How to Train Yourself to Sleep on Your Back
Although side sleeping is the most common sleep position (and is a good option if you have acid reflux or sleep apnea), it does come with some downsides. Namely, side sleeping can put pressure on your hips, shoulders, and neck and cause back pain.
Stomach sleeping, meanwhile, is something experts just don't recommend at all.
“To sleep on one's stomach, one has to keep the head turned to be able to breathe," says Tom Tozer, chiropractor at Imperium Chiropractic in Eau Claire, Wisc. “This 90-degree rotation will put additional stress into the joints, ligaments, tendons, muscles, and nerves of the neck and upper thoracic spine."
Ready to make the switch to back sleeping? Here, learn all about the benefits of back sleeping, plus find out you how to sleep on your back if it's not something you're in the habit of doing.
The benefits of back sleeping
The National Sleep Foundation holds back sleeping as ideal because it both keeps your head and spine in alignment, eliminating pressure that contributes to aches and pains, and allows your back muscles to relax.
This position is also excellent for people who complain of back pain and tightness. For acid reflux sufferers, this position works well because it keeps your head above your esophagus. However, in order to have your head elevated correctly, you need the right pillow or adjustable base. And for those of you who are a bit vain, (hint: all of us) sleeping on your back helps prevent acne by keeping your face away from your pillowcase.
How to sleep on your back
Ready to ditch your current sleep position and become a back sleeper? You can train yourself to sleep on your back in a few simple steps. Here's how to do it.
Choose the right mattress
The best mattress for back sleepers is typically a medium firm mattress. Anything too soft may cause you to sink into the bed, while anything too firm may put pressure on your shoulders and back.
Our Best Mattresses for Back Sleepers
Find a supportive pillow
Beyond your mattress, the right pillow is also key. The best pillow for back sleepers is a thinner to medium-thick pillow since this will keep your head, neck, and spine properly aligned.
Our Best Pillow for Back Sleepers
Address back pain
If you experience back pain, try sleeping on your back with a pillow under your knees to maintain the curve of your lower back and relieve discomfort. Stretching before bed can also help alleviate and prevent nighttime back pain.
Create a pillow fortress to keep yourself in place
When all else fails, break out the pillows so you physically can't roll onto your side or stomach, suggests Tozer. For example, put pillows on both sides of your body and one under your knees to prevent from flipping over.
Know that becoming a back sleeper won't happen overnight
In a recent essay for wellness site The/Thirty, writer Deven Hopp shares her journey from side sleeper to back sleeper: "None of this happened overnight," she says. "Each of the little tweaks I made took weeks to get used to. Not to mention the months of trial and error that led me to the solutions I now rely on. And while I've finally gotten to the point where it's comfortable to sleep on my back, I'm still not to a point where it feels totally natural."
The bottom line: Transitioning from stomach or side to back sleeping won't happen overnight. But if you give yourself time to get used to your new sleep position, you'll eventually be rewarded with healthier sleep.
Is your favorite sleep position good or bad for your health? Learn more about the pros and cons of every sleep position.