The Best Sleep Positions When You’re Sick

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When you’re sick, you need plenty of sleep to rest and recover. But depending on your ailment, it can be tough to fall—and stay—asleep. But it turns out that certain sleep positions could help alleviate your symptoms or at least prevent things from getting way worse. Here are a few tips.

If you have a stomach ache or heartburn: Sleep on your left side.

According to the New York Times, studies have shown that sleeping on your left side lessens heartburn—though we aren’t totally sure why this is the case.

“One hypothesis holds that right-side sleeping relaxes the lower esophageal sphincter, between the stomach and the esophagus,” the Times explained. “Another holds that left-side sleeping keeps the junction between stomach and esophagus above the level of gastric acid.” Either way, the consensus is that this can really help.


If you have a cold or the flu: Sleep with your head propped up.

According to WebMD, sleeping with your head higher than the rest of your body will help you breathe easier in your sleep. Dr. Ron Eccles, director of the Common Cold Centre at Cardiff University, told WebMD: “You’re more prone to block up [your sinuses] when you’re lying down than when you’re standing up because there is an increase in pressure in the veins in the nose when you’re lying down.” So, elevating your head will help keep your airways clear.

Related: Which Sleep Position Is Best?

If you have the stomach flu: Sleep on your side, with your head elevated.

In cases where you might be vomiting a lot, this sleep position means you won’t choke on your vomit if you throw up while sleeping (which sounds disgusting, but is possible—and dangerous). If you are really sick, keep a bucket by your bed just in case, and sleeping on your side will make it easier to access in any times of need.

If you’re not sick but you are pregnant: Sleep on your side.

Changes in your body can create new discomforts and make it harder to sleep in your normal position. Sleeping on your side – your left side in particular– could be the healthiest sleeping position during pregnancy, according to experts.

“The best sleep position during pregnancy is “SOS” (sleep on side),” says the team at the American Pregnancy Association. “Even better is to sleep on your left side. Sleeping on your left side will increase the amount of blood and nutrients that reach the placenta and your baby.”

If you start experiencing heartburn or it’s hard to get a full breath towards the end of pregnancy, consider propping yourself up with pillows, the association says.

Related: New Study Shows Link Between Sleep Position and Risk Of Stillbirths In Pregnant Women

Featured image: George Rudy/Shutterstock

Joe Auer

Joe is the editor of Mattress Clarity. When he isn't testing sleep products, he enjoys working out, reading, and playing classical piano.

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