to my right side. I also put my arm under the pillow and cannot sleep with it beside the pillow. Any suggestions on a better way?

  19. I sleep on my left side because of reflux. It also helps my sinuses. I used to sleep on my back before having GERD. One day I’d like to try an adjustable bed and perhaps sleep on my back again.

  20. I always question pillow placement when sleeping on your back. Is it okay to have two or three pillows? How should your neck be aligned or supported by the pillows?

  21. I fall asleep best on my side but I ALWAYS toss and turn like a crazy lady. I once even broke my then boyfriend’s nose turning over so violently. Wish I could just sleep chill like everyone else.

  22. I am a side and back sleeper. I have the same problem as someone mentioned earlier, when I sleep on my back sometimes, I wake up to my chin touching my chest and my breathing is slightly restricted. This tends to happen when I’m sleeping on my two sunken pillows, so I remove one and that helps with leveling my head and neck. It also helps my breathing. I like sleeping on my right side also, but I don’t like how my knees are too close together and my spine isn’t leveled. I will have to get a body pillow for my side sleeping. I know I need another pillow for my back sleeping. Any suggestions on a good pillow?

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.