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Side Sleeper: Benefits, Drawbacks & Which Side Is Best to Sleep on?

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Up to date
Update: April 27, 2023
11 min read

Written by

Rahul Upadhyay
Content Writer
Illustration Of Side Sleeper

Many people don’t know about sleep types until they face health issues due to their body posture while sleeping. At this point, they wonder what is a side sleeper and who should sleep in this position.

A side sleeper is someone who sleeps on their side and feels comfortable in this position. You either sleep on the left or right side of your body regularly. There is no rule on which side to sleep on; however, knowing specific guidelines for your sleeping position can be helpful in the long run. This article will teach us about side sleeper benefits, drawbacks, and which side is best to sleep on! 

Side Sleeping Positions

There are different sleeping positions and types suitable for a side sleeper. Find out your side sleep position by reading the following sleeping position types.

Fetal position

Fetal Position

In the fetal sleeping position, the person tends to curl their legs at the knees and drag them toward the chest. The fetal position is similar to the baby’s sleeping position in the womb. This is the most common sleeping position for side sleepers. Most of the time, the person sleeps in this position to keep the body warm.

Prayer Position

Prayer Position

A prayer side sleeping position is seen in people suffering from neck pain. In this position, the person sleeps on the side, placing the folded hands, similar to the praying hand position. The folded hands are mostly kept under the head or pillow for neck support. 

Eternal Snuggler

Eternal Snuggler

In an eternal snuggler position, the person tends to grab pillows and blankets and hug them to the stomach. They sleep in the same position the whole night due to the lack of warmth or extra support. Most people choose to sleep this way as it is the most comfortable sleeping position for them. 

Log Position

Log Position

In the log side sleeping position, the person keeps his arms along the torso lying in a horizontal position. Most of the time, this position remains unchanged throughout the night. Log position type sleepers get a good sleep and feel refreshed and rejuvenated in the morning. According to many side sleepers, the log position is the best sleep position

Reacher Position

Xxx Reacher Position

In the reacher side sleeping position, the person stretches his arms in front of him. Due to this sleeping position, the person’s legs also get sprawled too, spreading across the mattress. 

Yearner Position

Yearner Position

Most people love sleeping in a yearner side sleeping position as it gives a good night’s sleep. In this side sleeping type, the person lying on one side keeps both his arms in front of the body.

Benefits of Sleeping On Your Side

Quality sleep is essential for a healthy mind and body, as it keeps the person active throughout the day. However, your best sleeping position, too, has a say in your sleep quality. So let’s see the benefits of side sleeping and some drawbacks that can affect your sleeping position on your body and health. 

Back Pain Relief

Do you ever feel back pain as you wake up in the morning? There is a silent crumbling of the bones from within. The reason might lie in your sleeping position. Sleeping on the stomach can cause back pain due to the pressure on the spine. The shoulders, neck, and hips should be aligned for a neutral body posture to keep the spine in a good position.  

While sleeping on the side, inserting a pillow between the knees to keep the spine in a neutral position will be beneficial. Hence, side sleeping is suggested for back pain relief. 

Reduced Risk of Snoring and Sleep Apnea

Snoring can irritate the person himself as well as their family members. So if you, too, are facing whiffing problems, you might be mainly sleeping on your back. 

Back Sleepers frequently sniff as the tongue falls back into the throat. As a result, the breathing is disrupted as the air flows through the tissues creating breathing problems. Heavy breathing people can also have problems related to sleep apnea. Thus, if you have snoring issues and wonder what is the best position to sleep in, then side sleeping will be helpful for easy breathing. 

Aid Digestion

Do you have constipation? If yes, you know how irritating it is as it drags you to your morning routine without enthusiasm. For better health, easy bowel movement is essential. After the digestive process in the stomach, the food waste is carried from the small intestine to the large intestine. As a result, food gets digested adequately on the left side of the stomach. 

If a person sleeps in a side position, the waste is easily processed, and the gastric fluid in the stomach stays below the esophagus. It is a tube that carries the food or liquid from the mouth to the stomach. Therefore, side sleeping is the best position to sleep to aid digestion and for a comfortable sleep. 

Drawbacks of Sleeping On Your Side

Though there are benefits to sleeping on your side, you should also consider the negative aspects. You should understand there is no best way to sleep. It all depends upon various factors such as your health, skin, and posture while sleeping. Let’s dive into the drawbacks of side sleeping.

