Sleep is a natural part of life and hold extreme importance in our daily routines. Sleep is indicative of an individual’s good health and overall well-being. Getting a good night’s sleep is reflected through your performance and mood throughout the day. Moreover, sleep has numerous benefits for an individual and can help promote both mental and physical health.
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What Affects does Sleep have on Our Body?
While you sleep, there are a number of processes being carried out within the body in order to prepare you for the next day to come. During sleep, the body works to support brain function and hence, improve memory and creativity as well as increase focus. Sleep also plays a vital role in the physical health of an individual as processes such as repairing of blood vessels, maintenance of hormones as well as growth and development are ongoing while one sleeps.
It is equally important to have adequate sleep because too much or too less can also pose serious problems and health issues such as increased risk of heart disease, obesity, stroke, diabetes, etc. and sleep deficiency has been found to be directly related to suicidal behavior, depression and an impaired ability to make good and prompt decisions. One may also begin to lack productivity and attention in the workplace due to persistent sleep deficiency which may even lead to dangerous outcomes such as driving accidents, aviation incidents and many more.
Although the length of time you sleep for matters, the position you sleep in of equal importance. The way you sleep in can also affect major areas of your life. An ideal sleeping position is the one that does not cause bodily pains when you wake up and instead makes you feel refreshed and energized. It is found that wrong sleep positions can result in back and neck pains, heartburn, and even signs of premature wrinkles.
What is the Best Way to Sleep?
All of us certainly have a preferred sleep position that we get in to fall asleep each night. Our body also keeps on shifting and turning throughout the night to keep our muscles and limbs from going numb. Sleep is one of the simplest things and although there is so ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to do it, there are certainly advantages and disadvantages of different sleep positions. Mentioned below are different sleep spots that people most commonly sleep in ranked from the best to worst.
Best: On Your Back
Sleeping on your back has found to one of the best sleeping positions. In this position, your back, neck, and spine are in a neutral, well-rested position. Your airways stay open, making it easier for you to breathe through the night as well as your neck and spine remains aligned. It is important to have a pillow under your head when sleeping on your back such that your chin is not too inclined on your chest and you have a perfectly straight neck and spine to distribute your weight on the spine evenly. An aligned spine and neck means that there is no extra pressure on these areas, resulting in no pain being experienced by the sleeper. Secondly, a back sleeping position also helps prevent acid reflux. Acid reflux or heartburn is the burning sensation caused when the stomach contents and acid go up the esophagus. Gravity comes into play and pulls down your chest and face which is beneficial for those who suffer from acid reflux. When sleeping on the back, the stomach lies behind the esophagus, keeping food and acid from traveling back up. Another added benefit of this healthy sleeping position is cosmetically-inclined. With your face up and chest off the pillow, your face and chest are exposed to air that helps avoid facial wrinkles and early sagging of breasts.
Next best: On Your Sides
Sleeping on the sides is one of the most popular sleeping positions with an estimated of 41% of the people sleeping on their sides. It is also considered one of the most comfortable sleeping positions. Sleeping on the sides has numerous benefits for people suffering from chronic back pain, acid reflux, sleep apnea, as well as for pregnant females provided that your torso and legs stay relatively straight. Sleeping on the sides ensure open airways with your neck and spine aligned as well as an elevated esophagus. Open airways make breathing easier while you sleep and help prevent snoring. Moreover, sleep apnea which is a condition of collapsing of the throat tissues during sleep. This could cause breathing to start and stop repeatedly and may even result in death. Open airways reduce the risk of sleep apnea. Moreover, acid reflux is also suppressed while sleeping on the sides since the spine is elevated and therefore, no food or acid will come back.
- According to experts, if you choose to sleep on the sides, make a habit that it is on the left side rather than the right side. This is due to a variety of reasons. The foremost being, improved circulation throughout the night when sleeping on one’s left side. This is because sleeping on the left removes pressure from your veins and allows for cardiovascular return. As a result, the heart pumps blood efficiently throughout the body having excess pressure being removed.
- Secondly, doctors also encourage people, particularly pregnant women to sleep on their left because, as mentioned before, it improves circulation through the heart which is beneficial for both the mother and the growing child. In addition, by sleeping on the left side, pregnant women can help avoid built up pressure on the uterus and inside organs as well as avoid the risk of developing backache that usually occurs when sleeping on the back. Sleeping on the stomach is obviously impossible for pregnant females.
- Another added benefit of sleeping on the left side is, it helps in reducing heartburn which is a painful burning feeling that runs up the chest and throat.
- Another way that people commonly get into when sleeping on the side is bending their knees up to their chest and hunching their torso as well. This is known as the fetal position. This position too has similar benefits to that on sleeping on either of the sides that is improved blood flow around the body, comfortable sleeping positionfor expecting mothers due to reduced contact of the uterus and the liver, no heartburn or acid reflux, snoring or sleep apnea. However, the only downside of the fetal position is curling up too tightly that may restrict breathing within the diaphragm, making breathing difficult. It may also cause severe soreness when getting up, particularly in people who have arthritis in the back and joints.
- One setback of sleeping on your left is the less exposure of the face to air. Half of the face is pressed into the pillow that may cause facial wrinkles as well as sagging of breasts among women due to breasts leaning downwards. Another irritating issue that occurs with sleeping on your sides is the numbing of the arm or the sensation of pins and needles. However, this is only a mild inconvenience and can be avoided by switching sides or re-positioning the arm.
If you do not suffer from any medical conditions, all sleeping positions are fairly safe for you. But to further help yourself, in case you suffer from conditions such as heartburn, you can place a rolled up towel under the small of your waist to avoid sinking into the mattress. Or you can also place a small pillow between your legs to promote alignment of the hips and the joints and distribute your weight evenly to avoid discomfort through the night.
It is important to keep in mind that while sleeping on the sides, you must ensure that the back and legs remain straight. If you find yourself curling one of your legs up to your stomach, you just might be causing more damage to yourself than benefit. This is because riding one leg up onto another or curling it up may lead to uneven displaced pressure on either of the limbs with all the pressure placed on the side of the pelvis. This may eventually result in a chronic backache or other back problems
Worst: On Your Stomach
Sleeping on one’s stomach is considered one of the worst and unhealthy sleeping positions. Going to bed on your stomach is bound to wake you up with utter pain and discomfort the next day. It is merely impossible to keep the spine straight and aligned in this position and can result in ruining one’s posture. When sleeping on the stomach, your entire weight is concentrated on your core that results in your belly to sink into the mattress while your limbs and head are elevated. This can cause serious damage to the curvature of your spine, and you may wake up with severe pain in the back and neck. Moreover, shifting throughout the night due to increased pressure on the muscles, joints and organs result in a disturbed and poor-quality sleep. Another drawback of sleeping on your stomach is the turning of your head a complete 90 degree which may strain the neck.
Although everybody tends to sleep in a position they are comfortable in, it is important to be mindful of your sleeping position. Your sleep should leave you feeling refreshed and not cause pain and discomfort when you get up. According to this article, it can be said that sleeping on the back is not only a healthy sleeping position but also one of the best sleeping positions. Keep in mind that your sleeping position is not solely responsible for a healthy lifestyle, the quality and quantity of sleep are equally important and need to be taken care of. To help improve sleep further, one may also make use of the correct mattresses and pillows to enhance their sleeping experience. In case you suffer from insomnia or have chronic body pains, it is best to consult a doctor and follow the sleeping guidelines recommended by a professional. We are all different and different things suit our bodies. You can experiment with all these positions and find the one that fits you best. Sleep in all about comfort. Therefore, make sure you are comfortable when dozing off.