Back Sleeper Guide: How to Embrace the Best Sleep Position

November 12, 2021 | Casper Editorial Team
guide to sleeping on your back guide to sleeping on your back guide to sleeping on your back

Craving a better night’s sleep? You might want to consider becoming a back sleeper.

Side sleepers and stomach sleepers, listen up: Sleeping on your back is one of the best positions for good spinal alignment. However, only 10% of people report sleeping with their backs flat against the bed.

With supportive pillows and mattresses, supine sleepers enjoy many sleep health benefits. If you want to get in on those perks, it’s completely possible to make this position your default over time. 

In this guide, we’ll explain the pros and cons of lying face-up at night and the different types of back sleepers. Then, we’ll show you how to train yourself to sleep on your back and suggest the best mattresses for snoozing in this position. 

If you like to doze off on your back, you’ll need a mattress with the perfect combination of support and comfort. At Casper, we have just the right mattress for you.

Benefits of Sleeping on Your Back

Sleeping on your back comes with the most benefits of any sleeping position. Here are several perks that back sleepers enjoy. 

back sleeping benefits

1. May Prevent Shoulder Aches

For some, sleeping on your side or stomach can constrict your neck and shoulders, resulting in aches. Dozing on your back evenly distributes your weight and helps take the stress off your shoulder muscles. Specifically, sleeping in the supine position with your arms down at your side can help prevent musculoskeletal pain.

2. Can Lower Chance of Acid Reflux

Back sleeping can be the best position to provide relief from acid reflux. Just make sure your neck lies higher than your stomach while you sleep. That way, food and acid can’t creep back up your esophagus.

3. Can Help Relieve Tension Headaches

Stress, jaw clenching, looking down at your phone, and sleeping on your stomach can all stretch the muscles on the back of your neck and create painful tension headaches. Sleeping on your back can help neutralize your neck position and relieve these pains.

4. Can Improve Spinal Alignment

Side or stomach sleepers might experience neck and back pain due to awkward spinal alignment during the night. Sleeping on your back with a supportive pillow can help keep your neck, head, and spine in a more neutral position.

5. Can Relieve Sinus Buildup

With the proper pillow, resting on your back may help drain sinus buildup in the night and keep you from waking up congested. This can definitely help reduce discomfort if you have to go to bed with a stuffy nose

6. May Prevent Face Skin Irritation

When you sleep on your stomach or side, you press your face against your pillow all night. Experts say that sleeping face-up can help prevent breakouts by reducing contact with lingering oils and dirt on your pillow.

7. Might Reduce Wrinkles and Creases

Over time, pressing your face against your pillow each night can contribute to deeper wrinkles. Plus, no one wants to wake up with creases and marks on their face from their pillow and sheets. Sleeping on your back can improve beauty sleep by reducing facial contact with your pillow. You can also be a little softer on your skin at night by resting on a smooth surface, like the Casper Silk Pillowcase. 

When to Consider Other Sleeping Positions

Every sleeping position has its potential downsides, even back sleeping. Here are several instances in which you might want to consider other positions.

  • When pregnant: It is not advised to sleep on your back when pregnant, as it can decrease blood circulation to the baby. It’s better to sleep on your side with a pregnancy pillow. 
  • When you have persistent lower back pain: Some people say that lying on their back increases their lower back pain. If that’s the case for you, you might want to consider sleeping on your side instead.
  • When you have sleep apnea: Back sleeping is notorious for worsening sleep apnea. That’s because when you sleep on your back, your chin may fall forward and increase breathing difficulty. 
  • When you snore loudly: Sleeping face-up can also make snoring worse, since your tongue tends to fall back and your mouth hangs open. If you’re worried about disturbing others with loud snoring, back sleeping might not be for you.
  • When it just doesn’t work for you: Some people simply find it difficult to sleep on their backs. For those, it may be more comfortable to embrace a combination of back and side sleeping. However, it is possible to teach yourself to sleep on your back—more on that later. 

Despite the negatives, the pros generally outweigh the cons. If the conditions above don’t apply to you, back sleeping is still considered the healthiest way to snooze.

Types of Back Sleepers

There are two general back sleeping positions; here’s an overview of each.

types of back sleepers

The Soldier 

In the soldier position, one sleeps on their back with their arms down at their sides. Similar to the Savasana pose in yoga, this position can help you evenly distribute pressure across your body for deep relaxation. This position comes with all the benefits of back sleeping, but some may find that it feels a bit stiff and makes snoring worse. 

The Starfish

In the starfish position, back sleepers put their arms up over their heads and spread out their legs. Some may find this a more comfortable and natural alternative to the soldier position. However, for some, sleeping with your arms lifted up may result in shoulder aches.

How to Train Yourself to Sleep on Your Back

People who are used to sleeping on their sides or stomachs might find it difficult to transition to sleeping on their backs. Others can drift off on their backs with ease but might wake up to find they’ve moved to a different position in the night. Here are some tips to help you fall asleep on your back.

