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Sleeping on Your Back: Learn the Pros and Cons of Being a Back Sleeper

Posted By: Layla

If you crawl into bed and your go-to position is sleeping on your back (also called supine), it turns out, you’re in a pretty elite club.

Sleeping on Your Back: Learn the Pros and Cons of Being a Back Sleeper

According to one study, only 10% of adults sleep on their back, even though there are many advantages to this sleep position.

Look at you, staying ahead of the game. Along with the benefits of sleeping on your back, however, there are a few drawbacks. We’re here to break it all down for you and talk about how to make supine slumber work for you (hint: a cooling memory foam mattress helps).

Reasons to Sleep on Your Back

While most adults find the fetal position to be the most comfortable position for rest, sleeping on your back could be better.

Supine sleeping could be good for snoozers who want to:

  • Reduce heartburn. Sleeping on your back with your head and chest slightly elevated is the best position that could help eliminate nightly heartburn. Along with avoiding late-night snacks and other good habits, this sleeping pose can stop uncomfortable symptoms.
  • Get rid of acid reflux. This position might also be the best way to stave off acid reflux. Just make sure your stomach is lower than your esophagus so that food and acid can’t crawl up your digestive tract while you sleep.
  • Stop neck pain. If you sleep on your side or stomach, it can be hard to keep your neck aligned with the rest of your spine. With the right pillow support, you can keep your neck in a neutral position all night long when you sleep supine.
  • Prevent shoulder stress. Sleeping on your side can mean you wake up with a lot of shoulder pain on the side against the mattress. Snoozing on your back eliminates this issue.
  • Put less pressure on internal organs. Sleeping face up may not only be good for your spine. As it turns out, you also put less pressure on your internal organs when you sleep on your back.

Potential Downsides to Sleeping on Your Back

Sleeping sunny side up isn’t for everyone. If you try sleeping on your back and you notice any of the following symptoms, going back to your side sleeping ways might be smart.

  • Lower back pain. Some people have worse lower back pain when they sleep supine. While your shoulders and neck can remain aligned, your bum is likely to sink and arch your lower spine.
  • Sleep apnea. Back sleeping is also notorious for making sleep apnea worse. The position can force your chin forward and obstruct your breathing. If you do sleep on your back with sleep apnea, make sure you fall asleep with your chin pointed up.
  • Disrupted sleep. For some people, sleeping on your back will just never be comfortable. In other words: Give it the old college try but don’t stress yourself out. Unless a doctor has explicitly told you to sleep on your back, you can use a combination of back and side sleeping if it’s the best way to sleep through the night. Ultimately, getting enough REM cycles is the most important thing.

Sleep Better on Your Back

Learning how to sleep on your back the right way means taking advantage of all the benefits while learning to leave the drawbacks behind.
There are a few simple things you can do to enjoy backside sleeping without any morning back pain or breathing problems.

  • Pillow beneath your knees. The Mayo Clinic recommends a pillow beneath the knees for anyone who sleeps on their back. This helps keep a slight curve in your lower back and reduces the pressure on your hips.
  • Low to mid-height head pillow. Don’t use a super full pillow. This pushes your head and neck forward too far to keep your neck straight.
  • Firm mattress. Back sleepers may also want to stick with a firm mattress. Since you’re spreading out all of your body weight at once, a firm mattress can contour your body while still offering ample support.
  • Extra pillows. It can be difficult to make the switch from sleeping on your stomach or side to sleeping on your back. Creating an alley of sorts with pillows flanking you (as well as the pillow beneath your knees) helps you transition.

When to Avoid a Supine Sleeping Position

As great as sleeping on your back can be, there are some instances where your doctor may tell you to knock it off. If any of the following situations ring a bell for you, talk to your physician about whether or not you should try sleeping flat on your back.

  • Beyond 20 weeks of pregnancy. Once you’re about 20 weeks pregnant, the weight of your uterus could compress the vena cava, which is an important blood vessel. Once you’re about 5 months along, you’ll want to transition to side sleeping. Laying on your left side is particularly helpful because the vena cava is on your right side, so it remains completely unrestricted.
  • Serious sleep apnea. Sleep apnea happens most commonly when your airway is obstructed and you intermittently stop breathing during the night. This can happen because your throat muscles relax or because excess weight presses down on your throat while you sleep. In any case, laying flat on your back can make the issue worse. In addition to using a machine to help you sleep, your doctor may suggest an alternate sleeping position.
  • Chronic snoring. A lot of snoring can be a symptom of sleep apnea, but it can also happen on its own. If you’re sleeping with a partner, they may ask you to stop sleeping on your back because it makes you more likely to snore loudly and annoy anyone in the room.

Best Mattresses for Back Sleepers

If you’d like to try back sleeping because side sleeping is hurting your shoulders or hips, it can take time to retrain yourself. You might ask yourself “Why can’t I sleep on my back?” because you always wake up on your side in the morning.

In addition to putting a pillow beneath your knees and positioning body pillows on either side, you might want to buy a new mattress.

The best mattress firmness for a back sleeper depends on a lot of things, primarily which pain points you’re trying to address. As a general rule, though, a medium-firm mattress is a good choice.

Why? A medium-firm mattress is strong enough to support your entire body. This is important when you’re sleeping on your back because most of your body surface has contact with the mattress (unlike when you sleep on your side).

A mattress with medium firmness also maintains enough bounce to contour to your body. When you’re choosing between a soft or firm mattress, it turns out you want something kind of in the middle. Or get a flippable mattress with multiple firmness options so you have choices.

Customize Your Pillow for Better Back Sleeping

You can also make sleeping on your back better by choosing the right pillow. If you have acid reflux, you may want to prop your head and chest up fairly high. To avoid neck pain, you could be better off with a very low pillow that aligns your neck with the rest of your spine.

In any case, a memory foam pillow will contour to your head and neck. Foam can fill the gap between your shoulders and head, cradling you like a wee baby.

Layla Sleep for Better Rest

Once you learn to sleep on your back, you can upgrade the experience by getting a better bed. If you’re trying to tackle the memory foam vs. spring mattress debate, you’ll soon realize that memory foam is the way to go.

The Layla Mattress features copper-infused foam, which wicks heat away from your body. Our flippable mattress has a firm side and a softer side to match your exact comfort levels.

Want to hear a fun pillow fact? Our Layla Pillow has a zipper on the side, and you can take out some of the filler until the pillow is at an ideal level for you. If you’re sleeping on your back, it doesn’t get any better.

Check out our Layla Sleep system today. When you sleep better, you live better.