Health experts have long been professing the "back is best"mantra to new parents. As it turns out, the back may also be best for adults.
Placing an infant to sleep on his or her back is essential to reducing the risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and has been part of the advice given to new parents for decades. But sleeping on one's back can also be ideal for improving the health of older children and adults, sleep experts maintain.
Misalignment of the body during sleep can put strain on different areas of the body, most especially the spine, neck, shoulder, hips and jaw. Stressing these areas can affect how you feel the next day. People who cannot find a comfortable sleeping position also may have trouble drifting off to sleep in the first place.
Although mattress and pillow comfort, room temperature, noise levels, and the level of darkness play a large role in getting a good night's sleep, sleep position can also help or hinder the quality of sleep.
Sleeping on the back is the preferred position if a person wants to improve personal health. The advantages to resting on the back are numerous. Sleeping on your back enables the spine, head and neck to remain in a neutral position, alleviating or preventing strain on these areas of the body. Those with acid reflux may find sleeping on their backs helps reduce symptoms, especially if the head is slightly elevated with a fluffy pillow.
Back sleeping is also good for preventing premature wrinkling. That's because nothing -- like a pillow or mattress -- is pressing up against the face for a long period of time. Some medical experts also say that sleeping on the back supports a woman's breasts.
Sleeping on the back is not good for everyone, however. Heavy snorers or people who suffer from sleep apnea should avoid this position because the tongue can fall inwards and block the breathing passage.
It isn't advisable for pregnant women to sleep on their backs, either. This is because the weight of the uterus when lying on the back is placed on a large blood vessel called the inferior vena cava, reducing the flow of blood back to the heart. In turn, this may staunch blood flow to the fetus.
It is best for pregnant women to sleep on their left sides, or at least place a pillow under the right hip to slightly angle the body toward the left, which promotes stronger blood flow. Side sleeping is the next best position if the back is not comfortable.
According to experts, the worst positions for sleeping are the fetal position or on the stomach. This is because these positions cause the body to be curved in unnatural shapes that can strain the spine and neck. Arthritic people may be in agony the next day.
Although people spend significant portions of their lives asleep, few give sleep much thought to it until it becomes a problem in their lives. The Better Sleep Council says sleep is essential to health, and people should strive to get 7.5 hours of sleep every day.
There are tips for promoting better sleep, which include maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, avoiding eating or exercising close to bedtime, and reducing factors that diminish one's ability to fall asleep.
Choosing a more healthy sleep position can be one of the things people do to get a better night's sleep.