4 Sleep Positions to Get Your Best Z's (And One to Avoid)

For moms, sleep is a precious commodity that can feel impossible to achieve. There are the heartburn and backaches of pregnancy that make us toss and turn, the round-the-clock demands of a newborn, the early-morning toddler wake-ups, the late-night fevers, and even the I-Stayed-Up-Too-Late-Because-It-Was-the-Only-Time-I-Had-to-Myself Syndrome (guilty as charged!). Then, when we do finally get to collapse into bed, we're so tired that we don't think about finding the right sleep position for a restful night's snooze.

Although we all know how important it is to get enough sleep, it's not only the number of hours that count. The quality of sleep is equally important to our health, according to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF). If those eight hours in bed are spent tossing and turning, or waking up frequently or super-early, that's a sign that your Z's aren't as restful as they should be. The organization determines a good night's sleep as means falling asleep within 30 minutes of going to bed, and waking no more than once during the night.

A number of factors can interfere with the quality of our sleep: the temperature of the room, the comfort of the mattress, exercising too close to bedtime, too much alcohol before bed, and computer or cell phone use (these electronics emit a brain-stimulating blue light). But the way in which we sleep can also make the difference between waking up refreshed or groggy and aching. Sleep experts agree that there are certain sleep positions that help promote a good night's snooze — and one which only leads to miserable mornings. Read on to find out which!


Curled Up On Your Side


If you find yourself folding up into the fetal position at night, you're in good company: Most people fall asleep on one side, according to research published in The Internet Journal of Allied Sciences and Practice. It's also one of the best positions for preventing back pain, particularly if you keep a pillow between your knees, advised NYU Langone orthopedic surgeon Jeffrey Goldstein, MD, as reported in Reader's Digest. Sleeping on your left side when you're pregnant increases blood flow for you and your baby, according to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), and it's also a good position for acid reflux sufferers. For maximum head and neck support, there are pillows that are best for side sleepers, advised Health.


On Your Back

Although it doesn't suit everyone — only 8 percent of people sleep this way, according to the NSF — lying on your back is the best for overall back health, because it allows the mattress to support your spine. If you suffer from sciatica, putting pillows under your knees while lying on your back will help take the pressure off the sensitive sciatic nerve, said Spine-Health. However, this position can trigger snoring, and can be dangerous for people with sleep apnea, because it can cause airway blockage, added the NSF. It's also not recommended for pregnant women past the first trimester.


Like a Log

The so-called "log" position is similar to the fetal position, except that sleepers keep their legs straight and their arms at their sides, rather than under the pillow. It's the position favored by 15 percent of snoozers, and it's also excellent for preventing neck and back pain, according to WebMD. The site recommends putting a pillow between the knees to align the spine and take pressure off the hips.


Starfish Style


WebMD used this nautical name for a back-sleeping position in which the arms are up over or behind the head and the legs are spread apart. Again, this is a position to avoid if you're pregnant or prone to snoring, but sleeping on your back can help reduce acid reflux, added the NSF, particularly if your head is propped up with a firm pillow to keep your stomach below your esophagus.


Avoid: Stomach Sleeping


The sleep experts are unanimous on this one: Tummy-sleeping is as bad for grownups as it is for babies. Although it keeps the airway more open than back-sleeping does, the face-down position can lead to back and neck pain, warned the NSF.

WebMD said it's hard to get comfortable in this "freefall" pose, meaning it can take longer to drop off to sleep. If you're tired of waking up with an aching back, try using pillows to help you stay in the side-sleeping position, suggested Greatist.