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fat man sleeping in the most comfortable position
I’m loud, proud, and big! That hasn’t always been easy but thanks to the body positive movement taking off, being overweight doesn’t carry the same stigma that it used to. However, there are still challenges that come with being a heavier person, including your ability to get a good night of rest. 

The hours your body spends at rest are incredibly important to your overall health and well-being. Even though you aren’t conscious, your body is hard at work fighting infections and making repairs. Getting a full night of rest also impacts your emotional well-being and mental sharpness. 

With sleep being so important for your body and mind, getting quality rest is critical to your overall health. One of the ways that you can ensure you’re getting the most of your rest is by finding the best position to help you sleep and heavy people need to be extra diligent about this. 

So what’s the best and most comfortable sleeping position for a heavy person?

The most comfortable sleeping position for a heavy person is usually on your back at an incline or on your side. When back sleeping, creating an incline promotes better breathing and spinal alignment. Pillows can also be used to increase comfort when you lie on your side. 

Below, we’ll take a closer look at the most comfortable sleeping position for a heavier person, as well as why it matters. We’ll also look at how other factors like pillow placement, room temperature, and having the right mattress affect your ability to get a good night of sleep. 

Most Comfortable Sleeping Positions for Someone Who Is Overweight

Side Sleeping

Sleeping on your side with the right support is one of the best ways that someone who is overweight can get a good night’s rest. Side sleeping stops excess weight from the stomach and chest from being put onto the lungs. There’s also a lower risk of obstruction, which can help with snoring or sleep apnea. 

In addition to helping you breathe, research shows that side sleeping helps your heart pump and your blood circulate better. It also helps the digestive system function better. This is important because the body works hard while you are sleeping. It’s the time when your body is healing and removing toxins.

While you can sleep on either your right or left side and experience benefits, there are health considerations for each of these positions. Sleeping on your left side helps relieve heartburn and stops pressure from being put on the liver. It’s most recommended for pregnant women and people with GERD. 

If you have early heart failure, sleeping on your left side puts more pressure on the heart. This can be painful and uncomfortable, so most people with heart problems naturally sleep on their right side instead. 

Sleeping On Your Back With An Incline

Sleeping at an incline is a variation of back sleeping that might make sleeping more comfortable for someone who is overweight. This is also how my husband and I both sleep. Instead of lying flat on your back, you position a wedge under your pillow or raise your head while sleeping. 

Sleeping at an incline has benefits for the spine and your breathing habits. First, sleeping with your head elevated changes your contact point with the mattress. Rather than all the weight from your belly pressing on the lower part of your spine, this weight is redistributed so it doesn’t put as much pressure on these joints. 

Sleeping at an incline also makes it easier to breathe. This is especially true for people who snore or who have obstructive sleep apnea. Either of these conditions can be caused by the tongue going back into the throat while sleeping on your back. 

Why You Shouldn’t Sleep on Your Stomach If Your Bigger

Sleeping face down, prone, or on your stomach is typically considered one of the worst ways for a heavier person to sleep. The extra weight around your tummy doesn’t always settle flat, so it might put your spine at awkward curvatures while you are trying to sleep. Plus, you have to twist your head to the side to be able to breathe, which might cause neck pain. 

Of course, it’s important to remember that there is no one-size-fits all solution to sleep. In some cases, stomach sleeping does work for people who have trouble sleeping or who are trying to avoid putting pressure on the lungs. As long as you are getting quality sleep and aren’t in excess pain when you wake up, even stomach sleeping is okay. 

How to Decide Which Sleep Position is Best for You

People who get the recommended 7-8 hours of rest every night spend around ⅓ of their lives sleeping. With so much time dedicated to sleeping, it’s important that you choose the sleeping position that works best for you.

Below, we’ll take a look at some of the things to consider as you choose the best sleeping position for your specific needs. 

Breathing Benefits

For people who are heavier around the middle, certain positions offer breathing benefits. Lying on your side, for example, prevents any excess weight from pressing down on the lungs while you are sleeping. Additionally, being on your side stops neck fat from settling around the chest and pressing on the esophagus. In people with obstructive sleep apnea, the way that weight settles once sleeping can cause breathing to stop. 

Spinal and Neck Alignment

Something else to consider is how your sleep position aligns your back and neck. Some people experience pain so frequently upon waking that they start to accept it as a normal part of life. However, chronic neck and back pain is not normal. It also affects your ability to carry out day-to-day tasks and makes it harder to get comfortable when you lay down in bed the next evening. 


One of the biggest factors you should consider when deciding your ideal sleep position is your overall level of comfort. Somebody who is comfortable is getting the restful, quality sleep that they need for optimal health. This is the reason that it’s sometimes okay to sleep in the positions that aren’t as well recommended. 

Health Considerations

If you have any specific health conditions that affect your ability to sleep, sleeping in a position that reduces your symptoms will help you get more restful sleep. For example, someone who has pain from acid refux or GERD might find relief by sleeping at an incline so stomach acid doesn’t travel up the esophagus as easily. A person with pain in their back or hips should sleep in a position that relieves pressure on these areas.  

How to Tell if You Are Getting a Good Night of Sleep

We’ve already talked about the many reasons getting a full night of rest is important. Unfortunately, you may not remember waking up from snoring or other sleep problems. It’s also possible that you aren’t fully waking up, but that you still aren’t getting the quality of rest that you need. 

Poor quality sleep affects millions of people, including people of all sizes, and this video does a great job explaining the impact of poor sleep on your body and mind:

In some cases, your doctor might recommend a sleep study if they believe you aren’t getting the rest you need. Sleep studies are especially helpful for diagnosing sleep conditions like restless leg syndrome or sleep apnea. 

