What Is Supine Sleep Position? Benefits

What is the supine sleep position, and are there benefits to it? Stellar Sleep discusses who should sleep this way and why.

Are you a back sleeper? Do you enjoy curling up in the fetal position before heading into dreamland? Are you unable to fall asleep if you’re stomach sleeping? No matter your habits and preferences, your body position is directly related to your sleep health and wellness.

Let’s look at the benefits (and possible disadvantages) of one of those positions — the supine sleep position. 

What Is the Supine Sleep Position?

The supine sleep position is the medical way to say you sleep on your back — but however comfortable it may be to sleep this way, there are a few modifications you can make to keep yourself healthy and your body feeling great.

For example, when lying on your back, make sure that you use a supportive wedge pillow to at least slightly elevate your head to avoid waking up with neck pain. Some people also find it helpful to keep a pillow under their knees, which takes pressure off the lower back. This helps to mimic and support the spine’s natural curvature to reduce lower back pain.

What Are the Benefits of Sleeping Supine?

So, why would you want to sleep on your back? There are actually a few benefits that have been tied to a supine sleeping position, including the following:

  • Can relieve certain types of back pain and shoulder pain by keeping your spine aligned
  • Fewer breakouts due to reduced contact between your face and sheets or pillowcases
  • Less chance of waking up with facial puffiness
  • May help decrease frequency and severity of headaches
  • Reduced risk of premature fine lines and wrinkles
  • Reduced sinus pressure

That said though, not all of these benefits apply to everyone in every case, and they can vary from person to person.

Who Shouldn’t Sleep on Their Back?

Not everyone will experience the benefits of a supine sleep position. For some, sleeping on their back can be more problematic than beneficial. 

The following are three categories of people who should avoid sleeping on their backs if at all possible.

Those With GERD

GERD, short for gastroesophageal reflux disease, is a common condition where stomach acid flows backward out of your stomach and into your esophagus. Symptoms of GERD include heartburn, nausea, and a sore throat — often worse at night or after a large or fatty meal.

One of the factors that can worsen acid reflux is position. Experts recommend sitting up slightly, especially after eating, to reduce the chances of a GERD flare-up. Sleeping on your back can lead to increased GERD symptoms and keep you up all night. Always speak with a healthcare provider if you are experiencing GERD for advice.

Pregnant Women

Maybe you know that pregnant women shouldn’t sleep on their stomachs, but did you know that it’s also not recommended for pregnant women to sleep flat on their backs?

Starting at about 20 weeks gestation (around five months), the healthiest sleeping position is on your side. As the baby grows and you enter the third trimester, it puts more pressure on the vena cava (a large blood vessel that travels up your spine and helps return blood from your lower body to your heart for re-oxygenation).

Sleeping on your back puts additional pressure on that vessel, interrupting blood flow to your baby and dropping your blood pressure. Back sleeping should generally be avoided if at all possible, even before 20 weeks gestation. 

Anyone With OSA

Sleeping on your back is also not recommended for people with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Studies have shown that around half of the people who have been diagnosed with OSA are actually suffering specifically from supine sleeping position-related OSA. 

So, how are these two factors correlated?

Sleeping on your back may lower your lung volume and inhibit your diaphragm. When combined with a tendency to stop breathing, a supine sleep position may contribute to even less oxygen in your body and increased sleep apnea side effects. 

The addition of a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine might complicate things, reducing the number of positions that are comfortable to sleep in. Find a healthy balance so you can get the necessary benefits from your machine and support your body in the process.

What Is the Best Sleeping Position?

While the best sleeping position is the one in which you get the highest quality rest, certain positions have far more advantages than disadvantages. When you weigh the pros and the cons, side sleeping and lateral posture come out on top. 

However, it’s important to understand that no one stays in a single position all night, and moving around in your sleep is normal. In fact, one study showed that most people spend just over half of the night sleeping on their right side or left side, about 37% of the night on their backs in a supine position, and the remainder on their stomachs. 

Although that may sound like tossing and turning, it’s actually a good thing — most of the time, this variability is the body recognizing that certain positions aren’t comfortable and self-adjusting your sleep posture. 

Be patient when trying to change up your sleeping position, too. Making too many changes at the same time can lead to problems with insomnia, as sleep is just as much psychological as it is physical. Working with a CBT-I coach can help address the psychological roots of your sleep issues and help you make changes you can stick to. 

The Bottom Line

It’s always important to set a comfortable sleep foundation, and the supine sleeping position is a common favorite. Your sleeping position can impact your sleep quality and overall health, and finding a supportive sleeping position that you can get comfortable in is key for getting the quality rest you deserve. 

Dealing with sleep troubles? Learn how to sleep better with Stellar Sleep. Take your free sleep quiz and get started turning your sleep around — we’re ready to help you take the first step.

 

Sources:

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease and Sleep Disorders: Evidence for a Causal Link and Therapeutic Implications | PMC.gov

Should you sleep on your back while pregnant? | OSU

Supine position related obstructive sleep apnea in adults: Pathogenesis and treatment | ScienceDirect

Sleep positions and nocturnal body movements based on free-living accelerometer recordings: association with demographics, lifestyle, and insomnia symptoms | Dove Press

Complete our free sleep quiz to see:
  • How severe your insomnia is
  • How your sleep compares to others
  • How psychology can help your sleep
SHARE THIS ARTICLE
Break the insomnia cycle tonight

Related Posts