Side Sleeping Vs Back Sleeping: Which is Better?

by Jason Berke יולי 11, 2024

Back and Side Sleeper Pillow

Side sleeping takes the lead as the most preferred position for many around the world, with back sleeping as a close second. Deciding whether side sleeping or back sleeping is better for you involves considering comfort, sleep quality, and health factors.

Let’s explore how each sleeping position impacts your health and the best practices for sleeping on your side and back. Ultimately, let’s find out which is better for you in the great debate of side sleeping vs back sleeping.

Side Sleeping Vs Back Sleeping: Which is Better?

Choosing between being a side sleeper vs back sleeper is not merely a matter of comfort; it significantly influences your overall well-being and sleep quality. Each position presents distinct advantages and considerations that warrant careful evaluation.

Pros and Cons of Side Sleeping

Side sleeping is a popular sleep position with its own set of advantages and disadvantages:

Side Sleeper Pillow Arm Hole

Benefits of Side Sleeping:

  1. Reduction in Snoring and Sleep Apnea: Side sleeping can significantly reduce snoring by keeping the airways open and unobstructed. This position is also beneficial for those with mild to moderate sleep apnea, as it helps maintain clear airflow and reduces episodes of interrupted breathing during sleep.
  2. Alleviation of Acid Reflux: By positioning the esophagus above the stomach, side sleeping can help prevent stomach acid from traveling up and causing discomfort. This natural elevation can reduce symptoms of acid reflux and heartburn, promoting more comfortable and uninterrupted sleep.
  3. Comfort for Pregnancy: Many healthcare providers recommend side sleeping, especially on the left side, for pregnant women. This position improves blood circulation to both the heart and fetus by reducing pressure on major blood vessels. It also helps alleviate swelling in the legs and ankles, providing relief from common pregnancy-related discomforts.
  4. Supports Spinal Alignment: Proper pillow support can maintain a neutral spine position, which is beneficial for individuals with back pain or spinal issues. Placing a pillow between the knees or alongside the body can help align the spine, reduce pressure on the lower back, and minimize discomfort in the morning.
  5. Comfortable Sleep Position: Side sleeping can be more comfortable for individuals who prefer a curled-up position. Many find it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep in this posture, especially when combined with a supportive mattress and pillows that cushion the shoulders and hips effectively.

Cons of Side Sleeping:

  1. Shoulder and Hip Pain: Improper mattress firmness or inadequate pillow support can lead to shoulder and hip pain over time. Side sleeping without proper cushioning can exert pressure on these joints, causing discomfort and stiffness upon waking up.
  2. Uneven Breast Support: Side sleeping may lead to uneven compression of the breasts, particularly for individuals with larger breasts. This can result in discomfort or potential issues if one breast receives more pressure than the other. Using a supportive pillow or mattress can help maintain even support and address this concern.
  3. Potential for Facial Wrinkles: The repeated pressure of the face against a pillow while side sleeping can contribute to the development of facial wrinkles over time. This is especially true for individuals who predominantly sleep on one side, as the skin may be subjected to prolonged pressure that can lead to lines and creases.
  4. Risk of Nerve Compression: Prolonged side sleeping without adequate support can compress nerves in the arms and legs, leading to numbness, tingling, or discomfort. It's essential to use pillows that support the body's natural contours and provide cushioning to prevent pressure on nerves during sleep.
  5. Impact on Medical Conditions: Side sleeping may exacerbate certain medical conditions, such as nerve compression or poor circulation in the arms and legs. Individuals with these concerns should consider consulting a healthcare provider for personalized recommendations on sleep positions and support solutions.

Pros and Cons of Back Sleeping

Lying on your back has its share of benefits and downsides. Understanding the pros and cons of back sleeping can help you see how this position affects your sleep quality and overall health. From better spinal alignment and reduced acid reflux to increased risks of snoring and sleep apnea, weighing these factors can help you decide if back sleeping is suitable for you.

Benefits of sleeping on your back

  1. Spinal Alignment and Support: Back sleeping promotes natural spinal alignment, reducing the risk of back and neck pain. This position evenly distributes weight across the body, minimizing pressure points and allowing muscles to relax fully. Proper alignment can also alleviate discomfort associated with conditions like sciatica or herniated discs, providing a more comfortable sleep experience.
  2. Reduction in Acid Reflux Symptoms: Sleeping on your back with the head slightly elevated can help prevent stomach acid from refluxing into the esophagus. This elevation reduces the likelihood of heartburn and discomfort during sleep, making it an effective position for individuals prone to gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or frequent acid reflux episodes.
  3. Prevention of Facial Wrinkles: Back sleeping reduces facial contact with pillows, minimizing the development of sleep lines and wrinkles. This position helps maintain skin elasticity and reduces the risk of premature aging, particularly for individuals concerned about facial skin health and appearance.
  4. Lessened Pressure on Joints: Compared to side sleeping, back sleeping places less pressure on the shoulders and hips if supported correctly. Using a supportive mattress and pillows that contour to the body's natural curves can further reduce joint discomfort and stiffness, enhancing overall sleep quality.

