Every person has a unique way of sleeping. Some enjoy sleeping on their backs, some on their belly, and some find sleeping on their side promotes overall better sleep.
Then there are those folks who like sleeping on their backs — but with their knees up. While there’s nothing wrong with having your knees up, it doesn’t exactly look like the most comfortable sleeping position. Then again, who are we to judge?
If you’ve ever wondered if your sleeping style is normal (or kinda quirky), read on. In this article, we explore the different sleep positions people use and look at the pros and cons of each.
Is Sleeping With Knees Bent Bad for Your Back?
The short answer: no, sleeping with knees bent isn’t bad for your back.
Keep in mind, when we talk about sleeping with your knees bent, we aren’t talking about curling up in a foetal position; think of it as an enhanced version where you lie on your back with your knees elevated.
As a variant of back sleeping, this position carries many of its benefits, like:
- Back Support: Lying on your back with knees bent can help maintain the natural curvature of the spine, offering support and potentially reducing back strain.
- Pressure Relief: Elevating the knees can help distribute body weight more evenly, reducing pressure on the lower back and hips.
- Improved Digestion: This position might aid in digestion by preventing stomach contents from flowing back, beneficial for those with acid reflux concerns.
- Reduced Snoring: For some individuals, elevating the knees can reduce the chances of snoring, promoting better airflow.
- Less Stress on Hips: Bending the knees can alleviate some of the pressure on the hips, especially beneficial for side sleepers who switch to this position.
- Potential for Improved Circulation: While elevating the knees too high can reduce blood flow, a gentle bend can potentially improve circulation to certain parts of the body.
- Versatility: The position allows for easy adjustments, like placing a pillow under the knees for added comfort or altering leg positioning to find the most comfortable stance.
However, a potential downside is that you might wake up with numb legs. This numbness is due to reduced blood flow to the lower legs from being raised throughout the night. Additionally, some individuals prefer to cross their legs while keeping their knees elevated.
In this stance, blood circulation might not be as optimal compared to having the legs stretched out on the mattress. While not a severe issue, it’s something to keep in mind.
Now, let’s dive into some of the more common positions to sleep in and the pros and cons of each.
Is Back Sleeping the Best Position to Sleep?
The most common sleeping position is sleeping on your back. This is also known as the supine position.
Sleeping on your back can be a good option as it decreases tension in your head, neck and spine — placing them in a neutral position and promoting a natural curve.
As a result, the back sleeping position is fantastic for people who regularly wake up with neck pains. It is also optimal to support the head and neck by slightly elevating it with a firm pillow like the Ecosa Pillow.
This contoured pillows provides plush, customised support with its memory foam material and adjustable height pads.
Being a back sleeper isn’t for everyone, however. If you have pre-existing lower back pains or issues, in particular, it’s best to try a different sleeping position.
Is Sleeping On Your Side the Best Position to Sleep?
After sleeping on their backs, side sleeping is the next most common position people adopt. And for good reason. Sleeping on your side has plenty of benefits, especially if you’re living with sleep apnea or snoring at night.
The side sleeping position allows your airways to open a little better than a supinated or a pronated (back or front) sleeping posture.
Unlike sleeping on your back, side sleeping can help release tension from your lower back, which is great for people experiencing back pains in the morning. According to sleep experts, you should sleep on your side with your knees slightly bent to relieve low back pain. If the position feels uncomfortable, you can put a pillow between your legs, and your neck should have strong support too.
Side sleeping is also one of the best options for pregnant women. With the right pillow, it offers the most comfort and support for your baby bump.
And the benefits don’t end there. If you’re struggling with acid reflux, being a side sleeper has its perks. Sleeping on your left side inhibits the acids from backflowing into your oesophagus — preventing episodes of heartburn at night.
However, try to avoid sleeping on your right side as it can aggravate your acid reflux and make your sleep uncomfortable.
Like all positions, side sleeping can have its disadvantages. Having all your weight shifted to one side can restrict blood flow to your limbs, leaving you with that numb feeling in the morning.
Is Stomach Sleeping A Bad Sleeping Position?
Stomach sleeping might be the go-to position for a lot of people, but if you’ve been dealing with back pain, it could be time for a rethink.
