Owning the right bed, pillow, and blanket aren’t the only things that will make your sleep comfortable. There are a number of factors you should consider when it comes to sleeping well and sleeping comfortably. Setting yourself up with the right sleeping condition and choosing the right sleeping position for you can make all the difference from a terrible night and a good night’s rest.
Let’s take a closer look at what you can do to ensure the most comfortable sleep possible.
3 Sleeping Position to Choose From
There are three main sleeping positions:
- On your side <– Generally the best for many circumstances
- On your back
- On your stomach <– Not ideal for most people
Different sleep challenges require different sleep positions.
Someone with lower back pain can alleviate some pain and sleep better at night on either their side, with knees raised closer to their chest and a pillow in between the knees, or on their back, with a pillow to raise their knees and feet.
On the other hand, a pregnant woman can do better opting for an inclined sleeping position, preferably on the side, to help alleviate the pressure of the extra weight of their baby and to breathe easier.
There are also variations and possible sleep positions for these same circumstances and more, which we cover more in-depth in our guide here.
To keep it brief, here is a table of all the common sleep challenges and what sleep position is generally the best to help:
The Most Comfortable Way to Sleep For Specific Discomforts
|The Discomfort||The Challenge||Most Comfortable Sleeping Position|
|Back pain||Alleviating as much pressure as we can on our back during sleep, from our hips and unnatural postures. Straighten back muscles and spine.||
Sleep on your side with a pillow between the knees
Sleep on your back with a pillow underneath your knees, and a thin pillow underneath your lower back
Alleviate the strain, stiffness, and pain by supporting and maintaining a straight neck-to-body alignment
Sleep on your side with a cervical or thick pillow for support
Sleep on your back with a thin to moderately thick pillow
|Sleep apnea/snoring||Keeping the airways clear of obstruction and reducing the severity of disruptive snoring noises||Sleep on your side, elevating your upper body and using the right pillow thickness
Sleeping on your stomach, with a thin pillow, cautious of strain on the neck and back
|Pregnancy||Alleviating the pressure from the extra weight of the baby, helping you breathe easier, and sleep with less stress on the back muscles||Sleeping on your side with a pregnancy pillow underneath your belly for support and pillow between the knees
Sleeping on your back in an elevated position, propped up by a wedge pillow and pillow underneath the knees and feet
|Sciatica||Alleviating pressure on the spine and legs to avoid pinching the sciatic nerve as much as possible||Sleeping on your back with pillows underneath the knees for elevation
Side sleepers should bend their knees and bring it close towards the head, with pillows between the knees to square the hips. Whichever side is the least painful and irritating for you
|Stuffy nose/nasal congestion||Relieving congestion so breathing can be easier and sinuses are a little more comfortable from pressure build up||Sleep on your side or back with your head elevated with an extra pillow or two.
Sleeping on your stomach with a thin pillow works, too
|On your period||Hormonal changes mean having to deal with rising core body temperature, headaches, sore breasts, sore stomachs, and cramps
Reducing and relieving cramps by taking pressure off the abdominal muscles as much as possible
|Sleeping on your side in a fetal position with your knees bend up close to your chest|
|In a tent/camping||Staying warm while sleeping on a comfortable surface are the two main challenges||Sleeping on your side or back are good, with a high-quality sleeping bag on top of comfortable bedding pad|
|In a car||Uncomfortable seating arrangements can cause neck, back, and shoulder aches and pain the next day||Sleeping in a lying position with adequate padding and bedding
Otherwise, use adequate padding to rest and support your head. Dress comfortably
|On a plane||Similar to car, waking up with aches and pain all over the body. In addition, poor quality of sleep from crowded flight
Sleeping on economy seats that are not engineered for sleep at all
|Pick the seat that allows you to sleep leaning on your best side. Experiment with your chair to get to the greatest lean back position possible.
Use ear plugs, headphones with music, and sleeping masks.
Sleep well the night before!
|On the floor||Sufficient padding to be comfortable on the hard floor, and staying warm at night||Sleeping on your back provides the least amount of pressure
Sleeping on your side is possible, but will require enough bedding and padded comfort for the shoulders and hips
Although these are the recommended ways to sleep for the most comfort depending on what is causing you trouble with sleep, you should still sleep in the way you find most comfortable. If you want to be sure of the best possible sleep, consulting a physician might save you many nights of restlessness.
3 Conditions for Comfortable Sleep
Choosing the most comfortable sleeping position isn’t the only thing to focus on. There are three key conditions for an environment conducive for a good night’s sleep:
- A cool room
- As dark as possible
If just one of these are off, then falling asleep and staying asleep becomes much more difficult.
1. Cooled Room for Deep Sleep
When night time rolls around and it’s time for bed, our body naturally cools down to prepare for the night time slumber. There are a few problems with this:
- It can get too cold for us to sleep well
- We can be too hot by keeping ourselves warm
We wrote in a previous post on the best temperature for sleep. The magic temperature range for an ideal sleep for most adults is between 60-65°F (16-18°C). Hotter temperature can cause restlessness and make it difficult to fall asleep, while cooler temperatures can make it impossible to sleep well.