Tip #1: Put a Pillow Under Your Knees or Lower Back

put pillow under knees or lower back

If you experience back pain when lying flat on your back, try placing a small pillow or rolled-up towel under your knees and/or lower back. This can help reduce tension on your lower back during the night.

Tip #2: Spread Out Your Limbs

You don’t have to restrict your limbs to your sides when you sleep on your back. Try spreading out your arms or lifting them over your head starfish-style. You can even spread out your legs, too, in order to find the most comfortable configuration.

Tip #3: Elevate Your Head and Support Your Neck

elevate head and support neck

The best pillow for back sleepers opens up your airway and increases comfort by elevating your head and shoulders slightly above the rest of your body. The Casper foam pillow is specially designed to do just that, supporting the natural curvature of your neck with proper alignment throughout the night. 

Tip #4: Avoid Eating Right Before Bed

Sleeping on your back can sometimes lead to painful acid reflux. However, you can minimize the chance of acid reflux by avoiding fatty, spicy, and acidic foods close to bedtime. It also helps to steer clear of alcohol, caffeine, and large meals before hitting the hay.

Tip #5: Place Pillows Around Your Body

place pillows around your body

To prevent yourself from turning over to your side in the middle of the night, surround yourself with a pillow fortress around your midsection. This is especially helpful for active sleepers who tend to toss and turn, or those who have trouble sleeping.

Tip #6: Get a Supportive Mattress

A mattress that is too soft and allows you to sink in won’t provide enough support for back sleepers. If you want to sleep restfully on your back, you’ll need a firm mattress that helps keep your spine aligned. The Casper Wave Hybrid mattress has gel pods that cradle your hips and ergonomically align your spine. If a brand-new mattress isn’t in the cards, a firm mattress topper can also provide ample support.

Back Sleeper FAQs

Here are some quick answers to frequently asked questions about back sleeping.

Why Can’t I Sleep On My Back?

Transitioning to back sleeping can be tough at first. Sleeping face-up can make your body feel more exposed than sleeping with your face pressed against your pillow. If you are persistent with the tips outlined above, you should be able to train yourself to sleep comfortably on your back with time and patience.

However, there’s nothing wrong with sticking to your side or stomach if that ultimately helps you get better deep sleep. If you’re having trouble drifting off, you can also try out a cozy weighted blanket that hugs your body and a glow light that can help lull you to sleep.

Is Sleeping on Your Back Bad?

Sleeping on your back is widely considered by sleep experts to be the healthiest and most beneficial sleeping position because it supports good spinal alignment. However, it could have negative effects if you are pregnant, have sleep apnea, or snore.

Do Back Sleepers Need a Pillow?

It is advisable for back sleepers to use a supportive or wedge pillow that slightly elevates the head and neck without sacrificing too much of the spine’s natural curvature. Just make sure not to elevate your head too much, or you’ll rest your neck at an uncomfortable angle.

How Long Does It Take to Train Yourself to Sleep on Your Back?

The time it takes to train yourself to sleep on your back will vary from person to person. Most likely, it won’t happen in one night. Be patient and use the tips outlined above. If you find that back sleeping just isn’t working for you, stick to the position that allows you to get the most rest. 

The Best Mattress for Back Sleepers

When it comes to back sleeping, proper spine alignment is key. You’ll want something that provides support but also comfortably cushions your hips and shoulders.

Therefore, back sleepers may want to seek out medium-firm mattresses. A medium-firm or hybrid mattress will conform slightly to the body without sagging too much, ensuring your back is comfortable, aligned, and ache-free throughout the night.

Thankfully, at Casper we have plenty to choose from. Our Casper Original mattress, Casper Nova Hybrid mattress, and Casper Wave Hybrid mattress all provide a balance of comfort and support.

The Casper Original Mattress

The Casper Original mattress is our most popular mattress, engineered to align your spine and provide pillowy comfort. If you’re looking for a high-quality mattress at a great price, this could be the one for you. Here are some of its features:

  • Zoned Support™ that is designed to ergonomically align your spine
  • Premium foam that conforms to your body and is designed to relieve pressure and provide long-lasting support

The Casper Nova Hybrid Mattress

The Casper Nova Hybrid mattress includes a luxuriously soft top layer, plus hundreds of resilient springs that add lift and airflow. If you value plushness, look no further. It includes:

  • Zoned Support™ Pro that is designed to help align your spine
  • AirScape® 2  layers of perforated foam that help keep you cool throughout the night

The Casper Wave Hybrid Mattress

The Casper Wave Hybrid mattress is our most supportive mattress and the best for back pain. It includes supportive gel pods that lift up your waist and lower back for great alignment. Plus, it’s the best option to provide cool, heat-regulated sleep. It involves:

  • Zoned Support™ Max + gel pods are designed to ergonomically align your spine in two layers with gel pod support that cradles hips
  • A memory foam layer that is designed to relieves pressure along your body
  • AirScape® 3 + cooling gel that helps prevent overheating

If you want to reap the benefits of sleeping on your back, or you’re already a back sleeper who wants to get a little comfier at night, try out these recommended tips. Make sure to also equip yourself with a comfortable mattress and huggable foam pillow for a perfect night’s sleep.