Like most people, Andrew Wellman changes his sleep position many times during the night. And like most people, he seldom realizes it. “The only time I know if I roll on my back is my wife elbows me because I start snoring,” says Wellman, director of the Sleep Disordered Breathing Lab in the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

想大多人一样,Andrew Wellman夜间睡觉时会多次改变自己的睡姿,同样地,他也很少会意识到这点。波士顿Brigham的女性医院睡眠与呼吸紊乱科的主任Wellman说:“我唯一知道自己是否翻身的时候,是妻子因我打呼而用胳膊肘捅我。”

“A lot of my patients tell me they sleep on their side,” Wellman says. But when position sensors monitor them in the sleep lab, many self-professed side sleepers are on their backs up to 30% of the night, “and they didn’t know it.”

Wellman说:“我的很多患者告诉我,他们要侧躺着睡觉。” 但是,当在实验室对他们的睡姿用传感器进行监视时,会发现许多自称是侧卧睡觉的人晚上最多能有30%的时间在仰卧着睡觉。“当然,他们并不知情。

Sleep occurs in a repeated series of cycles, from light to deep to the phase called rapid eye movement (REM), when most dreams occur. We wake after each cycle, even if we don’t realize it.


“Everyone awakens throughout the night five to seven times, after each sleep cycle finishes, and then quickly returns to sleep, often with a brief movement, sometimes turning positions,” explains Shelby Harris, a psychologist and associate professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City and the author of The Women’s Guide to Overcoming Insomnia.

“每个睡眠周期结束后,每个人整夜都会醒来五到七次,经常会小幅‘动作’一下,但转头就会迅速重回睡眠。” 纽约Albert Einstein医药大学的心理学家兼副教授Shelby Harris这么解释说。他也是 《女性克服失眠指南》一书的作者。

That is, of course, if all goes well.


Pick your preference


Sleep experts agree there is no sleep posture that’s ideal for everyone. Sleep advice sites make a lot of unsupported claims: that sleeping on your right side protects your heart but causes facial wrinkles, that sleeping on your back helps clear the brain of waste products. But there is very little research to suggest that any position is better than another.


For healthy individuals, “it’s just a matter of preference,” says Alcibiades Rodriguez, medical director of the Sleep Center at NYU Langone Health and assistant professor of neurology at NYU School of Medicine. But for a person with pain or certain medical conditions, the right position can become important, Rodriguez says, especially as we age.

纽约大学Langone Health睡眠中心的医学主任兼医学院神经病学助理教授Alcibiades Rodriguez说:“对个体的健康而言,睡眠姿势只是一个偏好问题。” Rodriguez说:“但对一个痛苦或患有某种疾病的人来说,正确的睡眠姿势会很重要。尤其是随着年龄的增长,睡眠姿势会越来越重要。 ”

People with back pain may get relief by sleeping on their backs, according to the Cleveland Clinic, with a small pillow or rolled-up towel under the knees to alleviate pressure. If that’s not comfortable, then side sleeping — and switching sides during the night — might work. Placing a pillow between the knees can relieve back and hip pain for some people. Most experts advise against stomach sleeping, since it forces the neck to turn to the side and pushes it out of alignment, which can cause back pain. If you must sleep on your stomach, try skipping the pillow, or place another pillow under your pelvis to reduce back and neck strain, the Mayo Clinic advises.


Side sleeping is best for those with specific health problems


Sleep apnea is a potentially serious condition, often triggered by excess weight and lifestyle factors, in which people stop breathing several times a night, typically because their throat muscles relax and block the airway. The brain will wake someone suffering sleep apnea episodes, but they may not remember any of the long breathing lapses, heavy snoring, gasps, and snorts. It can cause daytime fatigue and lead to high blood pressure and heart problems, among other ills. Acid reflux — the backward flow of stomach acid into the esophagus — can also be exacerbated by being horizontal.


“Sleep apnea is worse in the supine position,” Rodriguez says. “And for a person with acid reflux, the supine position is probably not a good idea.”

Rodriguez说:“仰卧着睡,呼吸暂停会更严重。” “而对会胃酸倒流的人来说,仰卧着睡不是个好主意。”

Pregnant women may want to sleep on their left side. Sleeping on the right can compress the liver, Rodriguez says, and sleeping supine can cause the baby to push on the mother’s diaphragm, making it difficult for her to breathe. Infants should be placed on their backs for sleeping, he says, to help avoid sudden infant death syndrome.


