A good night’s sleep is essential for your health, general wellbeing and productivity at work. Yet around 30% of New Zealanders sleep poorly. Many wake up feeling tired with a sore body, tight shoulder muscles or a stiff neck.
Researchers have identified two main reasons for this: sleeping on an old mattress, and bad sleeping positions. Both drastically affect the way you sleep even if you’re doing everything else right. Like eating and exercising well, sleeping in a dark, quiet room and have a relaxing bedtime routine.
It is nearly impossible to get a deep, restful sleep on a mattress that has lost its shape and support. Which is why experts recommend that you replace your mattress every seven years. But that’s not all. You need to seriously look at the way you sleep too.
Your sleeping position has a major effect on how rested you feel in the morning. Few people realise that the way they sleep contributes to back and neck pain, fatigue, muscle cramping, apnea, headaches, poor circulation, wrinkles and other health problems.
A good night’s sleep is essential to help your body repair itself. Yet millions of Kiwis are going to bed exhausted and waking up bone-tired. This accumulated sleep deprivation is affecting their relationships, work productivity, health and cutting years off their life.
In this article, we talk about the most common sleep positions and why some are better than others. There’s good news if you always wake up tired and irritable too: you can train yourself to get a good night’s rest by adopting a better sleeping position.
But remember, even the best sleep position will not help if you’re sleeping on an old, lumpy mattress. One of the best investments you can make in sleep – and your life – is buying a Winkl mattress: owned by two young Kiwis on a mission to give everyone a great night’s sleep at an affordable price.
Always sleep on a good mattress and then try our recommended sleeping positions for a good night’s rest. The following sleep positions are ranked from best to worst, with No.1 being our top recommendation.
1. Sleeping on your back – highly recommended
By far the best way to sleep is on your back. Yet only one in 10 people actually sleep this way. Sleeping on your back means that three key areas of your body – your head, neck and spine – are in a neutral position and there is no extra pressure on them.
Back sleeping distributes the whole weight of your body evenly and is particularly good if you already suffer from neck pain (as opposed to waking up with a sore neck caused by a poor sleeping position). Sleeping on your back can also improve your posture as it aligns your spine and neck and relaxes your jaw.
This sleeping position is particularly effective when you have eight or more hours rest on the best mattress for back sleepers and use a comfortable rounded pillow that keeps your head elevated above your chest. Your stomach then stays below your oesophagus to prevent food or acid from coming up your digestive tract and causing heartburn.
But a word of caution for anyone considering becoming a back sleeper. Although sleeping on your back is recommended by experts for the best night’s sleep, it may be a problem if you are a heavy snorer or have sleep apnea (a serious disorder that occurs when a person's breathing is interrupted while they’re sleeping). If you have any of these problems or start suffering from new symptoms while sleeping on your back then talk to your doctor or try another sleeping position.
2. The Soldier Position – report fresh for duty each day
Not many people are Soldier sleepers, which is a shame because it’s a good sleeping position for feeling refreshed and ready to face each new day. This position is characterised by lying on your back with both arms by your sides - like a guard on duty. As we already said, sleeping on your back is good for you. Especially on a great mattress. The Soldier position is definitely worth a try because it’s ideal for aligning your spine and neck, which is great for anyone with neck and back pain. It can also reduce acid reflux and helps to minimise wrinkles while you sleep. However, sleeping on your back in the Soldier position may lead to snoring or sleep apnea for a small number of sleepers.
3. The Starfish – great for you, but could annoy your partner
As its name suggests, the Starfish is when a person lays on their back with their arms and legs splayed to the edges. This position is also commonly used to avoid shoulder pain and like all back sleeping positions keeps three key areas of your body in a neutral position – your head, neck and spine. There is no extra pressure on them. The Starfish position is good for a peaceful night’s sleep if you are in bed alone. But it can be annoying for a partner because you take up a lot of bed space.
4. The Foetal Position – sleep like a baby
Sleeping in the Foetal position comes in at number four on our list. In fact, sleeping curled up like a baby in the foetal position is a much better version of two popular sleeping styles: side sleeping and sleeping on your stomach. The Foetal position is also good if you are actually having a baby (rather than just sleeping like one).
