People sleep in various positions and although some are horrendous for spinal health, others can relieve all the tension. There are tummy sleepers and side sleepers and even those who splay out across the bed or curl up into the fetal position. It’s not very common for people to regularly sleep on their backs, though. This position isn’t reserved for vampires and zombies; rather, sleeping on your back may benefit your overall health.
It’s difficult to switch up your sleeping position, especially if you have one that you already prefer. Some people say that sleeping on their back is an impossible feat, and they just can’t get comfortable. Only about eight percent of people prefer back sleeping. This surprises many sleep health experts because back sleeping may help to relieve sinus pressure, reduce back pain, and improve overall sleep quality.
The Science Behind Back Sleeping
Back sleeping, or supine sleeping, has a host of health benefits that many people don’t consider. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies sleep on their backs to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Infants that sleep in a prone position can increase the risk of nasal bacterial build-up, respiratory work of breathing, or upper airway secretions. For adults, back sleeping may help to reduce tension headaches, relieve sinus pressure, keep the spine aligned, and reduce chest pressure. A 2019 review of studies found that back and side sleeping resulted in less pain than adults who slept on their stomaches. The same review found that about 60% of European adults sleep laterally, on their side. There are many reasons to sleep on your back, though, and you can learn about them below.
May Prevent Wrinkles And Fine Lines
By sleeping on your stomach, you can irritate, pull, or pinch the skin, which can result in wrinkles or fine lines. The friction of your face on the pillow is what creates more wrinkles, and the same applies to the neck. Twisting or scrunching the neck can wrinkle one side or the other. By sleeping on your back, you help elongate the spine and keep the neck straight. Additionally, the facial skin doesn’t pinch or create friction with the pillow. Because of this, back sleeping may ward off wrinkle development.
Support The Neck Or Back Pain
Some people find that back sleeping strains the back, while others find that it relieves a lot of tension. If you want to support the back and neck, you have to take the right steps to do that. A low pillow can negatively affect the spine’s natural curve, whereas a high pillow may cause a loss of natural curvature. You may also need to place a pillow under the knees to relieve tension on the lower back. It’s much easier to give the spine rest by maintaining its natural curvature. In fact, a 2017 study found that back sleeping with both arms at the sides or on the chest was the best way to prevent back pain.
May Reduce Sinus Buildup
People who experience regular sinus congestion may benefit from back sleeping. According to sleep studies, sleeping face-up may help relieve congestion. Elevating the head above the heart works to reduce mucus buildup. Additionally, a large amount of blood will not gather in your nose, which can create that congested feeling. Essentially, gravity does its part to help drain the mucus and keep it out of your airways.
May Improve Breathing
To piggyback off the previous benefit, back sleeping may help to improve breathing. By keeping the airways clear of mucus, you can breathe more easily. If you aren’t congested, though, back sleeping can still improve diaphragmatic breathing. Sleeping on the side or stomach can crowd the breathing space, whereas back sleeping allows for deep, full breaths. According to several studies, diaphragmatic breathing helps to reduce stress, improve attention span, and boost overall mood. Deep breathing also works to boost melatonin production, a hormone necessary for relaxation and improved sleep.
May Reduce Breakouts
Pillowcases absorb sebum from the hair and skin, in addition to dead skin cells and other debris. Rubbing the face on the pillowcase, night after night, can actually clog pores and increase the presence of whiteheads, blackheads, or inflammation. Sleeping on your back helps to avoid skin to pillow contact, keeping the face away from the pillowcase. That means that dirt and built-up oils will not irritate your facial skin.