Disadvantages of sleeping on your back

  1. Exacerbation of Snoring and Sleep Apnea: Back sleeping can worsen snoring and obstructive sleep apnea in some individuals. This position may cause the tongue and soft tissues in the throat to collapse backward, obstructing the airway and leading to interrupted breathing patterns during sleep.
  2. Discomfort for Certain Medical Conditions: Not everyone finds sleeping on their back comfortable, especially those with lower back pain or spinal issues. Without proper support like a firm mattress and supportive pillows, some people might wake up feeling more discomfort or stiffness.
  3. Increased Potential for Sleep Paralysis: Some people may experience sleep paralysis more often when sleeping on their back. This happens when the brain wakes up before the body, temporarily immobilizing muscles and causing feelings of pressure or fear.
  4. Aggravation of Snoring and Sleep Apnea: Sleeping on your back might increase snoring due to how the tongue and throat tissues are positioned.
  5. Potential for Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS): Back sleeping may worsen restless leg syndrome (RLS) in those prone to this condition. RLS causes discomfort and an irresistible urge to move the legs, disrupting sleep and lowering overall sleep quality.

What pillow should I choose?

Choosing the right pillow is crucial for both side sleeping or back sleeping to ensure proper support, comfort, and alignment. Here’s a guide to help you select the best pillow for your sleep position:

For Side Sleepers:

Choose a pillow for side sleeper that supports the head, neck, and shoulders to keep the spine aligned and prevent discomfort. Make sure to look for these features:

  • Firmness and Thickness: Choose a medium to firm pillow for side sleeper to fill the space between your ear and shoulder. A thicker pillow helps keep your spine aligned by supporting the natural curve of your neck.
  • Contouring Support: Consider pillows with contouring or ergonomic designs for extra neck and head support. Memory foam or latex pillows often conform to your shape, offering personalized cushioning.
  • Adjustable Loft: Opt for a pillow with adjustable loft or height so you can customize it to your comfort. This allows you to add or remove filling to achieve the ideal support for your neck and shoulders.
  • Materials: If you have allergies, look for hypoallergenic materials. Memory foam, latex, or down alternative pillows can provide necessary support while being resistant to allergens.
  • Size: Larger pillows can better support the head and neck without compressing the shoulder. King-sized, body pillows, or specialty pillows such as the Wife Pillow can offer the needed support and comfort for side sleepers.

For Back Sleepers:

Back sleepers need a pillow that supports the natural curvature of the neck and keeps the head aligned with the spine. Consider these factors when selecting a back sleeping pillow:

  • Medium Support: Look for a pillow with medium support to cradle the neck's natural curve and support the head without raising it too high.
  • Thin to Medium Loft: Opt for a back sleeper pillow with a lower loft to prevent the head from being pushed forward, maintaining neutral spine alignment.
  • Materials: Choose breathable materials like memory foam or latex for contouring support and airflow to prevent overheating.
  • Shape: Consider pillows with a traditional or contoured design that supports the neck's curve. Cervical pillows with contoured shapes can specifically support the spine's natural curvature.
  • Pillow Size: Standard or queen-sized pillows are typically suitable for back sleepers, offering adequate support without being oversized.

Selecting the right pillow for back sleeper depends on your comfort preferences and specific needs. Experiment with different types and materials to find one that provides optimal support, comfort, and alignment.

Best Practices for Side and Back Sleeping

Understanding how to effectively sleep on your side and back can significantly enhance your overall comfort and sleep experience. Each position comes with its unique benefits, such as promoting proper spinal alignment and alleviating pressure on sensitive areas like the lower back and hips. Incorporating these practices into your nightly routine can lead to better rest, less tossing and turning at night.

Best Practices for Side Sleeping

Side sleeping offers benefits like natural spinal alignment and reduced snoring, but it's important to ensure you have proper support to avoid discomfort. By choosing mattresses and pillows for side sleepers that offer adequate cushioning and support, you can optimize your sleep posture and create an environment conducive to deep, restorative sleep. Implementing these practices consistently can lead to better sleep and waking up feeling refreshed.

  • Maintaining Spinal Alignment: Ensuring your head, neck, and spine maintain a straight and neutral position is crucial when sleeping on your side. This alignment helps prevent strain on your neck and back muscles, reducing the risk of waking up with stiffness or discomfort. Choose a pillow that supports the natural curve of your neck and fills the gap between your head and the mattress to achieve optimal alignment. Avoid pillows that are too high or too flat, as they can disrupt this alignment and keep your head level with your spine for better support.
  • Supporting Your Hips and Shoulders: Side sleeping can lead to pressure points on your hips and shoulders, especially with a mattress that's too firm or soft. To alleviate this, opt for a mattress that supports your body weight and conforms to your natural curves. Placing a pillow between your knees can also help maintain alignment of your hips and spine, reducing strain on your lower back and enhancing overall comfort.
  • Choosing the Right Pillow: The type of pillow you use greatly impacts your comfort and support while side sleeping. Look for pillows designed for side sleepers, such as memory foam or contour pillows, which are shaped to support your neck and head while keeping your spine aligned. Adjustable pillows that allow you to customize height and firmness ensure optimal support tailored to your needs.
  • Alternating Sides: If you experience discomfort or pressure on one side of your body from side sleeping, consider alternating sides during the night. This helps distribute weight evenly and prevents overuse of one shoulder or hip. Switch positions consciously when waking briefly or use a body pillow to support both sides simultaneously for added comfort.
  • Supporting Your Arm: To prevent numbness or tingling in your arms while side sleeping, avoid tucking your arm under your head or body. Instead, use a side sleeper pillow with arm hole or a pillow for arm numbness to keep your arm supported on a pillow or by your side to maintain healthy blood circulation. This simple adjustment can significantly improve your sleep quality and reduce discomfort related to poor circulation or nerve compression.

