How Your Sleep Position Affects Your Health?

In this fast paced modern world in which almost everyone is a workaholic to some degree; the fact that we can get a decent amount of sleep on a regular basis is often all that we can be concerned with. However, there is so much more to sleep than the number of hours of shut-eye one can get every night.

How Your Sleep Position Affects Your Health?

How Your Sleep Position Affects Your Health?

The position one sleeps in, more or less determines your vulnerability to certain health problems and this article aims to investigate this fact. Various factors come into play when connecting your sleeping position to certain health problems. Read further to know more.

How Sleeping on Your Back Can Cause Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

Obstructive sleep apnea is characterized by loud snoring and periodical gagging when one is short of breath during sleep. Obstructive sleep apnea is quite common and is often linked to a greater risk of heart conditions and diabetes. Recent studies suggest that those who sleep on their backs for a major duration of the night are more vulnerable to obstructive sleep apnea and the risks that come with it. Sleep studies concluded that sleeping on one’s back causes the tongue and the base palate to be pulled down by gravity; thus blocking the airways and making breathing difficult. Obstructive sleep apnea is also known to worsen breathing problems. Thus, this sleep position of sleeping on your back has negative effect on people by making them vulnerable to sleep apnea.

How Sleeping on Your Right Side Can Cause Acid Reflux

Acid reflux is mostly triggered by heavy and spicy meals, oily foods and untimely meals. However, sleep studies suggest that sleeping on one’s right side can make an individual more prone to acid reflux. A possible cause for this connection between sleeping on one’s right side and greater acid reflux symptoms is that this sleeping position causes the esophageal sphincter to relax; allowing stomach acids to move upwards. This is a mostly unproven theory and further studies are being conducted on the relation between this sleep position and acid reflux. One way or the other; acid reflux is an uncomfortable digestive ailment, which has been closely linked to sleeping on one’s right side.

How Sleeping on Your Stomach Can Cause Neck Pain?

It is not uncommon to wake up in the morning feeling sore around the neck and upper back area and the explanation behind this often lies in one’s sleeping position. Sleeping on one’s stomach could be the usual suspect behind neck pain, as sleeping in this position will cause your head to twist one way or the other and this uncomfortable positioning will put stress on the nerves and muscles around the neck area; often leading to pain and soreness. There is a consensus among osteopaths and chiropractors that this sleep position, i.e. sleeping on your stomach makes you more vulnerable to neck pain.

How Sleeping on Your Left Side Can Cause Nightmares?

There are no definitive studies to explain what causes nightmares and disturbing dreams that can affect one’s ability to get a proper night’s sleep; though nightmares have been closely connected to certain antipsychotic drugs and medications. Studies from over a decade back; that were published in the journal of “Sleep and Hypnosis,” link sleeping on one’s left side to frequent nightmares when compared to sleeping on one’s right side. There is no definitive cause for this; however, these studies have been based on relevant data.

Sleeping On The Side and Alzheimer’s & Parkinson ’s Disease

Scientific studies often arrive at conclusions a layman may not fully understand and often times further studies are required to prove a theory without room for doubt. This is the case with studies that connect sleeping on one’s side to a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Sleeping on one’s sides also reduces the risk of various other neurological ailments as per studies conducted on lab rats that were anesthetically coerced into specific sleeping positions with an emphasis on studying the long term effects through medical imaging scans. The conclusions of this study were published in the Journal of Neuroscience and the results were as detailed above. According to these studies; the positive effect of sleeping on one side is mostly concentrated on the glymphatic pathway, which is the brain’s waste disposal system and it is this positive impact that reduces the risk of various neurological problems.


In conclusion; it is important to note that the studies mentioned above are highly suggestive of the impact of certain sleeping positions on our health and cannot be taken as conclusive evidence. Having made that clear; it is vital to understand that the correct sleeping position is one way to avoid discomfort and body aches and enjoy better sleep. One way or the other; imbibing positive sleeping habits including maintaining a healthy sleeping position is good for you and has the potential to reduce the risks of or avoid various health problems.

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Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:January 9, 2019

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