Here’s the best way to sleep to help relieve chest discomfort and aid healing, according to science. 
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A woman suffering from flu in bed
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We all know that feeling of extreme fatigue that sets in when we're sick. This is a common symptom and natural bodily response to help boost your immune system and give your body the time it needs to recover and heal. And if you've ever dealt with a pesky cough during a cold or while fighting COVID-19, then you understand how frustrating and uncomfortable it can be to get a good night's sleep. Luckily, there's a specific sleep position that can help ease discomfort and help you heal faster. 

The medical term is called prone, which means sleeping on your stomach. So what exactly does it help with? According to a recent review of research, the prone position (sometimes referred to as "proning") allows for better expansion of the back and lung region, which can enhance the body's removal of fluid buildup in the lungs. This ultimately can lead to improved oxygen levels, faster healing and less discomfort. 

Past research shows that lying in the prone position may help decrease mortality rates among patients on ventilators who are experiencing acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). And while it's not a cure-all, newer research looking specifically at ventilated COVID-19 patients suggests the same. There isn't much research looking at non-ventilated, awake COVID-19 patients and the prone position, but the research that does exist suggests it can help when done right. 

So, what exactly might "proning" look like at home? The prone position can look a few different ways depending on your body type. Cycle through each of these positions until you find one that works for you:

  • Lie on your stomach with your head (on a pillow) turned to one side and your arms tucked beneath your chest. You can also bring both arms out to the sides for shoulder comfort.
  • Lie on your stomach with your head (on a pillow) turned to one side. Place an additional pillow underneath your hips for pelvis support and choose your preferred arm option.
  • Lie on your stomach with your head (on a pillow) turned to one side. Place an additional pillow underneath your abdomen or upper chest for support and choose your preferred arm option.
  • Lay on your stomach with your head on a pillow turned to one side. Place an additional pillow underneath your shins to relieve hamstrings, take pressure off your ankles and toes. Take your preferred arm option.
  • For the most support, lay on your stomach with your head on a pillow turned to one side. Place a pillow underneath your hips, abdomen and shins and take your preferred arm option.

No matter what prone position you're in, turn your head the opposite direction every 30 minutes. You can also use a folded towel shaped like a horseshoe to keep your head face down, if your neck hurts turned to one side.

To sum things up, you don't need to be admitted into a hospital to try this simple approach for finding relief from pesky COVID-19 symptoms at home. However, if you are feeling really poor, it's important to get the care you need, so a trip to the hospital may be necessary. Be sure to listen to your body. Next time you lay down to get much-needed rest try sleeping on your stomach to relieve symptoms and find comfort. 

The information in this story is accurate as of press time. However, as the situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to evolve, it's possible that some data have changed since publication. While EatingWell is trying to keep our stories as up-to-date as possible, we also encourage readers to stay informed on news and recommendations for their own communities by using the CDC, WHO and their local public health department as resources.