Increased Risk of Shoulder Pain

Comparatively, side sleepers are more prone to shoulder pain than back and stomach sleepers. A sleeping position can affect the body either internally or externally. Thus, it is vital to be informed on sleeping habits and their effects on the body. Side sleepers can experience shoulder pain due to pressure on the internal organs, such as the rotator cuff, which can be damaged and lead to spinal misalignment. 

If the person sleeps on one side for longer, it may lead to shoulder impingement in acute conditions. Therefore, changing the sleeping position and sleeping on the opposite side is beneficial. Using a thin best side sleeper pillow below your shoulders can also help to mitigate the pressure while sleeping. 

Acne Problems

A person sleeping on the side uses the pillow for nearly 7 to 8 hours below the face. Thus, the skin comes in contact with the pillow. As human skin sheds sweat, facial oil, and debris, the pillow accumulates bacteria on its surface. If a person is suffering from a drooling problem, saliva stains are spotted on the pillow. 

The skin part that comes into contact gets infected due to the bacteria leading to acne problems. You may wonder whether is it bad to sleep on your side for acne problems. The answer is no. However, you can follow some tips for side sleeping. You can try cleaning the pillow once a week and having a warm bath before sleep to mitigate acne problems. 

Bad Posture

Having a perfect posture while sitting and standing exaggerates the importance of body posture acknowledgement. Similarly, having a perfect posture while sleeping is equally important. You may sleep perfectly in the beginning; however, after some time, due to the twisting of the body, you may find yourself in different sleeping positions. 

The perfect body posture is where the head is positioned between the shoulders. Else there will be a shift in the spine from its neutral position. Moreover, the chin shouldn’t be stuck in the chest as it may lead to neck pain. There should be alignment between the spine’s cervical and thoracic portions to keep the spine position intact. This reduces the muscle stiffness and pressure from the cervical facet joint. People suffering from cervical pain should use a pillow for neck support to enhance sleep quality while side sleeping. 

Which Side Should You Sleep On

Side sleeping means either sleeping on your left or right side. Though each has benefits and drawbacks, health problems or other conditions might influence the person’s sleeping choice. Let’s learn which side is best to sleep on as per your current health situation.

During Pregnancy

Imagine you shifting to a new house. Would you place your furniture randomly anywhere or as per the house structure? If the furniture is well aligned with the house structure, you will have enough space to roam without distractions. Similarly, your body parts should be aligned to the body structure, whether standing, sleeping, or sitting. This ensures the internal body process functions smoothly.

Similarly, during pregnancy, sleeping on the left side allows blood to flow easily through the heart, fetus, uterus, and kidney. As a result, the blood flows to the baby effortlessly. Moreover, the pressure on the liver gets reduced; therefore, doctors always suggest side sleep during pregnancy as it is the best side to sleep on for a baby’s healthy growth. 

Sleeping on the right side for a short duration will help reduce stress on the left side. In addition, you can keep a pillow between your knees and one below your abdomen. You will be inclined toward a more comfortable position while sleeping. You can try putting a pillow behind your back for extra support. 

Heartburn problem

GERD problem occurs when there is a problem in the digestion process. Sleeping position can have a major influence on the process and cause acid reflux problems. Due to disrupted digestion, the food goes back into the oesophagus, which causes heartburn. Heartburn symptoms are burning in the chest, feeling of food or liquid rising into the mouth, sour taste, and cough. Oesophagus is in the centre of the body. However, the stomach’s major part is on the left side. Thus, sleeping on the left side can decrease heartburn problems. Even pregnant ladies should try sleeping on the left side for the blood to flow effortlessly to the fetus. 

Heart Failure

People suffering from heart failure should prefer sleeping on the right side for a healthier heart. Sleeping on the left side can cause discomfort in the heart functioning process, and the blood flow may get obstructed, whereas sleeping on the right side reduces the pressure on the heart and stabilises the blood pressure and heart rate.

How to Sleep On Your Side: Important Tips

You may want to know alternative ways to properly sleep on your side; choosing a side sleeper mattress and pillows along with other tips is the best way to go. 

Choose a Mattress That Supports Side Sleeping

  • Use a medium firm mattress to help reduce pain
  • Medium firm mattresses provide contouring and support
  • They provide enough cushioning to the body’s heavier parts to sink deeper into the mattress
  • These mattresses are firm enough to prevent spine misalignment for side sleepers.

