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Advice for Side Sleepers on Getting Restful, Restorative Sleep

It’s difficult to say why people choose to sleep in a specific position. Some say it’s a reflection of one’s personality, while others contend that it’s a simple matter of comfort and body type. Whatever the reason, getting a good night’s sleep is essential to your health, so making your sleep position work is extremely important.

A national sleep survey published in 2012 revealed that side sleeping is by far the most popular position (more than 70 percent were side sleepers), while 16 percent said they sleep on their stomachs and 10 percent on their backs. If you’re among the many people who prefer to sleep on their side, consider the following tips for getting the healthy, restful sleep you need.

The Good and the Bad

As with most sleep positions, there’s good news and bad news for side sleepers. While it’s easier on the neck than sleeping on your stomach, research has shown that side sleeping can place undue pressure on the legs and arms and may cause problems over time, with carpal tunnel syndrome being one of the possible outcomes. There are several modifications you can make that will prevent such problems. For instance, sleep with your arms by your side instead of over your head, which can pinch the nerves in your shoulders.

Side sleeping is better for the back than sleeping on your stomach; however, it can still create strain, so try sleeping with a pillow between your legs. Sleep experts say that sleeping on your left side is better because it helps prevent acid reflux and indigestion and bolsters circulation.

Side or Supine?

Most sleep experts recommend sleeping on your back because it distributes your weight more evenly and keeps the internal organs properly aligned. However, if you need to make a change and want to sleep in the supine position, try placing a pillow under your legs to keep the spine in alignment. For a snorer, it’s probably best to continue sleeping on your side since sleeping on your back causes the throat and jaw muscles to relax, which will only exacerbate the problem. In many cases, side sleeping can alleviate snoring and prevent the damage that it can do over time.

Finding the Right Mattress and Pillow

Finding the mattress that best suits your sleep habits is crucial for overall good health. For side sleepers, a memory foam mattress with a little “give” to it is often the best selection because your shoulder and hip sink into the mattress just a bit, keeping the spine aligned as you sleep, while a mattress that’s too firm or soft won’t provide the spine support a side sleeper needs. It’s also important to find a supportive pillow, one with just the right amount of stuffing.

Look for an adjustable pillow that can be flattened or made bulkier by removing or adding stuffing until you achieve the optimal position for the head and neck. Make certain you’re getting the best value for your dollar by paying careful attention to customer reviews and watching for warranties, promos, and other helpful price breaks.

Side sleepers often have the best luck with a firm pillow, one that keeps their head suspended comfortably above the mattress and in proper position between the shoulders. If you sleep with a pillow between the knees, use a slim one to keep your hips from becoming sore. Some side sleepers like to place an extra pillow against their back to prop themselves up.

Side sleeping can be a healthy position as long as you avoid potential damage to your nerves and back. Pay attention to your mattress and pillow so you’re getting the support necessary for restful sleep and be prepared to make a change if your chosen sleep position is causing problems.

By Kimberly Hayes - www.publichealthalert.info