How much thought have most people put into whether or not they are sleeping in the optimal position?
Probably not a huge amount.
But if you suffer from sleep apnea, insomnia, chronic pain, obesity, and other long-term health conditions, you probably already know how much of a difference your sleep position can make to your life.
More and more of us are finding out that sleeping flat on our back is the most likely to make matters worse for a lot of health conditions.
Side sleeping can help to alleviate these problems, and so can a zero-gravity sleep position.
But what about side sleeping in zero gravity position?
Let’s take a look first at the benefits of side sleeping and sleeping in a zero gravity position, and then we’ll dig into whether you can merge the two together and what that will mean for your sleep quality and your health.
The Benefits of Side Sleeping
Most people sleep on their side, but there is still a sizeable proportion of the population who sleep on their backs or stomachs.
There is nothing necessarily wrong with sleeping on your back or stomach, but if you suffer from certain health conditions, it could be wise to consider trying to shift your sleep position to on your side.
Snoring and Sleep Apnea
Snoring and sleep apnea go hand in hand, and sleeping on your back can make matters worse for both.
Obstructive sleep apnea is when you suffer from pauses in your breathing when you are asleep because the airways have partially collapsed.
Sleeping on your side can keep these airways open and reduce the chances of sleep apnea occurring.
Recent advice for pregnant women suggests sleeping on your side from the 28th week onward.
This is because back sleeping has been found to double the risk of stillbirth because sleeping on your back can restrict the flow of blood and oxygen to the baby.
It is worth remembering that the risk of stillbirth is very low, to begin with, and that if you do wake up on your back there is no need to panic.
Whatever position you went to sleep in is usually the position you spent the most time in, so all you need to do is flip back onto your side and go back to sleep.
Positioning pillows around your body can help you to stay on your side.
You can also attach it to your back at night.
Another great solution is to use the stop snoring T-Shirt.
This short has a tennis ball glued to the back, which makes it difficult to turn to sleep on your back while you are asleep.
Reduced Risk of Neurological Diseases
Scientists have wondered why the side sleeping position is the most common, and at least one answer may be because it is the optimal position to help remove toxins from the brain.
A study using mice found that waste removal from the cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) was more effective when the mice slept on their sides.
This waste removal process has implications for neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, and Parkinson’s disease.
A build-up of these waste materials can increase the likelihood of these diseases occurring.
Which Side is Best to Sleep On?
W.Christopher Winter, asleep specialist MD, told CNN that sleeping on your right side is unhealthy for your heart.
Winter claims that sleeping on your right side puts a lot of pressure on the vein that sends blood back to the heart.
Therefore, according to winter, sleeping on your left side is better for blood circulation.
In addition, sleeping on your left side can help digestion and lower the symptoms of acid reflux and GERD.
On the other hand, sleeping on your right side can put less pressure on your heart and reduce the symptoms associated with heart failure.
What are the Downsides to Sleeping on your Side?
Side sleeping can increase the pressure on certain joints in your body because your weight won’t be distributed evenly.
This usually isn’t a problem, but if you are suffering from chronic pain due to an injury, some side sleeping positions could make it worse.
Sleeping on your side also has the potential to push your spine out of alignment, which can cause pain.
You can overcome this by:
1) placing a pillow between your legs.
2) Placing a pillow at your waist
3) making sure that the pillow for your head is supportive.
In addition, sleeping on your side can put pressure on the skin of your face, which might result in wrinkles and acne.
Therefore, I sleep on YourFacePillow.
It alleviates the pressure on your face which makes the skin look better.
What are the Downsides to Sleeping on your Back or Stomach?
With that being said, there are also downsides to sleeping on your back or stomach.
We have already discussed sleep apnea, but sleeping on your back in a flat position can also make sinus problems worse because the fluid can’t drain.
Sleeping on your back or stomach can also make acid reflux or GERD worse because the acid can escape back into your throat.
In addition, sleeping on your stomach can cause your spine to curve out of its natural alignment, leading to back or neck pain.
While many of the problems associated with sleeping in a flat position can be alleviated by switching to sleeping on your side, there is another solution to the problem: zero gravity sleeping.
It does sound far-fetched, yes, but if you have ever been in a hospital bed where you can adjust the position of your head or feet, you will already have a good idea of what we are talking about.
The Benefits of Zero Gravity Sleeping
So what exactly is zero gravity sleeping?
It isn’t literally putting yourself into an environment with zero gravity (although NASA invented it for the comfort of their astronauts).
Instead, it’s about placing your body in a position where the weight is perfectly distributed throughout the body to give a sense of weightlessness.
The way that you can achieve this is by buying an adjustable bed, similar to those you would find in a hospital.
