In general, you change sleeping positions because of physical discomfort such as prolonged pressure or pain. Stress, anxiety or Insomnia can also be causes of tossing and turning at night. It’s normal to change positions while we sleep. When you roll over and change position it relieves the pressure points and improves blood flow through those areas.
How you sleep can also change based on your age, body mass and other factors. You may also have medical conditions that can make you restless or become aggravated by certain sleeping positions.
How much rolling over in bed is normal and how do you settle down to sleep?
Is it normal to change positions while I sleep?
You may not realize it but the average person changes position 40 to 50 times each night. And it’s completely normal.
Most of it occurs during deep sleep because in lighter REM sleep your body goes into a semi-paralyzed state. Perhaps to protect you from playing out what you dream about.
Your sleep position plays an important part of getting quality sleep. But what happens when you can’t seem to get in that right position to fall asleep? Tossing and rolling over takes control and you can’t get comfortable or go to sleep.
When changing sleep positions can be a problem
The reasons for rolling over at night can be as simple as prolonged pressure from lying in one position too long. This seems to be a normal response to prevent reduced blood flow to areas of your body.
The longer you lay in place with pressure applied to a specific point the greater the urge until you roll over.
But then there are the other things that can make sleep time unpleasant. Some of these factors that can make you change positions often include:
- Pain – This can come in many forms. Sciatica, arthritis, fibromyalgia, back pain, neck pain to name a few, can make it more difficult to stay in one position for long.
- Stress – Tensions, both physical and mental, from stress can make relaxing difficult and lead to tossing and turning.
- Anxiety – When your mind won’t quiet down, a restless mind can make a restless body.
- Restless legs syndrome – a condition where uncomfortable sensations in your legs causes you to move them seeking relief.
- Insomnia – The inability to fall asleep caused by insomnia can often make you toss and turn in bed.
- Sleep Apnea occurs when you interruptions in your breathing while you sleep. This can cause you to wake or have poor quality sleep resulting in frequently changing positions in bed.
Finding the right sleep position
If your like me, you don’t stay in one position all night. I like to sleep mostly on my side then on my belly then on the other side. Repeat. I breathe easier when I spend less time on my back. How do you sleep?
Here are some common sleep positions and how they can affect your sleep.
Belly sleeper – Sleeping on your stomach can create strain on you neck and lower back. I can attest to that. I have had a sprained neck more than once from it. I like to scoot down and hang my feet off the bed so my neck doesn’t get bent.
A soft bed and soft pillow can help you a lot in this case. Sometimes I skip the pillow altogether and just sleep with my hand under my face.
Back sleeper – Studies show that poor sleepers typically spend more time on their back. Back sleeping can create lower back pain in some people or make it worse if you already have it.
If you still want to sleep on your back put a pillow under your knees to help keep the natural curve of your back.
Back sleeping can also aggravate problems for people like me who have sleep apnea.
And for people who snore…. I don’t hear anything, but my wife does.
You might ask your doctor for suggestions if you have one of these conditions and like back sleeping.
Side sleeper – There are several ways that people like to sleep this way. You may like sleeping with your arms or legs out in front of you or you may like to curl up in the fetal position which is the choice of 40% of sleepers.
Side sleeping is best if you snore. Your partner will appreciate the noise reduction. But if you like to sleep on your back propping yourself up with a few pillows may help.
Sleep on your side for reduced back pain as well. Put a pillow between your knees to reduce even more pressure on your hips and back.
Side sleeping is also the usual choice for comfort when you are pregnant. The left side is better because it gets more blood flow to the baby. You can prop a pillow under your belly to help with back pain.
Spooning – This side position of cuddling up to your partner causes your body to release the chemical oxytocin which reduces stress and can help you fall asleep faster.
Stop tossing in bed and sleep comfortably
Don’t go to bed if you aren’t ready to sleep. Keep the same schedule to go to bed and wake each day. If your mind and body are out of routine your more likely to spend time tossing in bed.
Do you know what sleep hygiene is? In a nut shell, it’s the environment and routine you set up that prepares your brain and body for sleep. It’s more than just a comfortable bed and pillow which of course are important and can’t be understated.
The best way to go to sleep is having good sleep habits. If your prepared for sleep your less likely to be kept awake shifting positions at night.
- Set up your bedroom to feel secure and comfortable. Make sure your bed and pillow are designed for how you sleep. Not to firm, not to soft, that kind of thing. Keep the room cool and dark.
- Take out the electronics. The bedroom should be only for sleep or sex.
- Don’t eat a heavy meal close to bed and avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol.
- Have a winding down routine doing something relaxing and dim the lights 30 to 60 minutes before bed.
- Try to stay active during the daytime and get plenty of light. This will help to regulate your sleep-wake cycle known as circadian rhythm.
Is your mattress a restless place?
Your mattress is your first line of defense. If you spend a lot of time changing positions when you sleep then ask yourself:
Is your mattress right for the way you sleep and your body type? Does it fit the shape of your body when you lie on it? Does it provide the firm support you need for your back and the position you like to sleep in?
Do you get springs in your back at night or a weak spot where you tend to roll out of bed or roll toward the other side? Do you sleep alone or with a partner? So is there enough room for both of you? It may be time for a make over.
Choosing the right mattress may be like finding a book at the library. There are many to choose from. A good place to start can be with a brand that you can try out and return if it’s not right for you.
There are some stores and online stores that will let you do that and you may even find free shipping.
You know your sleep position is important to your quality of sleep. You feel the effects good or bad every day.
Changing sleep positions at night is normal but shouldn’t be to the point that it keeps you from getting a good night’s rest.
If you have tried everything else, good sleep hygiene, your bed is comfortable, you’re following a good routine and bedtime schedule, and nothing seems to help, then talk to your doctor.
You could have an underlying condition that needs to be diagnosed.
What is your favorite sleep position? Leave in the comments Below.
The information on this website is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. When you have questions regarding your health you should seek the advice of your health care provider.
Enhanced Monitoring of Sleep Position in Sleep Apnea Patients: Smartphone Triaxial Accelerometry Compared with Video-Validated Position from Polysomnography
Neuropsychiatric Dimensions of Movement Disorders in Sleep
Why do we roll over when we’re asleep?
Sleep positions and nocturnal body movements based on free-living
accelerometer recordings: association with demographics, lifestyle, and