Even without a sleep study, however, there are signs that you aren’t getting a full night of rest. In the short-term, symptoms like fatigue, headaches, forgetfulness, and irritability. They may also feel the need to nap or experience extreme drowsiness after eating or while at rest. Additionally, if you’re falling asleep within five minutes of laying down at night, it could mean you are too tired from not sleeping enough the night before. 

People who aren’t sleeping enough also have weaker immune systems, so they are more susceptible to illness. Some other long-term symptoms include increased risk of depression and anxiety, decreased interest in sex or other fun activities, appetite changes, higher blood pressure, and an increased risk of other diseases. 

Can Pillows Be Used for More Comfort When You Sleep?

You can (and should) use pillows if they help relieve pressure on certain areas of your body or make it more comfortable to sleep. For example, putting a pillow between your legs while side sleeping gives more support to the hips and keeps them aligned. Alternatively, propping a pillow under your knees while lying on your back relieves pressure on your lower spine. 

How Does Snoring Affect Sleep?

Snoring is something frequently joked about between spouses and family members who happen to overhear it. It can also be a major deterrent to quality cuddle time! Even though it’s something joked about, however, snoring is an indicator that you might be at risk for sleep apnea in the future. 

The sound made while snoring happens because something blocks the airway in the nose or throat. As the body works harder to push air out, it makes a sound from that extra force. 

At minimum, snoring affects your sleep because the noises you are making might be keeping you (or your partner) awake and stopping you from getting quality rest. In some cases, however, it is also a sign that your airways are being blocked while you are sleeping. This affects your body’s oxygen levels and it can even be dangerous if the obstruction is severe. 

Other Sleeping Tips to Help Big, Tall, and Heavy People Get a Better Night of Sleep

Invest in a Good Mattress

The mattress you are sleeping on plays a big role in how much support you have while you’re sleeping at night but it’s not always what you’d think. You can even get a great night’s rest on an air mattress if you pick the right one! Additionally, there’s no one-size-fits-all design because the best mattress type is determined by your specific body weight, sleeping position, and contact points. 

As a heavier person, something you should look for in a mattress is support. High-density foams or traditional mattresses with high coil counts are best because they offer firmer, stronger support. They also won’t break down as easily, which is important when you’re carrying a little extra weight. If you’re going with an air mattress, look for a coil beam design as these can hold the most weight

Your mattress fabrics also affect how hot or cool you are while sleeping. If you choose memory foam, one that has copper or cooling gel inside should help pull heat away from the body instead of trapping it. Adding a cooling liner to the top of your mattress might also work if a cooling mattress isn’t an option.  

Keep it Cool

People who are overweight tend to run a little hotter at night than people who are lighter. This is especially true for older people and women going through menopause.

When you overheat at night, it’s easy to start sweating or get uncomfortable and wake up. Sleeping in a cooler room promotes better rest. You can adjust your thermostat at night or run a fan in your room if you don’t want to cool down the whole house. 

You should also take a look at your bed linens and what you wear to sleep in. Choose linens and clothes that are made of breathable fabrics that don’t trap heat. You’ll also want to be sure the mattress you choose don’t contain fibers or materials that will make it hotter when you sleep. 

Why is Sleeping Position Important for Heavier People? 

Your Sleeping Position Affects Comfort and Quality of Sleep

Sleeping position benefits everyone, but it is really important for heavier people. Sometimes, extra weight on your back, hips, or chest causes pain when you sleep. If you are in pain, you aren’t getting the same quality of sleep as someone who sleeps deeply through the night. The problem with this is that there are so many risks that come along with failing to get the recommended 7-9 hours every night. 

Some risks of not sleeping enough include an increased chance of diabetes, high blood pressure, and a weakened immune system. Additionally, research shows that failing to get enough sleep actually slows body metabolism and makes it harder for you to lose weight if that’s something you want to do. 

Your Sleeping Position Makes it Easier or More Difficult to Breathe

Sleep position is also important for the average heavy person because being overweight puts you at greater risk of conditions like apnea. Sleep apnea is a condition where the body stops and starts breathing while you sleep. This might happen for just a few seconds, or it can happen longer. There’s also a risk of death if your body doesn’t re-start breathing. By sleeping upright or at an inclined position, it helps with conditions like obstructive sleep apnea. 

Your Sleeping Position Affects Bone and Joint Health

It’s important as you choose your sleep position that you aren’t putting excess pressure on your bones and joints. There’s a higher rate of osteoarthritis and joint pain in people who are overweight because their joints have to work a little harder to support their extra weight. In addition to working while you are standing and upright, your joints are also working harder when you sleep. Sleeping in certain positions or supporting your weight with pillows really helps alleviate some of this load, so there isn’t so much strain on your cartilage or joints. 

Final Word

Even though getting a good night of rest isn’t as easy when you are heavier, there are a few adjustments you can make to get a full night of rest. The most comfortable sleeping position for a heavy person is often on your back or side. 

By sleeping on your back at an incline, or by sleeping on your side, you reduce weight on the lungs and stop obstruction in the airways. You can also add a pillow to make things more comfortable. 

In addition to considering your sleeping position, consider factors like how well your mattress supports you and how hot/cool it is in your sleeping environment. By getting a good night’s rest, you’re making an investment in your health and ensuring your body and mind are getting what they need to thrive. 

Do you have any thoughts or feedback on sleep positions that have worked best for you? Feel free to drop a comment below! 

Camila R.

Camila is a body positive blogger and fat activist that's focused on helping people of all sizes live life big! That means accepting yourself at any size and just enjoying life! She lives in New Mexico with her husband and two chihauhuas.

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