Meditation & Health #23 Contents

Sleeping Positions Affect Health

By Hao Yue & Dan Shan


Every one of us needs an average of eight hours of sleep a night. That’s one-third of our lives spent sleeping. The positions in which we sleep are just as important to health as good posture and regular exercise during our waking lives.


Effects of Sleeping Positions

Many of us are unaware that sleeping positions affect health. Here are a few different sleeping positions and their effects on us:

In a fetal position:

This position helps to stretch the spine and soothes back pain. It is best to choose a pillow that places your neck and spine at the same height. Otherwise, the position will result in muscle pain and strain on the neck.

On your stomach:

While one may feel more secure sleeping in this position, it can lead to back and neck pain. It also puts pressure on the heart and liver, which can result in poor blood circulation and breathing difficulties.

On your side:

Both your legs are slightly bent when you sleep on your side, making your body feel relaxed. However, sleeping only on one side can put pressure on your arm and shoulder. Switch to another position if you feel stress or if you experience shoulder pain. Sleeping on your left side enhances the functions of the digestive system and the blood circulation. It also helps decrease acid reflux and the tendency to snore. For those with a heart condition, avoid sleeping on the left side to reduce the risk of a heart attack.

On your back:

Sleeping on your back allows your head, neck and spine to rest in a neutral position. This means that there is no contortion and pressure on those areas or on your organs. However, from a Traditional Chinese Medicine point of view, sleeping on your back may result in snoring as the tongue is tilted backwards, obstructing breathing. In addition, saliva may flow into the breathing tube and cause coughing. This position is not beneficial for the blood and qi circulation of the lungs.


The right sleeping pose is pivotal to body, mind, and mood. Depending on your health conditions, different sleeping positions are recommended as follows:


Sleeping on your left side can reduce acid reflux and heartburn.

Gallbladder inflammation:

To minimize the hardening of gallstones and to aid the discharge of bile, it is recommended to sleep on your left side.

Heart condition:

For those who experience symptoms of heart failure, adopt a gently curved sleeping position on your right side. This minimizes breathing difficulties. Avoid sleeping on the left side or stomach if you have any type of heart condition.

High blood pressure:

For elderly folks with high blood pressure, it is good to sleep on a higher pillow (about 15 centimeters). Adopt gently curved side sleeping.

Cervical spondylosis:

Sleeping on the back allows the spine to be in a neutral position, while sleeping on the side relaxes back muscles. Both positions relieve pressure on the spine. However, be mindful not to sleep on one side for too long as it can lead to intense pressure on the spine.

Swelling of lower limbs:

Raising your feet at about 20 degrees and sleeping on your back will help with blood circulation. This position minimizes vein swelling and reduces water retention in the legs. Sleeping with your legs elevated also takes pressure off the leg veinsand relaxes you.


Sleeping positions naturally change during the course of sleep. Whenever the body is locked in one position for too long, the brain communicates the need to adjust so that the organs, spine and muscles get to relax. Just choose the most suitable sleeping position when you first get into bed, secure in the knowledge that your body will take care of the rest.

Meditation & Health #23 Contents