By following these best practices for side and back sleeping, you can enhance your sleep quality, reduce discomfort, and promote better overall health. Experiment with different pillows, mattress types, and sleep positions to find what works best for your individual needs and preferences.

Best Practices for Back Sleeping

Back sleeping is often recommended by sleep experts for its ability to promote spinal alignment and reduce pressure on the neck and lower back. By adopting the following best practices, you can optimize your back sleeping experience for better sleep quality and overall well-being:

Pillow for Back Sleeper

1. Choose the Right Mattress

Selecting a mattress with medium firmness is ideal for back sleepers. This provides sufficient support while contouring to the natural curves of your body. A supportive mattress helps maintain proper spinal alignment throughout the night.

2. Select Supportive Pillows

Use pillows for back sleeping that support the natural curve of your neck. Look for pillows specifically designed for back sleepers or those with cervical support features like the Wife Pillow. These are great pillows for sleeping on back that help prevent neck strain and ensure your head remains in alignment with your spine.

3. Maintain Neutral Spine Alignment

Ensure your head, neck, and spine are aligned in a straight and neutral position. Avoid pillows that are too high or too flat, as they can disrupt alignment. Your head should be level with your spine to minimize strain on your neck and upper back muscles.

4. Add Extra Support

Consider placing a pillow under your knees to maintain the natural curvature of your spine. This can alleviate pressure on your lower back and promote better blood circulation during sleep.

5. Avoid Arm Placement Issues

Keep your arms relaxed at your sides or place them on pillows to prevent circulation issues or numbness. Avoid tucking your arms under your head or body, which can lead to discomfort and interrupted sleep.

6. Experiment with Sleep Positions

If you find discomfort or stiffness in one position, try slightly adjusting your sleep posture. Experiment with different pillow heights or mattress firmness levels until you find the combination that provides optimal comfort and support.


Here are more questions about side sleeping and back sleeping and tips for optimizing your preferred sleep position.

A) Is there a correct position to sleep in?

The best sleep position varies for individuals, but generally, sleeping on your back promotes spinal alignment. Side sleeping can reduce snoring and improve digestion. Personal comfort and addressing specific health needs often determine the ideal sleep position.

B) What is the best sleeping position for back pain?

For back pain, sleeping on your back with a supportive pillow under your knees can help maintain spinal alignment. Side sleeping with a pillow between your knees can also alleviate pressure on the lower back.

C) What is the best sleeping position for neck pain?

For neck pain, sleeping on your back or side with proper pillow support is beneficial. Back sleeping with a medium pillow under the neck maintains alignment. Side sleeping with a contoured pillow that supports the neck's natural curve can also relieve neck pain.

D) What is the best sleeping position for shoulder pain?

The best sleeping position for shoulder pain is typically on your back or the unaffected side. Use a supportive pillow like the Wife Pillow designed for all types of sleepers. The Wife Pillow provides ergonomic support, alleviates shoulder pain, and promotes comfortable sleep throughout the night.

Visit our husband pillow website or amazon store to explore our wide array of products and find your perfect match, whether you're seeking superior comfort, ergonomic support, or innovative sleep technology.

E) Can you train yourself to sleep on your back?

Yes, you can train yourself to sleep on your back by gradually adjusting your sleep environment. Use supportive pillows and a comfortable mattress. Experiment with placing pillows under your knees or using a body pillow for added support and comfort.

F) What is the healthiest position to sleep in?

The healthiest position to sleep in is generally considered to be on your back. Back sleeping promotes spinal alignment, reduces pressure points on the body, and helps prevent wrinkles and acid reflux. However, individual comfort and specific health conditions may influence the best sleep position for each person.


Whether sleeping on your back vs sleeping on your side is better really depends on your personal preferences and health needs. Side sleeping can help reduce snoring and improve digestion, while back sleeping supports spinal alignment and eases pressure points. The best sleep position is the one that lets you rest well and meets your specific health considerations.

Try experimenting with different sleep positions and pillow supports, like a back and side sleeper pillow, to see what works best for you. For top-notch support, check out the Wife Pillow-- designed to boost your sleep quality no matter how you sleep.

Jason Berke
Jason Berke