Sleep Posture - Does it actually matter?

Sleep Posture - Healthy or Nah?


Some people will say that certain sleeping postures are bad, that you need to lay on your back only - with a special ergonomic pillow - or that laying on your side is alright as long as you build out an interlay of pillows to accommodate for your curves. Don’t consider sleeping on your stomach though, that’s a sure fire way to get a stroke (serious statement people make). Well guess what, you’re probably better off not worrying about any of that. Let’s talk this out!


De Koninck factored out the possibility of up to 256 sleeping postures based on orientation of the head, trunk and limbs. Basically, you’ve got a lot of options though we traditionally categorize sleeping posture into 1 of 4 positions. The top sleeping posture varies, but in general side lying tends to rank out the top, with right sidelying being dominant over left.


The overwhelming majority of research demonstrates that there are no adverse health events for adults in any position. Once we pass the infant stage, it appears there are no risks to any position inherently.


What does show consistency is that comfort is key to quality sleep. Kubota found that those who slept in their position they preferred, had the highest rated sleep. These researchers also found that on average, people changed sleeping position 33 times through 7 hours!



Gordon conducted a study finding that for people with cervico-thoracic symptoms, sleep position was not associated with symptoms. Basically whichever position was the person preferred was good to go - side lying, supine, or prone not being related to symptoms.



Kempf found an association between shoulder pain and side sleeping on the same side of the shoulder. 55% of shoulder pain was on the right side, however as we know from earlier, the right is the dominant side sleeping position, making this a high confounding variable and not likely much to be concerned with.


De Konick found that poor sleepers spent significant more time in supine than individuals who ranked their sleep higher (41% versus 23%). Gordon found that upright sleeping was significantly associated with waking symptoms and low sleep quality. We aren’t sure why though, but it may be associated with respiratory factors.


If you are a person with respiratory issues or experiencing sleep apnea, a side sleeping posture is most likely your best bet. In supine the upper airway is more at risk of obstruction and shifting to sidelying greatly reduces this.


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