You can achieve a neutral zero-gravity body position by lying on your back but with your legs and head raised.
It might take some playing around for you to find the position that is just right for your body but, once you do, you will probably be the most comfortable you have felt in your entire life.
But are there any other benefits of zero gravity sleeping beyond it being really quite comfortable? Let’s take a look.
As we have mentioned, you can help to relieve sleep apnea by sleeping on your side instead of your back.
But another way of keeping the airways open while you are asleep is to sleep with your head in a raised position.
Therefore, you can adjust the zero-gravity bed to elevate your head in order to reduce sleep apnea severity.
Living with a spinal condition can be debilitating, and it can make finding a comfortable sleeping position very challenging.
Sleeping in any position on a flat mattress can place pressure on the spine, so many people with spinal conditions can benefit from using a zero gravity bed that is designed to place their spine in a totally neutral position.
These can include:
- Degenerative spondylolisthesis
- Spinal stenosis
Even if your back pain isn’t caused by one of these diseases, sleeping in a zero-gravity position can help to relieve it because it keeps your back and spine in a neutral position.
Acid Reflux and GERD
So we already know that sleeping on your left side can reduce the symptoms of acid reflux and GERD, but sleeping with your head in a raised position can also help to reduce the amount of acid in your esophagus.
A systematic review that looked at all of the available literature concluded that the use of an adjustable bed to raise the head is an effective treatment to reduce acid reflux.
By having your legs in a raised position, they will be above your heart, and this can help to aid blood circulation.
This is because the blood flow doesn’t have to work against gravity for it to reach your heart from your legs (there is nothing to pump it along back to your heart).
Swelling in the legs or feet is common and can be caused by a variety of health conditions, and it can be very uncomfortable.
Having your legs in an elevated position while you sleep can help the fluid in your legs to drain out, reducing the swelling.
Headaches can have a variety of causes, and it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly what has triggered your headache.
But some of the more common causes of headaches can be related to the way that you sleep, which is why waking up with a headache is common.
And many of these causes can be reduced by using a zero-gravity sleep system.
These can include:
- headaches caused by sleep apnea
- headaches caused by muscle strain
- headaches or migraines caused by insomnia
So now we know some of the benefits of sleeping on our side and of sleeping in a zero gravity position.
But, when you see advice about sleeping in a zero-gravity position it is often describing sleeping on your back.
What if you prefer to sleep on your side? Is it possible to do so? And will it reduce any of the benefits associated with a zero-gravity sleep position?
Side Sleeping in Zero Gravity Position
The zero gravity sleep position wasn’t originally designed for side sleeping.
It is meant to mimic how astronauts sit when taking off into space.
With that being said, there is nothing to stop you from sleeping on your side in a zero gravity position.
And, in fact, side sleeping in a zero gravity position can help to maximize the benefits of this sleep position.
With that being said, you may find it difficult to feel that zero gravity weightlessness when sleeping on your side, simply because you are putting more pressure on one side of your body than the other.
Sleeping on your side can push your spine out of alignment because the weight isn’t evenly distributed.
By sleeping on your side in a zero gravity position, you can bring your spine back into alignment, which will make your sleep more comfortable and could lower your risk of back pain.
And the biggest benefit of side sleeping in a zero gravity position is that you get the benefits of both side sleeping and head/leg elevation all in one.
So let’s take a look back at the benefits of each of them to highlight just how good this sleep position could be for you.
- Snoring and sleep apnea – both side sleeping and head elevation help with this, so both together should maximize the risk reduction
- Pregnancy – reduced risk of stillbirth when side sleeping.
- Neurological diseases – a reduced risk when sleeping on the left side.
- Heart failure symptoms – reduced when sleeping on the left side.
- Acid reflux/GERD – reduced by sleeping on the left side and by sleeping with the head elevated, so both together should reduce symptoms.
- Sinus problems – side sleeping and sleeping with head elevated can both reduce sinus issues.
- Spinal conditions and back pain – zero gravity sleeping can help to relieve these.
- Blood circulation and swelling – sleeping with legs raised can improve both.
- Headaches – sleeping in a zero gravity position can reduce the risk of suffering from headaches.
Our approach to sleep is beginning to change as we learn more about the benefits of sleep as well as how our sleep position can improve our health.
One of the biggest changes to the way we think about sleep has been to throw out the idea that everyone should sleep on a dead flat mattress.
There is growing evidence that sleeping on our sides can help to reduce our risk of a variety of health conditions and the zero gravity sleep position is gaining in popularity because of all the health benefits associated with it.
Side sleeping in zero gravity position can help to maximize those health benefits and improve your sleep.