The Best Sleeping Positions When You’re Sick

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

If people have a stomach ache or heartburn: They should sleep on their left side.

According to the New York Times, studies have shown that sleeping on one’s 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.

[Editor’s Note: The information provided should not be considered a substitute for professional advice. Please consult a sleep doctor or other medical expert if you have questions related to your own health.]

sleeping when sickMangostar/Shutterstock

If people have a cold or the flu: They should sleep with their head propped up.

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

Related: Which Sleep Position Is Best?

If people have the stomach flu: They should sleep on their side, with their head elevated.

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

Related: Best Mattresses For Back Pain

If people are not sick but they are pregnant: They should sleep on their 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 [SOLS “sleep on 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

[Editor’s Note: The information provided should not be considered a substitute for professional advice. Please consult a sleep doctor or other medical expert if you have questions related to your own health.]

Featured image: George Rudy/Shutterstock

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Joe Auer

Joe Auer is the editor of Mattress Clarity. He mainly focuses on mattress reviews and oversees the content across the site.

He likes things simple and take a straightforward, objective approach to his reviews. Joe has personally tested nearly 250 mattresses and always recommends people do their research before buying a new bed. He has been testing mattresses for over 5 years now, so he knows a thing or two when it comes to mattress selection. He has been cited as an authority in the industry by a number of large publications.

Joe has an undergraduate degree from Wake Forest University and an MBA from Columbia University.