Your preferred sleep position has a more significant impact on your health than you might think. Whether you sleep on your side, stomach, or back, the right sleep position and mattress combination can leave you feeling rested and refreshed. However, the combination can have you waking up with morning pain.

There isn’t a “right” or “wrong” way to sleep. It all depends on what you find most comfortable. When shopping for a new mattress, you’ll want to understand the implications of your preferred sleep position to ensure you’ll get the highest quality sleep possible.

Sleeping on your back in the supine position is a popular way to sleep, second to side sleeping. This position keeps your neck and spine in a neutral position, alleviating neck and back pain. However, if you sleep on your back improperly, it can lead to lower back pain.

Back sleepers have the widest variety of suitable mattresses to choose from. For example, side sleepers require more plush mattresses to alleviate pressure points, while stomach sleepers require more firm beds for proper spinal alignment. Back sleepers tend to be comfortable in a wider range of mattress models, giving them plenty of options to choose from.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Sleeping on Your Back

While most of the population prefers to sleep on their side, 10 percent prefer to sleep on their back. However, when it comes to sleeping on your back, there are a handful of different positions you may find yourself in at night. Each comes with its benefits and drawbacks depending on underlying conditions such as sleep apnea and snoring.

The Soldier Position

When in the soldier position, you sleep flat on your back with your arms at your sides. While this position keeps your neck and spine aligned, it can cause snoring. The soldier position is not ideal for those who have sleep apnea.

Woman stretching while laying in bed

One upside to the soldier position is the fact that it can aid with acid reflux. You can improve upon your soldier position by placing a rolled-up towel or a pillow under your knees. This can lower your chance of back pain by supporting your spine’s natural curve.

The Starfish

The starfish position refers to sleeping on your back with your arms spread out over your head. Like the soldier, the starfish can lead to snoring and is not recommended for people with sleep apnea.

However, the starfish will still aid in acid reflux, similarly to the soldier. To make yourself even more comfortable in this position, keep your knees propped up to maintain a healthy spine.

Pros and Cons of Back Sleeping

As mentioned above, sleeping on your back isn’t ideal for those who snore often or have sleep apnea. But why?

When you lay on your back, your tongue can collapse on the back of your throat. This causes a vibrating sound as you sleep as your breaths are effectively fighting past your tongue.

According to Kaliq Chang, a pain management specialist and physician with The Atlantic Spine Center, the most critical aspect of sleeping on your back is maintaining neutral alignment of your neck and spine. If they’re off, you won’t get much restful sleep, or you may wake up in pain.

Properly sleeping on your back can help alleviate neck pain and headaches. It can also aid in acid reflux as sleeping on your back keeps your stomach below your esophagus. This prevents any stomach acids from creeping up your throat as you sleep. However, it’s essential to keep your torso slightly elevated to stave off acid reflux.

How To Sleep on Your Back Properly

As explained above, the most important thing to do when sleeping on your back is to maintain neck and spine alignment. You want to keep your head, neck, and spine in as straight a line as possible.

As mentioned, it also helps to keep a pillow or towel under your knees while you sleep. Some back sleepers report waking up with lower back pain. The cushioning supports the natural curve of your back.

If you have an adjustable bed frame, it will help keep your torso and feet elevated at night. Doing so will help with acid reflux for the reasons previously mentioned. Those who have problems with tossing and turning at night may want to invest in a weighted blanket. A popular choice for people who have trouble sleeping, the heavy blanket will keep you in one place as it’ll be hard for your body to move while under it.

Experts advise that pregnant women, especially in the second and third trimesters, avoid sleeping on their back for a full night. The weight of the fetus can put pressure on the spine and can cause more back pain than pregnant women may already be experiencing. For pregnant women, it’s recommended they sleep on their left side.

The Best Mattresses for Back Sleepers

The best mattress for back sleepers provides pressure relief for the hips and shoulders without sinking too deep into it. Remember, the most critical part about sleeping on your back is maintaining head, neck, and spine alignment.

It all comes down to firmness. Average weight back sleepers (130-230 lbs) typically prefer a medium-firm mattress. Lightweight back sleepers (less than 130 lbs) usually look for something softer, while heavyweight back sleepers often require something on the firmer side.

What does weight have to do with mattress firmness? It determines how much you’ll sink into the top comfort layer.

Many modern mattresses come with zoned support technology in their support cores, especially high-end hybrid mattresses. For back sleepers, zoned support provides more pressure relief around your legs, hips, and shoulders.

Perfect Pillows for Back Sleepers

Now that you’ve narrowed down the ideal mattress, it’s time to hone in on the best back sleeper pillow. In the interest of neck and spinal alignment, back sleepers need to choose a pillow that their head will sink into without sinking too deeply.

Generally, medium loft (how low or high off the bed the pillow reaches) is best for back sleepers. This means finding a pillow with some thickness to it, but not enough that it makes your crane your neck.

Back to Back Nights of Good Rest

The supine position may not be the most popular sleep position, but it’s still first-nature for roughly 10 percent of the population. If you find sleeping on your back to be the most comfortable option, rest assured that it’s a perfectly healthy position despite its lack of popularity.

Still, as with all other sleep position preferences, you’ll want to put thought and research into how your sleep position affects your body before buying a new mattress or pillow supports.