Body+Soul enlists the help of the Sleep Health Foundation and Osteopathy Australia to figure out which sleeping position is best for your body.
Maybe you love your tummy time but always wake up with a stiff neck. Or perhaps you snore up a storm when you’re snoozing on your back.
We’ve enlisted the experts to weigh up the pros and cons of each style.
Like what you see? Sign up to our bodyandsoul.com.au newsletter for more stories like this.
Yearner (arms outstretched) – 13% of people
Log (arms straight down) – 15% of people
Whether your arms are outstretched or straight down by your sides, or if you prefer to have one leg bent up, there are plenty of variations to sleeping on your side.
And while it’s generally a good position for spine and neck alignment, “You don’t want your joints in extreme positions,” Osteopathy Australia president Michelle Funder tells Body+Soul.
“So having everything fully straight is a bit too much.”
Foetus – 41% of people
Curled up and comfy, the foetus position feels like the most natural shape to sleep in for the vast majority of us – it’s also the best position, as “it follows the natural curvature of the spine”, says Professor Dorothy Bruck, from the Sleep Health Foundation.
To get the most out of it, Funder tips: “[Find] a mid-range position with a bit of a bend through your knees and hips, so that your spine isn’t overly flexed or extended – what we’d call a neutral position.”
Freefaller – 7% of people
Funder advises against belly sleeping. “Sleeping on your stomach is like turning your head to the side for hours on end,” she says.
“You end up with a stiff neck and asymmetries. Plus, if you hike one leg [or arm] up, you can end up with impingement around the hip and shoulders as well, because the joints and tendons are being irritated.”
Funder says hugging a pillow and placing one between your legs will stop you from rolling on to your stomach, and will also offload the shoulder joint.
Starfish – 5% of people
Soldier – 8% of people
Sleeping on your back can be a gentle way for your body to catch ZZZs, but it also often leads to snoring. While it can be harmless in some instances, snoring can also be an indication of sleep apnoea – interrupted breathing – a disorder that can be dangerous if left untreated.
“Sleeping on your back is by far the riskiest position for obstructive sleep apnoea,” Bruck says. “Putting your arms up in the starfish opens your diaphragm, but it may have no effect on your upper airway, which is where the apnoea is happening.”
3 ways to work out the morning kinks
Osteopath Michelle Funder has a few simple mobility exercises and stretches than can help ease body aches from a bad night’s sleep.
1. Pelvic tilt
Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor, your arms resting by your side. Tilt your hips towards the floor to create an arch in your lower back then slowly tilt them the other way to flatten your spine.
2. Book openers
Lying on your side with your head on a pillow, bend your knees and hips at 90 degrees, with your arms stretched in front of you. Float the top arm towards the ceiling and follow it with your gaze, then rotate the arm towards the floor behind you until you feel a gentle spinal stretch.
Repeat on the other side.
3. Cat and cow
On all fours, stack your hands under your shoulders and knees under your hips. Drop your head and round your spine to create a concave arch, tucking your pelvis under, then slowly start to send your head forward and gaze towards the ceiling into a convex position.
Repeat as often as needed.