Stomach sleeping can sometimes mess with the spine’s natural curve. Dr. Raymond J. Hah, an expert from Keck Medicine of USC, points out that this position places a good deal of stress on our spine’s muscles and joints. So, while it feels comfy, it might be the culprit behind that morning stiffness.
And let’s not forget about our necks. Sleeping face-down means you’ve got to turn your head to one side or the other. Doing this night after night? It might be why your neck isn’t feeling 100%.
Now, there’s a silver lining for some. If you’re the type who sounds like a freight train when snoring, or if you have sleep apnea, stomach sleeping might actually help keep your airways a tad clearer. But then again, this position could make breathing a touch harder since it presses on the diaphragm.
In short, while stomach sleeping has its fans, if you’re trying to kick that back pain to the curb, you might want to explore some other sleep position options.
Other (Not So Common) Sleep Positions
The foetal position is a variation of side sleeping but with the knees bent and legs tucked close to the body.
Sleeping in this position isn’t actually unusual at all. In fact, it’s the most common way of sleeping on your side. Probably because the foetal position feels so natural as it’s the way we floated around our mothers’ wombs – hence the name.
Similar to rolling into a ball, the foetal position isn’t only physically comfortable, studies also show that it helps calm our nerves and lessens anxiety.
Sleep specialists may also recommend sleeping in a fetal position for those with sleep disorders as it has been shown to cause the least amount of sleep interruptions, resulting in a good night’s sleep.
The only disadvantage can be the weight of your body being shifted mostly to one side of your upper body, which can lead to some neck and shoulder pain.
The starfish sleep position is basically lying on your back with your arms and legs spread wide like a five-point star. And yes, it’s called the starfish because you look like a starfish when sleeping in this position.
Sleeping in the starfish pose is excellent for quick naps as it allows you to stretch out your body a little and generally gives the feeling of being free.
But, since it is an unnatural position, sleeping like a starfish overnight can cause lower back pains and backaches.
Sleep specialists also observed that the starfish position may compress your airways which can cause you to snore during sleep.
Some stomach sleepers sleep in a position called the freefall. This is basically lying pronated with your face planted into your pillow.
Freefallers usually enjoy tucking their hands under a pillow or having them on their sides as if they’re skydiving.
While that sounds fun, sleeping in a freefall position won’t really help with quality sleep. So, it’s quite discouraged for long slumbers.
Why? Well, the fact that your face is planted on your pillow means that air is blocked from entering your nose and mouth.
Having poor respiratory flow isn’t the best idea for good sleeping, as an adequate supply of oxygen is required by your body to fully restore and recover from a long day.
There is no single best sleeping position as each one has its own advantages and disadvantages. And, at the end of the day picking the best sleep position will always be based on how you find yourself most comfortable during your time in bed, and how you feel when you wake up in the morning.
Try to observe the position you are in every time you wake up. This will be your starting point to find the sleeping position that’s perfect for you.
Naturally, sleeping in a comfortable bed also plays a major role in ensuring you sleep soundly.
Sleep Position FAQs
How can I improve my sleep quality?
Several factors can enhance sleep quality, including a consistent sleep schedule, a comfortable sleeping environment, and limiting exposure to screens before bedtime. Additionally, your choice of mattress and pillow can play a pivotal role; for instance, a firm mattress can offer better spine alignment, which may lead to a more restful night.
What health conditions contribute to poor sleep?
Conditions like obstructive sleep apnea, GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), and other health conditions can significantly disrupt sleep patterns. It’s crucial to consult with healthcare professionals to address these concerns and improve overall sleep quality.
What’s the best sleep position for sleep apnea?
The way you position yourself during sleep can greatly influence conditions such as obstructive sleep apnea. While lying on your back might worsen the symptoms, sleeping on your side can potentially reduce airway blockages. Conversely, sleeping on your stomach (or the prone position) may not be the best choice for everyone, particularly those with specific health concerns.
What is sleep medicine?
Sleep medicine is a specialised field within healthcare dedicated to diagnosing, treating, and researching sleep disorders and disturbances. Professionals in this field work towards understanding the science of sleep and improving overall sleep quality and wellness for individuals.