The Best and Worst Sleep Positions for Health Conditions

The following conditions may be worsened as a result of sleep apnea associated with supine sleep:3

  • Sleepiness/fatigue
  • Insomnia (especially frequent awakenings)
  • Snoring
  • Dry mouth
  • Urination at night (nocturia)
  • Teeth grinding or clenching (bruxism)
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Mood disorders (anxiety or depression)
  • Hearing loss
  • Glaucoma
  • Chronic sinusitis/post-nasal drip
  • Heartburn/gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Palpitations
  • Atrial fibrillation
  • Hypertension
  • Hyperlipidemia
  • Diabetes
  • Heart attack risk
  • Heart failure risk
  • Stroke risk

Left Side

Also known as the lateral position, the body is positioned with the head and torso lying on the left side. The arm may be under the body or may be slightly forward or extended, with some pressure at the left shoulder.

The legs may be stacked, with the left leg underneath or slightly staggered. In a fetal position, the legs are bent and the knees are drawn toward the upper body.

Pros

This position avoids the adverse impacts of supine sleep and may be especially important to remedy position-dependent snoring and sleep apnea.4 Breathing may be optimal by sleeping on the left side.

If a right-sided joint (often shoulder or hip) is causing pain, it may be eased in this position. Sleeping on the side can also facilitate spooning (lying closely side by side) with a bed partner.

A person who is pregnant may place a pillow under their stomach or between their knees and find this position relieves pressure on the bladder and back pain.

Cons

Unfortunately, the left lateral position is not for everyone. When sleeping on the left, the internal organs in the thorax can shift. The lungs may weigh heavily on the heart.

This increased pressure may impact the heart’s function, potentially worsening heart strain in heart failure.5 The heart may respond to the increased pressure by activating the kidneys, increasing urination at night.

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