The Fantastic Fetal Sleeping Position—A Friend To Overeaters

“I slept like a baby!”

Really? You must have been in the fantastic fetal sleeping position for most of the night. You were turned to your side and had your legs tucked up, maybe even as far as up to your chest.

Some mattress-selling sites seem to be under the delusion that there are significant numbers of people who sleep in other ways, like on their stomach, back, or however. There aren’t. Most people roll around in bed in many sleeping positions. A favorite for most of the night is the fetal sleeping position. It’s favored by 47 percent of people, according to the Better Sleep Council. That leaves a sliver at most who prefer and stay in the other positions.

In addition to overeaters, it’s great for snuggling couples too. It’s so common that it has its own word: spooning.

It helps you compensate for eating too much

Perhaps someone who eats far more than that they need thinks their best friend is some food, at least on some level. That pizza, dessert, burger, and fries, or whatever is satisfying on many levels, at least temporarily.

If it’s a friend, all that greasy food is a dysfunctional friend. Together you’re no good for each other.

The true friend is the (fantastic) fetal sleeping position. Like any good friend, it helps you cope. In this case, it helps you cope with life and all that food.

The fetal sleeping position is when you curl up on your side, sort of like a baby in the womb, though maybe not with your legs tucked up so far.

You can call the fetal sleeping position “laying on your side.”

You can call it the “lateral recumbent position” or “lateral decubitus position.”

Also, “side sleeping.”

All of those phrases try to describe the same thing.

Why it’s a friend to bedtime overeaters is that by laying on the left side, if anything is regurgitated, it won’t go back into the trachea. Anatomically, the top of the food pathway into the stomach is right next to the windpipe, the tube that leads to the lungs. So when stomach contents bubble up (and they usually will, which is why you don’t want to overeat before bed), the food bolus can then try to find its way into your lungs. “Try” is the operative word. Usually, the epiglottis slams shut, and the overeater starts coughing, waking him or her up. It can be very uncomfortable and cause the person to miss sleep.

If the coughing reflex and the epiglottis slamming shut don’t stop the food, a condition called aspiration pneumonia can occur.

This automatic maneuver by the body can succeed without waking you up if the quantity of food is small. However, when a larger quantity of food makes it past the epiglottis, it’s far more likely that you wake up coughing and hacking.

Fantastic, the fetal sleeping position is, but laying in that position for the night can only help you so much. Help it help you by avoiding overeating at bedtime.

Further reading:

Acid Reflux? How to Win at Eating and Sleeping

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