Sleeping Positions and Your Health

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Most people don’t get enough sleep, and most people know that a lack of sleep can lead to some significant health problems. What many people are not aware of is that the position that one sleeps in at night may also affect one’s health. Certain sleeping positions are better than others when it comes to preventing back problems, as well as some other disorders.

pexels-photo-935777-768x512Sleeping on one’s back is the best overall sleep position. Sleeping on the back helps support the spine and keeps both the neck and spine in a proper alignment. Sleeping on one’s back is also helpful for those who suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease. There are some negatives to sleeping on one’s back, however. This position can increase snoring. Those who suffer from asthma and other respiratory problems often find it difficult to get air when sleeping in this position for an extended period of time as well.

If a person doesn’t like sleeping on his or her back, the next best position is on the side. Sleeping on one’s side isn’t as good for the spine as sleeping on the back, but it does provide support. Side sleeping does reduce the chances of snoring during the night.

One of the worst sleep positions when it comes to maintaining good back support is the fetal position. Sleeping in a tightly curled position puts stress on the back and other joints. Sleeping in the fetal position can also be detrimental to breathing patterns. With that said, those who have preexisting respiratory problems will not want to sleep in the fetal position.

Sleeping on the stomach is probably the worst sleep position of all. When a person sleeps on his or her stomach, it forces the head to be placed on one side for an extended period of time. This places a lot of stress on the neck, which can lead to orthopedic problems and joint pain. Some people experience numbness in the extremities if they sleep on their stomachs for an extended period of time. There is one significant benefit to stomach sleeping, however. People that sleep on their stomachs tend to snore less than those that sleep in most other positions.

Most people don’t sleep in the same position throughout the night. It is extremely common for people to move around quite frequently in their sleep, perhaps without even realizing it. It’s important to start out in a good position and try to maintain that as best as possible.


Common Causes of Sleep Apnea

A good night’s rest is an important part of overall health, and anything that hinders that should be taken seriously and treated promptly. Sleep apnea is a serious disorder that if left untreated can lead to dangerous consequences. It is estimated that nearly 22 million Americans currently live with sleep apnea, with nearly 80 percent of those cases being undiagnosed.

Sleep apnea can affect both children and adults. A common risk factor for developing sleep apnea is obesity. Other common causes include:

  • Age – young adults and those of middle age are more likely to develop this disorder.
  • Neck size – a neck circumference of 17 inches or larger leads to an increased risk because there is more soft tissue that can block the airway.
  • Gender – men are four times more likely to have sleep apnea than women, although women are at higher risk during pregnancy and menopause.
  • Other health conditions – those that suffer from hypertension, stroke, diabetes, GERD, hypothyroidism, and heart problems are more likely to develop sleep apnea.
  • Hereditary – roughly 25%-40% of people diagnosed with sleep apnea have a family member that also suffers from the condition. This may be because of similar physical features like a recessed jaw, as well as similar lifestyle habits like diet and exercise.
  • Ethnicity – African-Americans, Hispanics, and Pacific Islanders are more at risk of developing sleep apnea than Caucasians.

Treatment for sleep apnea often includes addressing the underlying causes of the disorder. Weight loss, surgery to remove tonsils or adenoids, and treatment of certain dental conditions such as an overbite are common ways to help sleep apnea symptoms.

Certain allergies and other health factors such as a deviated septum may also cause congestion in the airways which makes sleep apnea more common. Treatment of these conditions will often provide relief to sleep apnea sufferers.

Those that smoke, consume excessive amounts of alcohol, or take sedatives are also more likely to develop this condition. Oftentimes cutting back or stopping these behaviors will lead to relief of sleep apnea symptoms.

When other treatments don’t work, a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine may be prescribed. This machine has a mask that goes over the mouth or nose and provides continuous airflow to the airways to prevent this harmful sleep disorder.

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