Best Sleep Positions for Seniors

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In This Article

Sleeping is equally as essential as eating and staying hydrated throughout the day. While sleeping, the body and brain are re-energized in order to function effectively the next day.

But did you know that aside from getting 7-8 hours of sleep per night, correct sleeping positions can benefit seniors, helping them improve their overall physicality and wellness?

Learn about the four best sleep positions for seniors and some tips for a refreshing night’s sleep.

MORE TO EXPLORE: How Relaxing Music Improves Older Adults’ Quality Of Sleep


Best Sleep Positions for Seniors

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Did you know that different sleep positions can provide various benefits? Further, proper sleep positions are often great remedies for relieving common physical pains in seniors.


Left-side Sleeping

A person has their head and torso angled to the left side with one arm slightly extended when sleeping in this lateral position. This sleeping position puts pressure on the left shoulder while the legs are stretched out, stacked, or folded closer to the upper body.

Sleeping on the left side has been proven to eliminate snoring problems and sleep apnea due to its ability to support breathing. If your parents experience stomach problems, left-side sleeping also has unique effectiveness in supporting digestion because it is the best position to enable gravity to support your digestion overnight. Additionally, it can prevent heartburn and even reduce the risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

However, it should be noted that this position is not for everyone, as it can pressurize the vital organs on the left side, specifically the heart, heightening the risk of heart failure with the surge in pressure from the lungs. So if your parents have issues with their hearts or lungs, remind them to avoid this sleeping style.


Right-side Sleeping

In contrast to left-side sleeping, sleeping on the right side means a person’s head and torso are positioned to the right side, putting the right shoulder under pressure. Much like the left-side position, the right leg is underneath the left one, or you can assume the fetal position by curling both legs.

Sleep in this lateral position can help your seniors alleviate joint pain on the left side of their bodies. The straight placement of the neck during this position can also aid gastrointestinal issues, such as acid reflux.

This position is considered safe for the heart compared to sleeping on the left. It can improve heart function, heart rate, and blood pressure since the heart is now under less pressure from the lungs. So if your parents can’t take advantage of left-side sleeping, try this sleeping style to support their cardiovascular health.

Everything comes with pros and cons. For example, when sleeping in this lateral position, it’s possible to have your lungs compressed by the body weight, resulting in a lower volume of air in the lungs. Moreover, it may cause problems and allow right shoulder, hip, and lower back pains to arise over time.


Back Sleeping

Back sleep, or supine sleeping style, involves lying flat on your back. The legs are usually extended or stretched out during this neutral, healthiest position. Essentially, your parents can place their arms along the sides of the body, cross them over the stomach, raise them above shoulder level, or in any other placement that is the most comfortable for them. Avoid resting the arms on the forehead or the chest.

Being deemed the best sleep position, sleeping on the back allows your parents to inhale and exhale well during sleep. When lying on the back, your parents can avoid neck and back pain as this position prevents misalignment of the cervical spine and evenly distributes the body weight across the body. With a supportive, firm mattress, this sleeping style can actively ease the tensions of the back, hip, knee, neck, or shoulder pains in seniors.

Another perk of back sleeping is that ankle or foot swelling and venous insufficiency can be relieved by elevating the legs with a cushion or pillow inserted into the hollow below your knees. Sleeping on the back also effectively diminishes the repercussions of congestive heart failure.

However, back sleeping may induce snoring, obstruct air passage, and change the facial structure in the long run because mouth breathing and nose blockages can push back your lower jaw and tongue.


Upright Sleeping

Upright sleep describes sleeping in an upright position with the head’s level higher than the body. This position can be achieved with a reclining chair, wedge pillows, or an adjustable bed to support the head during sleep.

There are various angles to choose from, but ensure that it should be measured to meet your parent’s physical needs. Ideally, 20-30 degrees is considered about right for most seniors.

One of the benefits of sleeping with the head above the body is that it can significantly minimize the risks of snoring and apnea-related breathing problems. If positioned correctly, upright sleeping can relieve body aches and pains. Lastly, it helps reduce the adverse effects of headaches and sinus issues.

MORE TO EXPLORE: 6 Easy Upper Body Stretches For Seniors


Worst Sleep Positions to Avoid

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Now that you know which sleep position is best for your parents. Let’s discuss the worst sleep positions to avoid for seniors.


Stomach Sleeping

Sleeping on the stomach is the least common sleeping style. In this sleep position, the head is turned in either direction for easier breathing, with spread-out arms to both sides while the legs are straight.

In addition to being the least common position, it’s also the worst sleep position to sleep for seniors. Specifically, forcing the head to turn on either side can adversely interfere with your parents’ spine, causing neck and shoulder injuries.


Arms Crossed Under The Pillow

For seniors, sleeping with arms crossed under the pillow is no longer safe.

Though it may have worked well in younger years, sleeping in this position can be risky since it can hinder blood circulation to the arms, causing numbness or in the worst cases, blood clots.


Quality Sleep For Seniors: Sleep Tips to Consider

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We all know that having a good night’s sleep is critical. But for some seniors, catching sleep can be a real challenge. Approximately half of the seniors aged 65 to 80 reported experiencing tossing and turning and having difficulty falling asleep each night (according to the U.S National Poll of Healthy Aging).

Some shifts and changes in sleep patterns are normal and expected as life goes on. So protecting sleep quality is worth more effort as we age. In addition to the four best sleep positions for seniors listed above, consider trying these sleep practices if you are looking for ways to level up your parents’ sleep and overall quality of life:

  • Take a nap for less than 20 minutes during the day.
  • Cut down caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine intake.
  • Design and stick to a bedtime routine.
  • Stretch gently before going to sleep.
  • Check for any medicines that might keep them awake at night.
  • Avoid reading, eating, and watching TV in bed.


Have a Good Night’s Sleep at 12 Oaks Communities

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In our communities, we never stop looking for creative ways to design a quality, living-worthy environment that will put our residents at ease and place a smile on their faces in their later years.

We use personalized, one-of-a-kind approaches to wholeheartedly managing and directing day-to-day, essential schedules for all the residents. From hassle-free morning routines to bedtime practices to achieve a good night’s sleep, our dedicated staff is available 24 hours daily to ensure each resident receives the world-class care they deserve.


If you have questions about the best sleep positions for seniors and sleep practices, connect with us and learn more. 

At 12 Oaks, our team of caring professionals is dedicated to keeping residents safe, engaged, and connected to their families and friends while leading fulfilling lives. 12 Oaks communities are an ideal place to enjoy the encore season of life.

For questions or to book a scheduled personalized tour, don’t hesitate to contact us. 

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