Snoring, which is also worse in the supine position, is by itself not thought to disrupt the sleep of the snorer, Wellman says. “We don’t think it’s a health problem,” he says. “It’s a social problem.” He and other sleep experts offer an old-school trick to help reduce snoring: Sew a tennis ball into the back of your pajamas. If you roll onto your back, the discomfort subconsciously causes you to roll back onto your side, Wellman says.


Another trick to ease snoring, sleep apnea, and acid reflux: Raise the legs at the head of your bed (the cheap approach), or invest in an adjustable bed and raise the back (the very costly approach). Wedge pillows can also help.


Where you sleep matters


“Young kids will sleep anywhere,” says Rafael Pelayo, a sleep specialist at the Stanford Sleep Medicine Center. “Teenagers will sleep anywhere. So will most college students.” The growing bodies and minds of young people require and encourage deeper sleeping, Pelayo explains. That’s why their arousal threshold — what it takes to wake them — is much higher.

斯坦福大学睡眠医学中心的睡眠专家Rafael Pelayo说:“小孩子在任何地方都可以睡觉。” “青少年或许可以在任何地方睡觉,而大多数的大学生也能如此。” Pelayo解释说,年轻人不断成熟的身心需要他们有越来越深的睡眠。这也是为什么他们的唤醒阈值(叫醒他们需要的时长)更高的原因。

“Most people say they sleep best in their own homes,” Pelayo says. Not so with insomniacs. “With all the frustration, the tossing and turning of insomnia, you create negative associations toward your bedroom. You dread going to bed. Then, when you take a trip, you go to a hotel, you’re suddenly away from that environment, and you sleep better.”

Pelayo说:“大多数人说他们在家里睡得最好。” 而失眠症并非如此。“带着因失眠产生的挫败感和折腾感,你对卧室产生了消极联想。你害怕睡觉。然后,当你旅行时,你去了一家宾馆,突然离开了那种失眠的环境,你发现自己睡得更好了。”

I’m not an insomniac, but I, too, have found that I sometimes sleep better in hotels, on mattresses I don’t expect will work for me.


Pelayo says my experience, and those of insomniacs, suggests that mattresses, positions, and even traditional sleep hygiene tips don’t hold all the answers.


A safe, stress-free environment can play a big role, he says. In a sleep lab, there are cameras all around, and people have wires attached to their heads. “And despite the weirdness of the situation, people often say they never slept so well,” Pelayo says. People may simply feel safer and protected in a hotel or a sleep clinic, he says.

他说,一个安全、无压力的环境会有很大作用。在睡眠实验室中,到处都是摄像头,并且有天线连接脑部。Pelayo说: “尽管情况很怪异,但人们经常说他们从来没有睡得那么好。”他说,人们可能仅仅是觉得在酒店或睡眠诊所里会更安全,更受保护。

‘That’s my side’


There’s another important factor that matters greatly to people: which side of the bed people sleep.


“The first night you share a bed with somebody, each one of you picks a side of the bed,” Pelayo points out. “Henceforth, you never discuss that anymore. That becomes your side. This becomes my side.” In Stanford’s sleep lab, he says, people who have had a bed partner for years tend to pick one side of the bed and ignore the other half, even though the bed is large and they’re by themselves. And this territorial nature extends beyond the home.


“If you’re traveling, when you get to the hotel room with your significant other, you go, ‘That’s my side, this is your side,’” Pelayo says. Some people even consider it an invasion of privacy if they’re out of town and a bed partner crosses over to their side. “You’ll say, ‘You used my pillow last night while I was away. Why’d you do that?’”


The point is to find the location, environment, and position that works for you. “If you’re comfortable, you’ll know it,” says Harris, the author and Albert Einstein College of Medicine researcher. “Comfort is king. But if you find you’re very restless at night and need to move a lot to get comfortable — say four-plus times a night — then consider asking your doctor for help.”

关键是要找到适合自己的地点,环境和睡觉姿势。作者兼Albert Einstein医学院的研究员Harris说:“只要能让你觉得舒服,你就找到了。”“舒适为王。但是,如果你发现自己在晚上非常不安,需要大量移动才能感到舒适(比如说一晚上翻身四次以上),就可以考虑向医生求助了。”