Why You Should Learn How to Sleep On Your Back

June 28, 2019

Try back sleeping to alleviate back pain.
Renée Bacher

There are many potential benefits to sleeping on your back, like lessening back, neck and shoulder pain. However, how to learn to sleep on your back can be a challenge if you're used to sleeping a specific way.

A survey of 3,700 people showed only 10% of us sleep on our backs and 74% sleep on our sides, but it's unclear why. It's possible that sleeping on your side is more comforting and reminiscent of being in utero, particularly if it's in the fetal position. It's also possible that since back sleeping makes us more prone to snoring, our sleeping partners may be nudging us onto our sides.

Still, there are remedies for snoring while sleeping on your back, such as wearing a chin strap or using a wedge pillow to elevate your upper body. If you are waking with an aching back every morning, sleeping on your back may be worth a try.

Set an Intention

Breaking habits and creating new ones is difficult, and the jury is out on how long it takes to do so. Some studies say it takes 21 days, while others say much longer. However, if you are prone to back pain, the benefits of sleeping on your back are worth it. Before bed, make a conscious commitment to remain on your back throughout the night. Tell yourself that if you wake during the night in another position, you're going to return to your back. Remind yourself that the benefits of sleeping on your back, like reduced back pain, will be worth any minor discomforts involved in changing your sleep routine.

Load Up With Pillows

Pillows can be your greatest supporters in how to learn to sleep on your back. Start by placing a king-sized pillow on each side of your body before you drift off to sleep. If you need something firmer and less forgiving should you roll onto it, grab a couple of seat cushions from your sofa and box yourself into place before drifting off. A large memory foam wedge pillow underneath your upper back and head can make sleeping on your back more comfortable by putting you on an incline, which also reduces snoring and acid reflux. If you've had surgery, a crescent-shaped travel pillow beneath the neck is a great way to keep your neck in alignment and pain-free if you have to sleep on your back to avoid irritating an incision. Putting a pillow or rolled up towel underneath your knees will take any strain off your lower back while back sleeping, too.

Try a Weighted Blanket

Gravity blankets (also known as weighted blankets) filled with pellets made of plastic or glass, have been reported to help people with anxiety and insomnia to fall asleep, stay asleep and enjoy a better quality of sleep overall. Gravity blankets make it more difficult to toss and turn, which means if you're trying to learn how to sleep on your back, adding a weighted blanket to your efforts can actually help hold your body in place as fall asleep.

Proceed With Caution

While sleeping on your back is most likely to keep your back in proper alignment, it may not be for everyone: One study from the National Institutes of Health found that young adults slept poorly when sleeping on their backs. Another study showed that sleeping on your back could exacerbate sleep apnea in elderly people. If you have sleep apnea, talk to your primary care physician or the sleep specialist who is treating you to ask if this position is safe.

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