Let’s face it, sleep is a big part of our lives — even if we’re not getting 8 hours. But there’s more to it than you might think. Your sleeping position plays a big role in your sleep quality, which means it might be time for you to switch it up.

Different sleeping positions have different benefits. If you’re experiencing pain or other health conditions, you might need to switch your position in order to help manage it. And, while it might not be something you can do in one night, changing your default sleep position can definitely be worth trying out.

Taking the time to gradually train yourself to sleep in a new position could be the secret to improving your sleep quality. However, if that’s something you aren’t comfortable with, don’t stress about it. You can also try modifying your favorite sleeping position to make sure you’re getting the most out of it.

The fetal position involves sleeping on your side with bent legs curled in toward your body. It’s the most popular sleeping position — and for good reason. Not only is it great for lower back pain or pregnancy, but sleeping in the fetal position can also help reduce snoring.

Still, sleeping in the fetal position does have a few downsides. Make sure your posture is relatively loose, otherwise your comfy position could limit deep breathing while you snooze. Also, if you have any issues with joint pain or stiffness, sleeping in a tight fetal position might leave you sore in the morning.

Sleeping tip

If you want to make the fetal position more comfortable, make sure your posture is loose and relaxed when you curl up. Keep your legs relatively extended. You can even try sleeping with a pillow between your knees.

Side sleeping is similar to sleeping in the fetal position, but your legs aren’t pulled in toward your body. Like the fetal position, sleeping on your side is pretty good for you. In addition to reducing snoring, it’s great for digestion and may even reduce heartburn.

Despite these benefits, sleeping on your side might not always be the best. Not only can it cause stiffness in your shoulders, but it can also lead to jaw tightness on that side.

Putting a pillow between your lower legs will help better align your hips to avoid low back pain.

Shop all Healthline-approved pillows for side sleepers in our sleep shop.

Is there a better side to sleep on?

Depending on your health, there may be some benefit to sleeping on your left side over your right.

A small, older study looked at 10 people over the course of 2 days. The first day, participants rested on their right side after eating a high-fat meal. On the second, they switched to the left side. Researchers found that the right side was associated with increased heartburn and acid reflux, so sleeping on your left might be more beneficial.

Sleeping on your left side may also be useful for encouraging regular bowel movements. Your small intestine moves waste to your large intestine through something called the ileocecal valve, found in the lower right abdomen. Sleeping on your left side could potentially allow gravity to help with the process of moving waste through your ileocecal valve.

Sleeping tip

If you prefer sleeping on your side, choose a good pillow to avoid neck and back pain. Sleep on whichever side feels most comfortable, but don’t be afraid to switch to a different position if it’s not working for you.

Read more about side sleeping.

If we had to rank sleeping positions, lying on your stomach might be at the bottom of the list. While it’s a good position for snoring or sleep apnea, the benefits don’t extend much further.

Unfortunately, sleeping on your stomach can cause both neck and back pain. It can also add a lot of unnecessary strain to your muscles and joints, which is why you might be waking up sore and tired. Placing a pillow under your lower belly might help reduce back pain.

Sleeping tip

To make sleeping on your stomach more comfortable, try sleeping with a thin head pillow — or no pillow — to reduce added stress on your neck. You can also try slipping a pillow under your pelvis to reduce lower back pain.

Read more about sleeping on your stomach.

Sleeping on your back offers the most health benefits. It protects your spine, and it can also help relieve hip and knee pain.

Sleeping on your back uses gravity to keep your body in an even alignment over your spine. This can help reduce any unnecessary pressure on your back or joints. A pillow behind your knees may help support the natural curve of the back.

Plus, if you’re worried about keeping your skin looking fresh, sleeping on your back protects the skin on your face from wrinkling.

On the flip side, sleeping on your back can be difficult for those who experience snoring or sleep apnea. It can also be difficult for anyone with back pain, which is why it’s important to make sure you’re properly supported.

Sleeping tip

If you sleep on your back, try sleeping with a pillow behind your knees to reduce back pain and relieve pressure on your spine. If you’re congested, you can also prop yourself up with an extra pillow to make breathing easier.

Read more about the pros and cons of sleeping on your back.

So, how do you figure out which sleeping position is best for you? There’s no one-size-fits all approach, so you’ll need to experiment with a few positions to find one that’s both comfortable and leaves you feeling well-rested (and pain-free) when you wake up.

The following chart offers some suggestions, but they won’t work the same for everyone. When in doubt, listen to your body. If you just can’t get comfortable enough to sleep in a certain position, don’t force it.

ConcernPositions to tryAdditional tips
low back painside, fetal, backWhen sleeping on your side, try placing a pillow between your knees to help with spine alignment.
neck painback, sideUse a thicker pillow if sleeping on your side and a thinner pillow when sleeping on your back.
sleep apnea, snoringside, fetal, stomachIf sleeping on your stomach, try putting a pillow under your pelvis and consider using a thinner pillow under your head.
acid refluxsideSleeping on your left side may be more effective than sleeping on your right side.
pregnancyfetal, sideExperiment with using a body pillow or wedge pillow for added comfort.
sinus congestionbackProp your head up with an extra pillow to help with drainage.
hip or knee painbackTry placing a pillow under your knees to take pressure off your spine.

Your sleeping position matters more than you might think. Try keeping a sleep diary for a week or two to help you figure out the best sleep scenario for your needs. You can keep track of any patterns in your sleep habits — and sleep quality — so you can get a better look at what’s working versus what isn’t.

Remember, you don’t have to change your sleeping position if you aren’t having any issues. Do what feels best for you. The most important thing is to make sure you’re waking up feeling rested and ready to go.