Side Sleepers

Written by Zulekha Nishad

Last Updated June 13, 2024

Marwa Ismail Fact checked by Marwa Ismail

Side sleepers, rejoice! This guide is for you. Let's face it; side sleeping is the best way to sleep. It's comfortable, cozy, and perfect for snuggling up with a partner or your favorite pillow. But side-sleeping can also be a bit of a challenge. If you're not careful, you can end up with a cricked neck or a sore shoulder. But don't worry, we've got you covered.

side sleepers - all in one guide to sleeping on your side

There's nothing quite like slipping into a freshly made bed after a long day. But sometimes, no matter how clean your sheets are or how many times you fluff your pillow, it can be tough to get comfortable. However, one thing that always stays consistent is your sleep position.

Whether you sleep on your back, stomach, or side, you're likely to stay in that position all night. Some people even switch positions during the night, but most people find their preferred position and stick with it. While there are both benefits and drawbacks to each position, side sleeping is the most interesting.

latex mattress

What does it mean to be a side sleeper?

A side sleeper is someone who sleeps on the left or right side of their body. They often use a pillow to support their head and shoulders. Some side sleepers also hug a pillow while they sleep. In fact, side sleepers account for 74% of people — far more than any other sleeping position.

Not sure if you are a side sleeper? We'll help you out!

Do you find yourself waking up with flattened hair on just one side of your hair? Do you ever have to check your pillow for drool stains? If you answered yes to either of these questions, then it is likely that you are a side sleeper.

Most people are familiar with the standard side-sleeping position: lying on your side with your head resting on a pillow. But did you know that there are actually several different variations of side sleeping? 

For example, the fetal position is a popular variation in which you curl up into a ball, with your knees pulled up close to your chest. This position is often used by pregnant women or people who are trying to reduce snoring. Another popular variation is the log position. Oh wait, we are not going to spill the beans about side sleeping variations right now; you have to wait even a little more ;)

Pros of side sleeping position

When it comes to different sleeping positions, side sleeping is the clear winner. Studies have shown that side sleeping has numerous health benefits, including improved brain health and a reduced risk of sleep apnea and acid reflux. Plus, side sleeping is one of the most comfortable and safe positions to sleep in during pregnancy.

Here are some of the common benefits of sleeping on your side:

1. Side sleeping reduces snoring and sleep apnea

Anyone who has shared a bed with a snorer knows how disruptive it can be. Not only is the noise loud and constant, but it can also cause the bed to shake, making it difficult to get a good night's sleep.

In fact, studies have shown that snoring can lead to insomnia, fatigue, and even relationship problems. However, there is one simple solution that can help reduce or eliminate snoring: sleeping on your side.

An image showing back sleeping can partially block your airway, causing snoring

Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the airways collapse during sleep, resulting in interruptions in breathing. Snoring is often a sign of this condition.

When you sleep on your back, gravity pulls your tongue towards the back of your throat, which can partially block your airway and cause you to snore. Sleeping on your side keeps your tongue from falling into your throat and allows you to breathe freely and sleep comfortably at night.

According to studies, sleeping on the left side can help treat sleep apnea more effectively than sleeping on the right. This is due to the fact that it promotes greater blood flow and lowers the chances of airway blockages, both of which can reduce the number of apneas you experience each night.

2. Side sleeping relieves back pain

Side sleeping might help people with chronic lower back and neck pain as well as those who frequently wake up with aching muscles. However, sleeping on one's stomach or back may put additional pressure on the spine, which may cause pain, stiffness, and discomfort.

An image trying to convey the fact that stomach sleeping causes back pain

And do you know what the best side sleeping position for lower back pain is? Simply sleep on your side with a slight bend in your knees. When you sleep like this, it will help to balance your body and reduce the pressure on your lumbar spine. Some people find it more comfortable to use a tiny cushion between their knees.

3. Side sleeping improves digestion

Side sleepers enjoy incredible digestive benefits. Your digestive system is busy during sleep and may take anywhere from 30 to 72 hours to digest food.

Studies show that gas takes much longer to leave the digestive system when you are sleeping on your back. Also, this sleeping position allows acid to travel back up the throat, leading to acid reflux.

Side sleeping improves digestion

When you sleep on your left side, food and acid will be separated from the lower esophageal sphincter. This means less acid will back up into the esophagus. People who experience bloating, constipation, and other issues related to digestion may find relief in the side sleeping position.