Choose a Pillow That Supports Side Sleeping

  • Use a pillow that can support your neck and the spine part effortlessly
  • A supporting pillow provides support to the neck and keeps it aligned to the upper back to avoid any neck pain
  • The height of your pillow should be as per the measurement of the gap between your neck and the edge of your shoulder.
  • Use additional pillows for your comfort
  • Place a pillow between your knees to support side sleeping

Ensure Your Body Parts Are Aligned And Support Side Sleeping

  • While side sleeping, ensure your head is in alignment with your shoulders
  • Your shoulders should be in alignment with your hips
  • Try to keep your head in a straight position to prevent your chin from tilting towards your neck
  • Try to keep your arms and hands aligned with each other in front of you
  • Place a pillow between your knees to relieve pressure on your hips
  • Try to sleep in a foetal position to avoid back pain

How to Switch to a New Sleeping Position

You may feel like switching to a different sleeping position in numerous situations. However, initially, your body may resist but gradually will get accustomed to the new habit.

Switch to a Back Sleeper

If you want to switch to a back sleeper, you will need many pillows around you on the bed. Do Try to keep a pillow between your legs. In addition, place a pillow under your body parts that tend to bend while you sleep. For example, you can place a pillow under your lower back, neck, and behind your knees. 

The pillows will provide support to those body parts without putting any pressure and allow the body to adjust to a new sleeping position. Ensure you feel relaxed and comfortable after switching your sleeping posture to continue with it in the future.

Switch from a Right Side Sleeper to Left

If you are facing a heartburn problem due to sleeping on your right side, it will be beneficial to switch your sleeping position to your left side. To get your body accustomed to the left side sleeping position, try sleeping in a narrow space where you can’t easily change your side. After a few days, your body will adapt to the new position, and you can continue sleeping on your bed as usual.

2 Types Of Best Mattresses for Side Sleepers

The proper way to sleep on the side is to choose a side sleeper mattress that provides support and comfort to the body. Below are two mattress types suitable for side sleepers. 

Latex mattress

A latex mattress is comfortable for side sleepers as every body curve is supported. The mattress responds naturally to body temperature and weight and is suitable for people suffering from back and joint pain. In addition, they can relieve pressure points by providing relief to the person by making muscles relaxed. 

Latex mattresses are dust and mites-resistant and available in natural fragrances. Moreover, these mattresses are chemical-free, ensuring care for our mother earth. Hence, a latex mattress is an ideal solution if you are looking for a mattress for your body resilience. 

Memory Foam Mattress

The memory foam mattress is denser than a latex mattress and helps to maintain the body shape. The shoulders, arms, and hips are compressed comfortably in a foam mattress, providing better pressure relief. The person won’t feel any pressure on the shoulders and hips. If you toss and turn a lot while sleeping, then a memory foam mattress allows you to be a happy light sleeper. The Back and stomach sleepers also found this foam mattress comfortable. A foam mattress will provide you with proper support without any chronic pain. 

There are customizable options available in memory foam mattresses. However, it is essential to research from your side for a mattress that suits you before making any purchase. You will also find a few days of trial service from many branded mattress sellers in the market. 


Side sleeping benefits and drawbacks will help you decide your best sleeping position. However, you should focus on working on your low back pain by doing exercises such as Air-squats warm up, knee-to-chest stretch exercises, and yoga postures such as cat-cow and child’s pose. In addition, you can try band-pull apart, straight arm lat pull-down, or standing row exercises for shoulder impingement. These exercises will give you extra comfort along with other side sleeper tips.


What is the best mattress type for side sleepers?

Mattresses with medium to medium-firm firmness levels are most suitable for side sleepers. If the sleeper is bulky, they’d need a more firm mattress. And for sleepers who are lightweight, a softer mattress is preferred.

Which is the healthiest sleeping position?

It is recommended that you sleep on your side or back rather than your stomach. It’s simpler to maintain your spine supported and balanced in either of these sleeping positions, relieving strain on the spinal tissues and allowing your muscles to unwind and heal.

Where to put your arms when sleeping on the side?

The arm should generally be kept lower than at a straight angle to the body; however, avoid placing the arms flat beneath the body to avoid compressing the shoulder. Use a pillow to support the problematic arm while it is in the highest position. It can hurt if you just let it hang onto the bed.

Is sleeping on your left side bad for your heart?

There is no proof that lying on your left side raises your risk of having a cardiac issue if you don’t already have one, even if it may alter the electrical activity of your heart.


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Written by

Rahul Upadhyay
Content Writer
10 years of experience as a content writer Previously worked as a copywriter for a health journal Ability to write in a variety of formats, including articles, white papers, and clinical trial summaries

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