Sleep Positions:

How Sleep Positions Affect Your Slumber

by Josh Day

Getting consistent and quality sleep is something many adults in the U.S. and Britain find elusive, studies have shown.

Do you get more than seven hours of sleep a night? On a regular basis?

Lack of sleep, as well as troubled or shallow sleep, can lead to health problems and fatigue during the day.

Even if you don't have insomnia, you may not be getting adequate sleep due to something you likely have not thought about.

You're going to be surprised; this is a simple thing that makes perfect sense...

According to the UK's Telegraph:

A recent poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation found that nearly two thirds of adults have trouble at least a few nights a week. Seven or eight hours is considered by experts to be the optimum amount for adults, but a third of Britons regularly sleep five hours or less a night, with 18 per cent claiming they never get a good night’s sleep.

But the secret of a peaceful night may be as straightforward as a simple adjustment to the position in which you sleep. (Is Your Sleep Position a Nightmare, Telegraph)

The article goes on to outline five of the most common sleeping positions.

These positions are:

  • The Fetus
  • The Solider
  • The Starfish
  • The Log
  • The Yearner
  • The Free-Faller

No, they are not lost books from T.S. Eliot's epic "The Wasteland," but simple descriptors of sleeping positions.

Let's break each one down.

1. The Fetus

As it sounds, this position resembles a milder fetus pose, lying on your side with your legs bent. Your arms are slightly out.

This is one of the healthiest positions, according to the experts quoted in the Telegraph article:

Not only does it allow air to pass freely through the body’s passages, Chris Idzikowski, director of the Edinburgh Sleep Centre and an expert in sleep disorders, says it also deters stomach reflux, where digestive acid travels back from the stomach causing a burning pain – a common problem for those who sleep on their back.

However, do not put weight on your arms, as this will cause pins and needles; instead try crossing them in a brace position. Osteopaths also advise that fetal sleepers maintain a straight back. (Telegraph)

I've found this to be one of the most comfortable positions for me to enter sleep. Also I seem to wake up in this position most often.

2. The Soldier

This position has you on your back, legs straight, arms at the side.

(An alternative to this position is one I call the "Dead Man's Chest." Your arms are crossed over your chest or folded. In unfamiliar beds this is often the only way I'm able to fall asleep.)

This position is not the best for a quality night's sleep.

There are also respiratory issues.

The Soldier position promotes snoring as your tongue has a tendency to fall to the back of your mouth.

3. The Starfish

On your back, your arms and legs spread out and going in whichever direction's the most comfortable.

Obviously this position is limited to having a large bed or sleeping alone.

However, this is healthiest way to sleep on your back if you're inclined to do so, even though this position also leads to snoring.

If you have trouble sleeping with someone else, it's okay to bring up the idea of separate beds or different rooms, if you or your sleeping companion snores. There's a cultural taboo about sleeping apart, but the truth of the matter is sleep is more important than societal norms.

And it's not like you have to advertise the fact you and your spouse sleep apart... no one has to know as its your business and your business alone.

4. The Log

The Log position looks something like a body on its side with arms straight down.

The Telegraph states:

“As long as the mattress and pillows are supportive,” explains osteopath and sleep expert Danny Williams, “this position maintains a neutral spine, allowing it to lengthen. Also, breathing is not compromised and all of the body functions work well.” (Telegraph)

The article goes on to claim this is an excellent position that should make everyone comfortable.

5. The Yearner

Once again you're sleeping on your side, but this time your arms are reaching out.

“This is an excellent position to sleep in, and the one I recommend,” says Sammy Margo. “Lying on either side can help the structures of the back discs, muscles and ligaments adopt an optimal position.”

Having your arms in front of you will prevent them going to sleep. You may wish to position yourself at a quarter turn so that you are not squashing your shoulders together. (Telegraph)

6. The Free-Faller

The "skydiving" position with your body on its front, head turned, arms on and above the pillow.

Try to avoid this one.

This “skydiving” position has the potential to cause a lot of problems. Resting with the neck at a 90° angle can cause stiffness and “cricks”. Sleeping with your hands up at face level can generate pins and needles, often the result of compression in the bundle of nerves in the neck. If you sleep in a bed that is too soft, this position may also put an asymmetrical strain on your spine. (Telegraph)

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Works Cited:

Is Your Sleep Position a Nightmare? The U.K. Telegraph. 11/10/08

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