Training yourself to sleep in certain positions can seem like an impossible task. After all, you’re asleep. How are you supposed to control whether you are sleeping on your side or not?
But, it’s actually fairly easy to train yourself to sleep on your side. Once your body learns to stay on its side, it becomes muscle memory, and you’re less likely to roll back over. Below we’ll cover when you should sleep on your side, training methods for how to sleep on your side and even which mattresses and pillows are best for side sleepers.
Benefits of Sleeping on Your Side
- Sleeping on your side can reduce snoring. According to the Mayo Clinic, lying on your back allows your tongue to fall backward, narrowing the airway. Sleeping on your side can avoid this whole issue.
- Sleeping on your side can reduce heartburn, though it has to be on your left side. Sleeping on your right side only aggravates heartburn. If you don’t like the idea of sleeping on an incline to lessen heartburn symptoms, left-side sleeping could help.
- If you have regular back pain, sleeping on your side also could help. Side sleeping tends to take the pressure off the spine, as long as you’re sleeping on a mattress that supports the spine while side sleeping.
- Left-side sleeping is the preferred sleeping position for pregnant women. If you’re pregnant, sleeping on your side means the baby is putting less pressure on the organs and veins than it would if you were sleeping on your back or right side.
- Have you ever slept on your stomach and had neck pain the next morning? That’s because when you sleep on your stomach, you turn your head an unnatural 90 degrees. Side sleeping can keep your neck in a more natural position.
Disadvantages of Sleeping on Your Side
Below are some disadvantages, as listed by Columbia University.
- For heart disease, some people have reported having chest pain and problems breathing when on their left side. So if you have chronic heart problems, you might want to check with your doctor about what the optimal sleep position might be.
- If you have glaucoma, you might want to avoid side sleeping. Sleeping on the side with the pressure-related eye problem could increase the pressure in the eye on the side you sleep.
- If you’re prone to joint problems like carpal tunnel syndrome, side sleeping could also pose more problems. When you sleep on your side, you might end up putting pressure on your shoulder, elbow, wrist and hand. You might even accidentally sleep on your joints in unnatural positions.
As you can see, the drawbacks tend to relate to specific health problems. A healthy adult can usually get away with side sleeping just fine.
How to Train Yourself to Sleep on Your Side
There are several different methods to help you learn how to sleep on your side, so you can stand a better chance of finding one that works for you.
The most common and popular method is to simply put a pillow next to you. The idea is that when you roll over, the pillow is there to obstruct you. If you tend to flip on your back, place the pillow behind your back. If you tend to flip on your stomach, place the pillow in front of you under your arm. Some people also place the pillow between or under the knees.
Another common method is to tape or sew a tennis ball into your shirt that you wear at night. Like the pillow, stomach sleepers place the tennis ball in the front of the shirt, and back sleepers place it in the back of the shirt. When you roll over, the tennis ball is so uncomfortable that you naturally roll back into the side sleeping position.
If you have a very narrow sofa, air mattress or cot, you might also try sleeping on that for a few nights. That will train your body to sleep on its side because of less room to move around. However, if you’re a heavy sleeper or toss and turn, use this method with caution, as you could end up on the floor.
You might also look into products that are made to help you stay sleeping on your side. Half-moon bolster pillows, lumbar pillows or multi-position pillows can help you stay on your side. Even products you secure around your waist have foam supports on them to keep you off your back or stomach. These are usually called anti-snore positional sleep aids.
Learning how to sleep on your side doesn’t have to be too difficult or involved. As you can see, it’s often a simple matter of using something like a pillow, ball or narrow surface to make sure you don’t flip over in your sleep. With all the benefits of sleeping on your side, you might want to get started on learning tonight. You can also check out our guide on the best mattress for side sleepers and the best pillow for side sleepers to help your efforts.
Which is the best mattress for side sleepers?
We compared products to find the best options based on categories like best for back pain and best hybrid mattress. Some of the best options include the WinkBeds Classic, Layla Hybrid, Brooklyn Bedding Aurora, Avocado Green Mattress, Casper Nova Hybrid, Tuft & Needle Mint and Purple Hybrid.
What is the best pillow for side sleepers?
We also compared different side sleeper pillows. We looked at types like the best cooling pillow and the best-shredded foam pillow. Our recommendations include the Leesa Premium Foam Pillow, Purple Harmony Pillow, Layla Kapok Pillow, Casper Down Pillow and Tuft & Needle Pillow.
Is it bad to sleep on your side?
For the average healthy person, sleeping on your side is not bad. However, some people have reported worsening symptoms from side sleeping, like in those with heart disease, glaucoma, heartburn or joint problems. Talk to your doctor if you have health concerns related to side sleeping.
What is the healthiest sleeping position?
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, there’s no one healthiest sleep position. Young, healthy people can sleep however they want. However, people with health conditions might want to consider sleep positions more carefully. For instance, a well-known example is how sleeping on your back can make snoring and sleep apnea much worse.