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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Few things feel as good as a full night’s sleep. But even if you tuck yourself in with eight hours ahead of you before the alarm goes off, there are no guarantees that you’ll feel rested the next day.
How we sleep depends on many things, your stress level, your bed, your family. But how you sleep can also greatly affect how sleepy you are the following day.
Dr. Michael Howell at the University of Minnesota talked with WCCO about how certain sleep positions affect you and how to go about changing that.
“Sleeping in different positions changes the quality of sleep that you will get,” Howell said.
Howell, who works with Fairview Southdale’s Sleep Lab, says each sleep position has different effects. If you’re a back sleeper, Howell says that is one of the least desirable positions because it promotes snoring.
“The position that you sleep in, particularly when on your back, is associated with louder and more frequent snoring,” Howell said. “This is quite distressful for sleep partners.”
While snoring can be annoying to your bed buddy, the snorer may still end up suffering more. Snoring can interrupt your sleep and even affect your heart.
“On one hand, I would like to draw people’s attention to it. On the other hand, I don’t want people to be alarmed. Fifty percent of us snore,” Howell said.
Even worse is obstructive sleep apnea, which happens when the upper airway collapses while sleeping on your back.
“It fragments your sleep so you’re less restful. It also creates quite a bit of pressure on the heart. It increases risk of heart attack, high blood pressure and stroke,” Howell said.
One of the best sleep positions is actually on your side. If you suffer heart burn, you could try sleeping slightly upright.
“Sitting up is great for people who have heart burn issues,” Howell said. “For people who have heart disease, sometimes it’s far more comfortable to sleep sitting up because it helps clear the blood out of the lungs better.”
Howell says it is important to note that we naturally change sleep positions while sleeping and that is healthy. This usually happens once every 20-40 minutes.
If you need to switch your sleep position but you’re already asleep, Howell recommended lining up pillows to prevent yourself from rolling back onto your back.
“Another technique is a tennis ball T-shirt, so it becomes uncomfortable when people roll on their back,” he said.
And there are other gadgets for purchase that can help you change your sleep position, such as the Zoma and the Rematee. They are little fanny packs that are in the small of the back so that when you roll over it becomes uncomfortable and you need to roll off your back and on your side.