The Best and Worst Sleep Positions for Health Conditions

It may seem to occur without thought, but have you ever wondered, “What position should I sleep in?” Body position can have an important impact on sleep. It may affect breathing and cause snoring or sleep apnea, worsen pain, or lead to insomnia.

What are the best and worst sleep positions? How should you sleep to relieve back or neck pain? Consider the most common sleep positions and which might be best for various health conditions, including pregnancy.

Supine (Back)

Supine sleep occurs when a person is lying flat on his or her back. Legs are usually extended out in a neutral position.

Arms may lie flat by the sides of the body. They may also be bent with the hands across the torso. Arms may also be raised above the shoulders with the hands placed by the face, above or behind the head, or outstretched to the sides.


If you can breathe well during sleep, this may be the best sleep position. The body may be more fully supported by the mattress and pillow. With a supportive pillow or cushion placed at the knees, this may reduce pressure and musculoskeletal pain.

Supine sleep may be helpful if you experience chronic back, neck, shoulder, hip, or sciatica pain.

With the feet raised above the heart, this may relieve peripheral edema (swelling of the feet and ankles) and reduce the impacts of congestive heart failure.1 This is also the preferred sleeping position for infants to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).2


For many people, supine sleep is best. However, those with trouble breathing during sleep may find that lying on the back makes this worse. This may manifest as louder snoring.

Nasal obstruction and mouth breathing may also allow the lower jaw and tongue to more easily shift back and obstruct the airway. This may lead to the symptoms and consequences of sleep apnea.


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