Often than not, we found sleepers complain about being too hot for sleep. Choosing the right cooling mattress is the first step, as certain beds will retain body heat better than others. The right bed sheet can also make a difference. (We had one reader mention how she dislikes the velvet feel of bed sheet fabrics.)
Turning on air condition (AC) or using a fan can help cool your room enough for it to be conducive to a good night’s rest. Air conditioning will convert hot air into cool air to circulate through your home or, if you have a portable AC, your bedroom. Using AC in close proximity to you will help reduce temperatures quickly and can be used right before and during bedtime.
Using a fan, on the other hand, might be a slower alternative that doesn’t guarantee a temperature drop like AC can. What makes a fan work is the circulation of air, rotating hot air out for cooler air. If your AC breaks, don’t own an AC, or are on a budget, then circulating your bedroom’s air will be important. If the outdoor temperature is cooler than your indoor temperature, opening your window will help reduce temperatures further. Heat moves from high concentrated areas to low concentrated areas so opening the window on a cool night will cause heat to flow out. However, if you sleep during the day when the sun is out or if the night outdoor is hotter than it is indoor, then keeping your window closed is the best.
Leaving your room door open will also improve your airflow. But if you are using AC, keep the door closed to retain the cooled air.
2. Deep Dark Bedroom Cave
Our body follows a biological clock that produces something known as a circadian rhythm. This rhythm regulates our body processes, including when we wake up and become alert (sleep-wake cycles), eating habits and digestions, and many of our hormones. A large influence to our circadian rhythm comes from our exposure to light.
There is a reason we need to wake up for the day, and a reason we should avoid it before bedtime. Light exposure, specifically to blue light, before we go to sleep inhibits and suppresses the production of melatonin. Melatonin is an important and necessary hormone released by the brain to induce drowsiness and ready the body for sleep. Trying to sleep in a brightly lit room will be difficult without this hormone.
One of the obvious and best ways to sleep with as little light as possible is to block it from entering your room. If street lights or the night life of the city you live in are keeping you up, then black out curtains can help. They can help block out sunlight, including UV rays in the morning for times when you need to sleep a little longer into the day. If you need a good pick, the Nicetown Blackout Curtains are a great choice since it does the job of blocking out light and insulating your windows to maintain a consistent room temperature. Windows tend to be a big leak for temperature, so having a thermal insulation from them helps.
An alternative idea is to use sleep masks. Although it might be uncomfortable to have the pressure of something elastic wrapped around your head, they do an excellent job at blocking out light from the eyes. Your room can be as brightly lit as the sun, and owning the right sleeping mask can block most if not all light out.
3. Quiet or Drowned Out Noise
Noise can be bothersome and downright disruptive for sleep. Playing music or leaving movies on to watch late in the night won’t do your sleep any justice. Any sudden spike in the noise level can wake you up and cause you to become hyper alert of your surrounding. Aside from disrupting your slumber, the interruption can make it difficult to drift back into sleep.
Of course, not all noise can be controlled or should be blocked. The noise of a crying infant at night is important to notice. However, things like noisy neighbours, late night construction noises, and vehicles from a nearby busy street are sounds we can do our best to block from hearing or drown out.
Drowning out noise is useful for leveling out sound and better sleep. The spike in sound level is what causes us to wake up, and so the use of a nighttime fan or other white noise devices can “mask” the decibel spikes. We find white noise machines being used not only for sleep, but can be used for travel, studying, work, or any other activity that requires focus. If you do go with a white noise machine, you can go with either digital or mechanical devices. We recommend digital because they offer a wider selection of ambient noises for you to choose from, such as light or heavy rain and peacefully serene music. You can also use a washroom ventilation fan or an air purifier machine to help drown out unavoidable disruptive noises.
What If I’m Still Sleeping Uncomfortable?
Sleeping anywhere on a bed is bound to be uncomfortable. But if you were sleeping on a proper bed, more often than not our bed set up causes a lot of trouble for our sleep because they aren’t the right fit for us.
Different people have different sleep preferences, and it boils down to picking the right mattress and the right pillow. After modifying your environment for the best sleeping conditions possible and trying different sleeping positions, it might be time to change your bed.
Mattresses should generally be changed every 5 to 10 years, depending on the material quality and changes to the sleeping surface (like sagging). The body also changes every several years with age playing a factor to the comfort level we need to sleep well at night. If it’s time for a change, we recommend checking out how to pick the best mattress guide. If you want the best bed for sleep, then you might be interested in our most comfortable mattresses guide.
Pillows, on the other hand, need to be changed every one to two years. Again, it depends on the material and if the pillow becomes uncomfortably compressed. We wrote more in our guide on picking the right pillow.