I have always been a stomach sleeper—at best, it was a side-stomach combo. I’ve always vaguely understood that there’s a hierarchy of resting positions in terms of sleep hygiene, depending on your conditions and needs, but I never bothered to dig in any deeper than that. Until one day when I had a very enlightening consultation—not with a doctor nor sleep expert nor even holistic practitioner. My consultation was with an esthetician.
Why sleeping position is important for skin.
She took one look at my face and told me my left side was aging faster—and accurately guessed I slept on that side more. (I know that I sleep on this side because that way I face into the bed and can put my arm out without it draping off the side—I’ve read far too many scary stories as a child to let appendages dangle off the side of the bed.) She was spot on too: Board-certified dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, M.D., later explained to me that our sleeping positions can affect our skin far more than most of us realize. He goes on to explain that as far as skin and aging goes, the back is actually the best position. “Side or stomach sleeping means that the skin on your face is pushed against the pillow, leading to folding of the skin. Besides folding, frictional forces of the face against the pillow can cause pressure and inflammation of the skin leading to premature wrinkles.”
It makes sense that it has an impact. If you sleep the full eight hours an evening, that’s eight hours every day of pressure and friction on your delicate skin. There’s plenty of research to support this, too, like this 2016 study, which identified a set of wrinkles that form from sleep alone. Read: They are not expression lines in the way that forehead or smile lines are caused by repeatedly moving your face over time. These are wrinkles that are formed exclusively from your sleeping position.
You don’t notice your resting position’s effect as much when you’re young because your skin is plump full of collagen and can almost instantly bounce back from pressure. But as you get older and your collagen starts declining, you likely will notice that a pillow fold can leave you with an indent on your face for the better part of the morning. An old co-worker once told me that the minute she knew she had started “aging” was when she’d wake up with pillow lines that weren’t easily erased by washing her face.
Before this article sends you into a tizzy: There are a lot of other worse things you can do to your skin—unprotected sun exposure, smoking, poor eating habits, or lack of sleep altogether. And if you’re visiting this here website, I’m going to assume you are not doing these things and are taking pretty good care of your body as a whole. What I’m trying to say is: Don’t freak out if you’re a lifelong stomach sleeper with no plans of changing—you’re probably doing just fine in other areas, and none of us can do all of the right things all of the time.
This was the attitude I took after my consultation. After trying unsuccessfully to switch to my back (in the search for healthy-looking skin, I’ll try anything), I just shrugged and reminded myself that I am precious with my skin in almost all other aspects and not to stress myself over it.
That is until I got my weighted blanket.
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How did the weighted blanket help?
Weighted blankets were first used for children with autism but have recently become popular for adults as a way to soothe anxiety. A pilot study done in 2006 showed that more than three-quarters of them preferred the blanket as a method to calm down, and more than half—63%—reported having lower levels of anxiety after using the blanket. Another study published in 2015 found that a weighted blanket lengthened average sleep time and decreased disruptive movement of people suffering from insomnia.
Part of the reason I find that I sleep on my stomach and side is that I like having the pressure, warmth, and solid feeling on my chest—it feels comforting, like I’m holding someone close. And here’s the thing: The weighted blanket provides that same feeling while I’m on my back. The first time I made this realization, I wasn’t even trying; one morning, I just woke up and realized that I slept on my back through the night. From then on, I made a deliberate attempt to make the switch, and so far, it’s worked very well.
I stopped waking up to a smooshed face, with a crease from my pillow down my cheek. My eyes were less puffy, and my face looked more symmetrical. (It also helped that I was sleeping better overall from using the blanket. It’s usually the case that sounder sleep translates to perkier skin.) I can’t guarantee that a weighted blanket will be your answer to any sleep position concerns—or that you even care enough to try and sleep on your back—but it worked for me. And, anecdotally, most I know who have a weighted blanket adore theirs just as equally—perhaps not for the same reasons that I love it; they probably like theirs for more traditional reasons.
And, of course, the real test is time. But a good night’s sleep and refreshed face more often is a pretty good immediate payoff.
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