Ways You’re Sleeping All Wrong, According To Science

Getting good sleep is one of the healthiest habits you can practice. If you don't get enough sleep, or if the sleep you do get is of poor quality, it will affect your wellbeing. Not only will you feel tired the next day, but you're also more likely to experience health problems. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, chronic sleep deprivation can affect your mental health, your physical health, your quality of life, and even your safety. 

For many of us, figuring out the correct way to sleep is difficult because it involves so many factors. Everything from your sleeping position to your body temperature to your bedroom itself can affect your sleep quality. If figuring out how to sleep correctly is confusing for you, here are 20 things that might be getting between you and a good night's sleep.

Photo: Fight Club / 20th Century Fox

  • You're Sleeping With Your Pet

    Pet owners, and particularly dog owners, are divided on the issue of whether to share their bed with their furry companion. But as far as sleep is concerned, it's probably best to relegate your pup to the floor. A 2017 Mayo Clinic study found that people who share their beds with their dogs slept worse than people whose dogs slept on the floor. 

    As anyone who's shared a bed with a dog knows, they tend to move around in the night, often waking up their human partner. The result is choppier sleep that leaves you groggy and irritable the next day. It's the equivalent of getting only 4 hours' sleep a night. 



  • You’re Letting A Sleep Tracker Tell You If You’ve Had Enough Sleep

    There are numerous smartphone apps that claim to help you get better sleep by monitoring your sleeping patterns and providing you with data. While these apps can help you get a better night's sleep, they can also make your sleep worse. 

    One reason is that these apps appear on screens, and looking at a screen at bedtime can keep you awake. Another reason is that sometimes, you can have too much information. A 2017 case study published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine found that people who use sleep trackers tend to worry more about their sleeping habits, which in turn makes their sleep worse. 

    There's even a name for being obsessed with getting perfect sleep: orthosomnia.

  • You’re Limiting Your Pillows To Your Head

    Choosing the right pillow depends on many different factors. But your pillow's primary job should be to help keep your spine in the proper position during the night. A pillow for your head may not be enough. You may need extra pillows or full-body pillows to assist with this. 

    A study from the University of Rochester figured out the right body pillows to use depending on your sleeping position. If you sleep on your back, put a small pillow under the back of your knees. If you sleep on your stomach, place a flat pillow under your stomach/pelvis area. If you sleep on your side, use a firm pillow between your knees.

  • You’re Sleeping On Your Stomach With Your Head To The Side

    Some sleeping positions are better than others, but the experts agree that sleeping on your stomach is the worst position for you. Stomach sleeping is especially problematic if you turn your head to the side. “Imagine standing and looking one way for two or three hours at a time," says Dr. Andrew Bang of the Cleveland Clinic. "Stretching your neck muscle for that long creates soreness." The same thing happens when you sleep on your stomach.

    But if must sleep on your stomach, there are still ways you can reduce strain. Instead of sleeping with your head turned to the side, place a thin, soft pillow under your forehead and sleep face down. You can also try not using a pillow at all. Finally, you can give your neck muscles extra attention in the morning by stretching.

  • You’re Lying Flat On Your Back

    Sleeping flat on your back with your arms to your side is better than sleeping on your stomach, but it can still cause problems depending on the individual. Back sleeping can cause snoring and lower back pain, and it can exacerbate sleep apnea.

    If you're a back-sleeper, try putting a pillow or a rolled-up towel under your knees. This will help align your spine and alleviate your back pain.

  • You’re Not Using A Mattress Topper

    Even if you already have a comfortable mattress, a soft foam mattress topper can improve your sleep even more.

    2018 study at the Ota Memorial Sleep Center compared people who slept on soft mattress toppers versus people who slept on firm mattress toppers. A decline in the body's core temperature during sleep will cause a deeper and more restful sleep, and people who slept on softer toppers saw a larger decline in their core temperature during the initial phase of sleep. The study also found that using a softer mattress topper causes less strain on the muscles when rolling over.