Many pregnant women experience heartburn. If you are pregnant, it is recommended that you sleep on your left side. Also, sleeping on your side will improve blood flow and kidney function and also take pressure off your uterus, which is growing heavier with the baby.

4. Side sleeping boosts brain health

Did you know that your brain has junk too? Yes, you read it right!

Side sleeping improves brain health

Sleeping on your left or right side compared to back or stomach sleeping might aid in improving the brain's glymphatic system, which is the cleansing system that removes waste from the brain. This brain cleansing helps reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer's disease and other neurological diseases.

Cons of side sleeping position

While there are many benefits to side sleeping, there are also a few potential drawbacks. For example, if you sleep on your left side, you may put extra pressure on your shoulders. And also, you may end up with more wrinkles, as this position can cause your face to sag over time. So ultimately, the best sleeping position for you is whichever one allows you to get the most restful sleep.

1. Increases the risk of shoulder pain

The biggest area of concern for pretty much all the side sleepers out there is the shoulder. When you sleep on your side, you're pushing your shoulders against the mattress, which can force the rotator cuff into an uncomfortable position all night long. Well, why does this matter?

side sleeping and shoulder pain

According to WebMD, "Your rotator cuff is made up of muscles and tendons that keep the ball (head) of your upper arm bone (humerus) in your shoulder socket. It also helps you raise and rotate your arm.” Unfortunately, the more strain you put on your rotator cuff, the more unpleasant it gets, leading to an increased risk of shoulder pain.

natural and organic latex mattress topper

2. Causes sleep wrinkles

Unfortunately, this is not a myth - One of the reasons you may start seeing lines and wrinkles is because of the position you sleep in.

If you are a side sleeper, your face may be pressed against your pillow, causing your skin to fold up and produce vertical wrinkles. And, just like the appearance of folds in leather shoes over time, these "sleep lines" are repeatedly reinforced and etched, eventually becoming permanent creases in your skin.

Should I sleep on the left or the right side?

Some people think that sleeping on your left side is the best way to have a healthy night's sleep. But sleeping on your right side can also be beneficial when it comes to sleep apnea and back pain relief. Also, you don't have to stick with one side all the time - feel free to switch around if you want.

It's also natural to shift from side to side or even fall asleep on your back while sleeping. However, sleeping on one's stomach is the not-so-recommended position for the spine and other organs in the body, so avoid it if at all possible.

Types of side sleepers

When it comes to side sleepers, there are a few different types. First, there's the classic side sleeper, who just flops down on their side and passes out. Then there's the more graceful side sleeper, who carefully arranges themselves before drifting off to sleep. And finally, there's the weird side sleeper, who somehow manages to contort their body into all sorts of strange positions.

No matter what type of side sleeper you are, one thing is for sure: you're probably going to wake up smiling in the morning.

  • Fetal Position

The fetal position is just as it sounds - you curl up into a ball, much like a fetus in the womb. It's a popular sleeping position for side sleepers, as it allows the spine to stay in alignment and relieves pressure on the hips and shoulders.

If you tend to wake up in the fetal position, it may be because you're trying to stay warm. After all, when you curl up into a ball, you're creating a little cocoon of warmth. So if you find yourself waking up in this position frequently, it might be time to invest in some extra blankets!

fetal position
  • The log

Log sleepers, so named for their tendency to sleep on their side with arms along their torso and legs extended in a horizontal line, are thought to get the best night's sleep. And it makes sense because who wouldn't be well-rested after spending the entire night in the same position?

Though some research indicates that this position can lead to wrinkles, it's still the preferred sleep position for many people. So if you find yourself in this position when you wake up in the morning, don't worry - it just means you got a good night's sleep!

the log sleeping position

  • The yearner

If you find yourself sleeping on your side with your arms outstretched in front of you, you may be a yearner. According to sleep experts, people who identify with this sleeping position tend to have an "open nature" and can be suspicious of others.

If you're a yearner, you might also find that you carefully deliberate on the good side and the bad side of a decision before actually making it.

yearner sleeping position

  • The pillow hugger

The pillow hugger sleeping position

When it comes to bedtime, pillow-huggers are pretty darn cute. There's something about the way they curl up on their side, hugging their pillow close, that just fills you with warmth.

It's no surprise, then, that these are the people who are always surrounded by love. Whether it's their family, friends, or partners, pillow-huggers just have a way of making everyone feel special.

