Sleep Disorders

Updated 15 April 2019

The pros and cons of 4 sleeping positions

Find the best sleeping position to suit your bedtime needs.

Everyone has their preferred sleeping position.

But while the position in which you sleep may be the coziest, it might not be the best one for your health.

We take a look at a few sleeping positions and their effects on your health:

1. Lying on your stomach

In an interview with Tonic, physical therapist Hidde Hulshof states that sleeping on your stomach is probably the worst position.


Sleeping on your stomach has been proven to benefit those suffering from sleep apnoea.


Sleeping on your stomach adds strain to your back and neck areas.

Hulshof states, “Physically, it’s an unnatural position that's unfavourable to your neck and back. Your neck is turned in a way that locks your upper cervical vertebrae, which can cause headaches and neck problems.”

2. Foetal position

The foetal position is the most common sleeping position of all.


This position is recognised as being great for menstruating and pregnant women


Studies show that sleeping on the right side increases the risk of stillbirth in pregnant women. 

It is therefore suggested that pregnant women sleep on their left side.

In an interview with Glamour magazine, gynaecologist Lisa Lindley notes, "Sleeping in the foetal position takes pressure off the abdominal muscles." Sleeping on one’s side alleviates pressure on the lower back and promotes healthy blood circulation to the heart.

3. Straight side sleeping

Commonly described as “sleeping like a log”.


This position, much like the foetal position, alleviates pressure on the back, therefore minimising back pain. It is regarded as being great for digestion.


Those who sleep with their arms under their pillows, however, often complain of intense pins-and-needles.

4. Back sleepers

Sleeping on your back is considered to be the best position.


One receives optimal neck and back support sleeping this way.


However, director of the Sleep Assessment and Advisory Service in London, Chris Idzikowski believes “sleeping on your back may lead to snoring and difficultly sleeping”. It is also not recommended for people suffering from sleep apnoea.

Image credit: iStock


Ask the Expert

Sleep disorders expert

Dr Alison Bentley is a general practitioner who has consulted in sleep medicine and sleep disorders, in both adults and children of all ages, for almost 30 years. She also researches and publishes on a number of sleep-related topics both in formal research journals and lay publications including as editor of Sleep Matters, an educational newsletter on sleep disorders for doctors.

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