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Is your sleep position harming your health?

Published:Wednesday | February 4, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Is your sleep position harming your health?

Thanks to poor sleeping positions, a study by the Institute of Medicine found that millions of adults suffer from sleep or wakefulness disorders, which results in falling asleep on the job (or at school) or overloading on caffeine to stay awake.

According to the experts, because humans are creatures of habits, they tend to get stuck in their own comfortable sleeping positions, despite the fact that it may be harming their health.

Here are the top best and top worst sleep position, the effects on your health and how you can make the change to nap time.

THE BEST: BACK (SUPINE)

If back-sleeping is your position of preference, then your are on top of your game and doing your health a world of good.

"Your head is facing straight up and weight is evenly distributed on your spine," making it the most orthopedically sound position, noted Dr Michael Breus, clinical psychologist and author of The Sleep Doctor's Diet Plan: Lose Weight Through Better Sleep.

And unlike when your face is buried in a pillow, sleeping on your back allows gravity to pull down on your face and chest, which is beneficial for those suffering from acid reflux. With your head slightly elevated, your stomach sits below your esophagus, so acid and food are far less likely to come back up.

However, for snorers, supine is the worst of all the sleeping positions if you suffer from sleep apnea.

"Your throat and belly are being pulled down by gravity, making it harder for you to breathe," explained Dr Andrew Westwood, assistant professor of clinical neurology at Columbia University Medical Center.

"If you [lie on your side or] get pushed by your bed partner, that snoring goes away."

The Score: Unless you are a habitual snorer, back-sleeping is your best bet for optimal health and day-to-day physical comfort.

The added benefit: Back-sleeping helps prevent wrinkles.

THE WORST: STOMACH (PRONE)

The worst thing you can do for your health is sleep on your stomach. Experts say this is the easiest way to wake up with pain and discomfort the next morning.

"Sleeping on the stomach pulls the belly down and hurts the curvature of the spine ... and forces your head to turn on a 90-degree angle, which winds up placing strain on your neck," noted Breus.

The crick in the neck you sometimes feel is caused by sleeping on the stomach.

The Score: Trade in your fluffy pillows for thinner, firmer ones. It won't prop your neck up too high, allowing for a more even curvature of your spine, stated Westwood. And for better circulation, Breus suggested placing a pillow or two under your pelvic region. "It'll decrease compression on the arch of your lower back, allowing for a more natural alignment of the spine," she said.

yourhealth@gleanerjm.com