  • The thinker

If you find yourself lying in bed with your chin resting on your hand, you may be following the thinker sleeping position. These folks are always pondering big life questions, even in their dreams.

And while they may seem a bit reserved on the outside, they're actually quite passionate people. They just need to feel a deep connection with someone before they can let their guard down. So if you're looking to get close to a thinker, be prepared to have some serious conversations.

the thinker sleeping position

And, no matter how you sleep on your side, there are two things you need for a good night's sleep - a mattress and a pillow that provide the right support and comfort.

Choosing the best mattress for side sleepers

When it comes to choosing a mattress, there are many factors to consider. But for side sleepers, there's one key factor that trumps all others: comfort. After all, when you're spending up to eight hours a day lying on your side, you want to make sure you're as comfortable as possible.

The good news is that there are plenty of mattresses on the market designed specifically for side sleepers. These mattresses often have special features designed to support the hips and shoulders, which can help to reduce pain and stiffness.

If you're a side sleeper, you probably need something that will contour your body's shape and provide pressure point relief. Otherwise, you'll end up with back and shoulder pain. Considering that, latex mattresses are always the best for sleepers of this kind.

A latex mattress is a perfect option for side sleepers because it offers them both. Latex mattresses are made from natural latex, which is extremely durable and provides excellent support. At the same time, latex is very flexible, so it can contour the body and provide pressure relief for the hips and shoulders. This makes latex mattresses ideal for side sleepers who want to avoid pain and still get a good night's sleep.

Of course, there are other types of mattresses available, including hybrid, innerspring, and memory foam mattress options. But, none of these types can be compared to the innumerable health benefits offered by natural latex mattresses.

Choosing the best pillow for side sleepers

There are many different types of pillows on the market, and it can be tricky to choose the right one. For side sleepers, the best pillow is one that provides adequate cushioning to support both the head and neck without sinking in too deeply or feeling too thick.

Spinal alignment is important for side sleepers, and neck and shoulder aches can occur as a result of pillows that don't provide the right support.

When determining the best pillow, you should also look at factors including loft, firmness level, and material composition. For example, side sleepers need a supportive, but not too firm, pillow. And a pillow with a loft of 4-6 inches is typically ideal.

The material composition of the pillow is also important, as side sleepers need a pillow that will conform to their head and neck shape but not lose its shape over time.

Considering all the above-said factors, a latex pillow is the ideal type of pillow for side sleepers.

Best practices for side sleepers

side sleeping best practices

Here are some tips to make sure you get the most out of your side-sleeping experience:

  • Make sure the mattress that you are sleeping on is firm enough to support your body. A soft mattress will probably cause your spine to curve, which can lead to back pain.
  • Place a supportive pillow between your knees to keep your hips aligned. This will help relieve pressure on your lower back.
  • Use a comfy pillow that is high enough to offer great support to both your head and neck. A pillow that is too low will cause neck pain.
  • When it comes to side sleepers and sleeping on your side, the more pillows, the better. You can also experiment with hugging pillows or placing a pillow behind your back until you find your most comfy position. However, just make sure you don't have too many pillows, or you might end up looking like a human burrito. LOL!
  • If you're pregnant, snoring, or suffer from sleep apnea, it's always best to sleep on your left side.

Side sleepers, unite! Whether you're a "starfish" or a "fetus," there are plenty of ways to make the side sleeping position more comfortable and hopefully less disruptive. So give it all a try and adopt what you feel is the most comfortable side sleeping position for you. And don’t forget, if side sleeping isn’t working for you, don’t be shy about giving back sleeping and stomach sleeping a chance! We hope our ultimate guide has helped.

natural and organic pillows

Related blog posts:

1. Mattress Sizes and Bed Dimensions Chart

mattress sizes and bed dimensions guide

2. Best Cooling Mattress For Hot Sleepers

best cooling mattress for hot sleepers

Health Conditions That Affect Sleep Quality

health conditions that affect sleep quality

4. How to Measure a Mattress the Right Way?

5. How Do You Extend The Life Of Your Mattress?

Disclaimer: What is said in this article has been referenced from multiple sources and is intended only for educational and informational purposes. Please note that no content in this article is a substitute for professional advice from a qualified doctor or healthcare provider. Always consult an experienced doctor with any concerns you may have regarding a health condition or treatment, and never disregard any medical suggestions or delay in seeking treatment because of something you read here.