Dear Lucy: I’ve heard it’s not wise to sleep on your back. Is that true? —Laidback Lass
Dear LL: As a habitual back-sleeper, Lucy read this question with some alarm. Fortunately, MIT Medical Primary Care Provider and Nurse Practitioner Jessica Senesi was able to offer some ready reassurance.
“For most people, sleeping on the back is perfectly healthy,” Senesi tells Lucy. “It may even be optimal for those who suffer from back and neck pain, as it helps to maintain a neutral spine position.” To Lucy’s delight, research even shows that back-sleeping can result in fewer facial wrinkles as one ages.
But, you’re right that this position may be unwise for some, Senesi says. “This includes individuals with a history of snoring or sleep apnea, which happens when muscles in the upper throat relax during sleep, causing tissues to close in and block the airway,” she explains. Back-sleeping may also intensify a tendency toward acid reflux, she tells Lucy, particularly if the head is not sufficiently elevated.
If you have any of these conditions, or another chronic condition that may be exacerbated by sleep position, Lucy advises consulting with your healthcare provider as to the best sleeping position for you. While it can be extremely difficult to adopt a new sleep position, it can be done. Your healthcare provider can help you choose the position that’s best for you and offer advice on making the transition. Sweet dreams! —Lucy