Try a loose, Foetal position if you're pregnant: sleep on your left side with a hunched torso and bent knees. This improves circulation in your body and in the foetus while stopping your uterus from pressing against your liver, which is on your right side.
The Foetal position is also good for snorers. But a word of caution: sleeping in a foetal position can restrict breathing in your diaphragm and put extra pressure on your abdomen if you’re curled up too tightly. It can also leave you sore in the morning if you have arthritis in your joints or back. Straighten your body as much as possible instead of tucking your chin into your chest and pulling your knees up high if you sleep this way.
5. The Log Position – not bad, but not the best
According to sleep experts, the Log is the second most popular sleep position in NZ. In this position, sleepers rest on their side with legs extended straight down and arms tucked in. This position helps keep your spine straight and is extremely helpful for anyone suffering from back pain.
The Log is also a good way to minimise sleep apnea, a common sleeping disorder characterised by loud snoring and holding your breath. Sleeping on your left side helps with digestion too. However, sleeping on your side in the log position can also cause nerve compression in your arms and legs.
6. The Yearner Position – OK for spinal alignment, but that’s all
The Yearner sleeping position is similar to the log, but the sleeper’s arms are stretched in front as if they’re reaching out for something or someone. It’s another sleep position that can help keep your spine aligned or have breathing problems when you sleep, but bad if you suffer from arthritis.
7. Sleeping On Your Side – popular but painful
We’ll be honest here: most Kiwis sleep on their side. But that doesn’t mean it’s the best way to sleep. If fact, apart from causing premature wrinkles – yes wrinkles – side sleeping can cause everything from hip and shoulder pain to heartburn.
But if you’re never going to change (although you should) then here’s a great tip: you need to keep your back as straight as possible. The best way to achieve that? Get the best mattress for a side sleeper: one that supports the curvature of your body while still embracing the pressure points of your shoulders and hips.
Waking up with a sore shoulder is a common complaint from nearly all side sleepers. The pain is caused from too much pressure applied to the rotator cuff. The key to fighting shoulder pain — besides turning over — is having the correct pillow height and arm position. Always use a pillow that provides good support for your neck and is the right height to keep your spine in alignment.
8. Sleeping On Your Stomach – makes you grouchy
Sleeping or your stomach is often called front sleeping, the free-fall position or skydiving. We call it something else: trouble. As a front sleeper, you’re regularly putting a strain on your back and spine because most of your weight is in the middle of your body.
It’s almost impossible to maintain a neutral spine position when you’re splayed out in bed this way 6-8 hours every night. Add to this the pressure on your stomach muscles and joints and it’s little wonder that you wake up with back and neck pain or feel numbness, tingling, aches and irritated nerves. Along with more than a little grouchiness.
On a positive note, sleeping on your stomach can help with digestion and ease snoring. But it’s bad for everything else in your body and that’s why we recommend that you try another sleeping position – like flipping over onto your back to take all of that pressure off your body.
However, if you’re determined to keep torturing yourself then at least get the best mattress for front sleepers and enjoy as much spinal support as possible. You need all the help you can get your hands (or stomach) on. Experts also suggest placing a pillow underneath your forehead to elevate your mouth and nose. This lets you sleep with your face straight down and helps eliminate that painful crick in the neck you wake up with every morning.
Change your sleeping position, change your life
If you’ve been struggling to get a good night’s sleep, we recommend a few things to look at immediately. First, check your mattress. If it’s not doing what it should be doing, then take a look at a revolutionary Winkl mattress. All combine innovation, quality and sophistication at an unbeatable price and are delivered right to your front door.
Then seriously look at the way you’re sleeping. The sleeping position you use is more out of habit than anything else. But it has a major effect on both the quality of your sleep and how you feel in the morning. Which all impacts on your health and wellbeing.
The best sleeping positions are shockingly underestimated in New Zealand and it’s something that every one of us needs to wake up to. Try sleeping on your back for a change. It might feel odd for a few nights but your body will get used to it because this is undeniably the best sleeping position for everyone.
Better still, try back sleeping on a Winkl mattress for 120 nights risk-free. Your body will love the zoned support for improved spinal alignment. You’ll love waking up fresh as a daisy.