Posted on: May 11, 2016 at 10:01 pm
Last updated: September 14, 2017 at 4:58 pm

We all know the feeling of not getting enough sleep. The dreaded, sluggish zombie-eyed appearance we’ve experienced since we begged for a later bedtime in elementary school. As we get older, we realized quite quickly that there were a few worse things in life than an achy and sleepless night.

The facts:

Nearly 80% of women have problems sleeping 3 times times a month at minimum. 23% have issues almost every night and according to the National Sleep Foundation, half of all women regularly wake up feeling un-refreshed.

This not only leads to particularly cranky people, but also places added strain on the mind and body and increases your risk of illnesses like diabetes and depression.

Now you’re listening aren’t ya?

The secret to a relaxing and revitalizing night’s sleep all depends on your sleeping position.  


Say what? I know it’s hard to believe but bear with me. Depending on the type of pain you’re trying to avoid, or combat, the position with which you lie down can help relieve recurring pain and ensure a good night’s sleep.

Notorious Offender:

One thing you want to immediately STOP doing is stomach sleeping. It might be something you’ve done since childhood when you’re parents carried you to bed after a long night, but the cons considerably outweigh the pros.

Sleeping on your stomach flattens the natural curve of your spine and puts additional pressure on your back muscles. 

“Stomach sleeping means that your neck is rotated, which can actually result in back pain between your shoulders.” Says paul gross MSPT. A physical therapist and spine specialist with good Sheppard penn partners in greater Philadelphia.

Pains and Gains:

Back pain, shoulder pain, neck pain & hip pain.

Some sleep positions put more pressure on your neck, shoulders, hips, lower back, knees and even your heels, all of which lead to pain during the day. Unfortunately, there is no universal sleep position to nip bodily pain in the bud, but there are a few tricks you can try to get it under control so that you’ll sleep more soundly.

Back pain:

A study published in the Asian Spine Journal in 2014 found that more than 32% of those with lower back pain suffered from sleep disturbances as a result of their back pain, waking at least twice during the night. Researchers also found that the worst time for back pain was between 7pm and midnight, and that the worse the pain the more sleep was affected.” (Rodriguez, Diana. “Switch Your Sleep Positions to Ease Back Pain.” Everyday Health. N.p., n.d. Web.)

  • Put a pillow under your knees to allow your spine to maintain its natural curve.
  • (or) put a pillow under your lower abdomen and pelvis to ease back strain.
  • (or) draw your legs up slightly toward your chest and sleep with a pillow between your knees.
Shoulder pain:

Sleeping on your side can both cause and relieve shoulder pain. It’s all about the little details. Many men and women make the mistake of tucking their bottom arm under their head or pillow. This ends up straining the brachial plexus. (a network of nerves that control the shoulder, arm and hand.)

  • Lie on your pain-free side with your legs slightly bent. Extend your bottom arm straight out in front of you then bring it back in, using both arms to hug a pillow to your chest.
Neck pain:

There are two sleeping positions easiest on the neck: on your side or on your back. It is advisable to invest in feather, or memory foam, pillows which easily conform to the shape of your neck. If you sleep on your side, keep your spine straight by using a pillow that is higher under your neck than your head.

  • If you sleep on your back, choose a rounded pillow to support the natural curve of your neck, with a flatter pillow cushioning your head. This can be achieved by tucking a small neck roll into the pillowcase .
Hip Pain:

15% of women have Bursitis, also known as Runner’s Hip.  A painful condition that comes from inflammation of the hip joint. The solution to this is simple, GET OFF YOUR SIDE.

  • Sleeping on your injured, or tender side is the last thing you want to do. It puts unwanted pressure on your hips pushing them into your mattress.  
  • Sleeping on your back gives your hips a little break from the near constant stress of walking and sitting all day. Prop a pillow under your knees for added support.

Added Offenders:


Jaw pain, sinus pain, heartburn, and PMS

Achy jaw:

Bruxism or night-time teeth grinding is a genetic condition. It affects about 8% of adult men and women. If that wasn’t aggravating enough it has also been linked to stress, anxiety, and various sleep disorders. It also does a painful number on your teeth and jaw and can even change the shape of your face. Yikes!

  • Carolyn Taggart-Burns, D.D.S of the Academy of General Dentistry. “I tell my patients to sleep on their back with their lips closed but teeth open,” she says. To lower your chances of turning your head, try to keep your arms straight at your sides.”
  • lie on your back and face the ceiling. This allows the lower jaw to fall into a natural position and the facial muscles to relax.
Sinus pain:

In order to get rid of that pesky cold you’ve been working on for the last two weeks DO NOT sleep on your back. Your mouth might open during the night and this will dry out whatever has stuffed you up, making you even more congested the following morning.

  • Lie on your side, with an extra pillow under your head and let gravity help with the drainage. Don’t forget that with your head up high your arms will need extra support so hug a pillow. Arrange your legs in a comfy, slightly bent pose.

Sleeping on the left side puts less pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter because of where our organs are situated in our bodies. This particular sphincter is the doorway that food passes through on its ways to the gut. When it’s stressed, burning stomach acid can creep back up irritating your throat.

  • Lie on your left side with your arms resting comfortably in front of you. Bend your knees and curl your legs slightly toward your upper body into a semi-fetal position. If you have really bad heartburn roll onto your back and use a few pillows to prop up your chest and head.

As crazy and unlikely as it sounds altering your period sleeping habits can lessen your uncomfortable menstrual symptoms. When moody, bloated and crampy avoid curling up into a ball or falling asleep on your stomach, even though they may be your go-to comfort positions. It is the exact opposite of what you want to be doing. Lying on your side let’s gravity tug on already tender breast ligaments and lying on your stomach puts extra weight and pressure on your uterus, causing irritation and more cramping.

  • Place a pillow under your knees to keep your lower spine from arching too much, which could increase soreness in your lower back. Keep your arms neutral at your sides. Hint: If you’re still sore, put another pillow, under your knees for additional lower body support.

If you find yourself consistently waking up in the morning with an achy body you might be the culprit of unproductive sleeping position. Adjusting your sleeping position to combat your recurring pain might just give you a few extra hours of shut eye, and a rejuvenate your body.  Why not give it a whirl? You might find you’ve been sleeping the wrong way for years.


Jacobson, Malia. “The Best Sleep Posture for You.” Women’s Health. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Apr. 2016.

Rodriguez, Diana. “Switch Your Sleep Positions to Ease Back Pain.” N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Apr. 2016.

“Say goodnight to neck pain. ” Harvard Health. N.p., 26 June 2012. Web. 27 Apr. 2016.

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