Have you ever considered making the switch to sleeping on your back? Well a few weeks ago, I decided to do just that.
To give a bit of a back story, I’m a routine stomach sleeper, in fact up until just recently it was near impossible for me to fall asleep if I wasn’t lying face down on my stomach. I’d move around a bit, and wake up sometimes during the night, but other than that the quality of my sleep wasn’t something I was concerned about.
The one problem, however, was my frequent back pain. Nights when I wouldn’t even go to bed with back pain still had me waking up super uncomfortable. It seemed to be that the way I was contorting my body into sleeping every night was supporting neither my back or neck.
I had always read about the benefits of sleeping on your back. It helps keep your spine aligned, reduces tension headaches, helps avoid irritated facial skin, and reduces pressure and compression in the body. But my habitual stomach-sleep position always took over every time I tried to spend a night sleeping on my back.
When I realised, really realised, that I was sabotaging my neck and back alignment and ultimately comfort, I decided to go one full week sleeping on my back. I chose a week where I wasn’t too busy, expecting to be getting out of bed in a zombie-like state for seven days. Instead, I was actually the complete opposite.
This is what I noticed when I slept on my back for a week:
I woke up less during the night
I must admit, the falling asleep part was a lot harder than when on my stomach, especially for the first few nights, but once I was asleep I would rarely wake up. The first night that I anticipated would be the worst, I actually didn’t wake up at all and was shocked to see the time when I checked the clock in the morning, realising it was time to get up.
While I woke up probably 50 per cent less often than I would when I’m on my stomach shuffling around, when I did wake up on my back it was again harder to fall asleep. However, I put this down to the new position playing on my body and mind, since the waking up wasn’t excessive and didn’t impact my sleep quality to a great extent.
My skin was clearer
Waking up with a breakout was not uncommon territory for me. But I never really considered how my pillow could be affecting my face. After noticing this change, I found that the UK Sleep Assessment and Advisory Service discovered that sleeping on your front can cause acne. This position puts too much weight on your skin due to the position of your body, and can also cause wrinkles, fine lines, and puffy skin.
Of course, the opposite of this is sleeping on your back, which researchers and dermatologists have revealed promotes healthier skin. It prevents your face from rubbing against the pillow and also allows your entire body to relax which reduces inflammation and promotes cell turnover in the face.
Plus, if you aren’t one to regularly change your pillowcase (some dermatologists recommend changing up to every day for bad acne), then sleeping on your back is definitely going to be much better for your skin.
I didn’t move around
Probably the most shocking part of sleeping on my back was waking up in the exact same position I fell asleep in seven or eight hours prior. It didn’t happen every night (some nights I woke up on my side), but it was this way more often than not.
Since sleeping on your back allows the body to completely relax and fall into natural alignment, there is no pressure on any particular point, making it the sleeping position that requires the least readjusting during the night. And I can guarantee you that this made a huge improvement on the quality of my sleep, leaving me much more refreshed in the morning.
I had more energy
Considering I woke up less during the night, and barely moved around in my sleep position, there is no surprise that I had more energy when I woke up the next day. High-quality sleep allows your body to completely restore the many functions it calls on throughout a day like temperature regulation, your immune system and hormone levels, which in turn grants you with the ability to operate at your peak potential.
As someone who struggles to function on anything less than seven hours of sleep, I felt refreshed waking up even on days where I hadn’t slept for as long as I normally would, simply due to the improvement in the quality of my sleep.
My body was less sore
Sleeping on your stomach causes a pronounced curve in your spine, similar to that of a back bend, so it is clear how sleeping in this position can put pressure on your lower back and cause pain. Sleeping on your back however allows the body to fall into natural alignment, distributing body weight evenly.
With that being said, waking up feeling less sore, particularly in my neck and back was no surprise. I did however find that I required a more supportive pillow for my neck, instead of my usual very flat pillow that suited my stomach sleeping perfectly. With that slight adjustment, my back and neck felt brand new.
Sleeping on my back for seven days had me feeling more refreshed and energised than I had been in a long time, something I originally didn’t even know I could improve, so I decided to stick with it beyond just that week. I was surprised to discover that according to the US National Sleep Foundation, only 8 per cent of sleepers choose to sleep on their back despite it being the optimal sleep position for many people.
After sticking with it, I realised on the nights I would really struggle to fall asleep, it was best to just sleep on my side or stomach, since I knew I needed to prioritise actually getting some shut eye rather than sleep quality and long-term benefits.
And while it has worked for me (even though I do occasionally resort to sleeping on my side or stomach), sleeping on your back isn’t optimal for everyone such as people with snoring issues or sleep apnea, so it’s best just to try different positions out until you find what works best for you.
This article was written by Laine Fullerton and originally published on A Girl In Progress.