Your sleeping position says a lot about you and your health. For example, what does it mean when you sleep with your arms above your head? (And no, I’m not just talking about personality profiles that may or may not have a scientific basis.)

You sleep with your arms above your head because of breathing issues (among other reasons). It could also be because you are unconsciously making space for a loved one in your bed. This sleeping position (also known as “Starfish”) has its pros and cons.

There’s so much to learn about the Starfish or the sleeping position where your arms are over your head. In this article, I’ll explain what it means when you sleep with your arms above your head, its pros and cons, and how to change your sleeping position (if you want to). Let’s begin!

What Does It Mean if I Sleep With My Arms Above My Head?

Sleeping with your arms above your head can be a habit you picked up. If you have a small bed, you might sleep with your arms up to make space for your partner. However, it can also be because you cannot breathe properly while sleeping.

According to experts, sleeping in the “Starfish” position could be out of habit or to make space for your partner. You might do it consciously or unconsciously depending on your sleeping habits.

However, sleeping in the “Starfish” position can also be because of breathing issues you’re having in the middle of the night. Moreover, anyone who sleeps with breathing issues might be a snorer. So if you’ve been told that you snore in your sleep, chances are you also sleep with your arms above your head.

According to The Better Sleep Council, sleeping in the “Starfish” position means it’s more likely that you sleepwalk.

You may have heard that your sleeping position says a lot about your personality. For example, if you sleep with your arms above your head, you’re said to be a good listener. There isn’t a lot of scientific evidence to support this, though.

Now, there are pros and cons to sleeping with your arms above your head, such as:

The Benefits

  • Sleeping while facing up helps prevent acid reflux if you have digestive issues.
  • Sleeping in the starfish position reduces back pain as sleeping like this aligns your neck, shoulders, and head perfectly.

The Drawbacks

  • It leads to sleep apnea.
  • It aggravates snoring.
  • It’s not a helpful sleeping position for women who are over 20 weeks pregnant.

Is Sleeping With My Arms Above My Head Bad?

Sleeping with your arms above your head can be bad. If you wake up in the Starfish position too often, it can result in shoulder aches, tender ligaments, joint pain, and muscle stiffness. Fortunately, there are ways to solve this problem.

How to Stop Sleeping With Arms Above Head

Whether sleeping in the “Starfish” position is causing you health issues, or you just want to try out another sleep position for a change, there are a few ways you can stop sleeping with your arms above your head.

Consider Sleeping on Your Side

Since the “Starfish” position has you sleeping on your back, you may try sleeping on your side instead, especially if you snore.

To train yourself to sleep on your side, you can:

  • Lie on your side, and put pillows on your back. That way, even if you subconsciously roll back into a “Starfish” position during the night, the extra pillows will prevent you from doing so.
  • Sleep on a narrower bed. Since your body takes up more space when you lie on your back than when you lie on your side, you’re less likely to roll back into a “Starfish” position if you sleep on a narrower bed. Alternatively, you can try sleeping on something like a couch instead.

Ideally, you’ll want to sleep on your left side, as it puts less pressure on your digestive system due to the natural effects of gravity.

However, you should also be aware that sleeping on your side has its fair share of problems. For example:

  • Because the weight from that position is concentrated on your shoulders and hips, you may experience pain in those areas after sleeping on your side.
  • You may also see an increase in facial wrinkles due to the increased pressure on your face from your pillows.

If changing your sleeping position isn’t doable or is making your problem worse, you can try the other tips below.

Find the Most Comfortable Sleeping Mattress

If you’re sleeping with your arms above your head and you experience any sort of discomfort or pain, you can minimize the latter by finding a comfortable sleeping mattress.

When looking for a mattress, you should consider your:

  • Body type and weight
  • Favorite sleeping position (in this case, the “Starfish” position)
  • Your budget

For example, if you’re tall and bottom-heavy, you need a mattress that allows you to move around in your sleep. Your body shape affects how much your spine can take when you’re sleeping. So, by choosing the right mattress, you can be assured you’ll wake up the next morning feeling rested and relaxed.

If you sleep in the “Starfish” position, consider using a medium-firm mattress. A medium-firm mattress can help correct any spine alignment problems that lead to things like snoring and sleep apnea.

Of course, you shouldn’t forget to factor in your budget when buying a mattress. While comfort should be your priority (which is why you’re buying a new mattress in the first place!), you shouldn’t have to break your bank account just to have better sleep. If you empty your savings just for one mattress, that’s going to cause a whole new slew of problems.

If you’re sleeping with one other person (which is, as I said, a possible reason you’re sleeping with your arms above your head), I recommend the Linenspa Memory Foam and Innerspring Hybrid Medium-Firm Mattress (available on Amazon). It’s hypoallergenic, so you don’t have to worry about skin problems from less-than-stellar mattress materials.

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You may also like: How Long to Get Used to a New Mattress?

Find a Better Pillow

Bird feather pillows (down pillows), memory foams, and polyester pillows are known to help improve your sleep quality. They’re comfortable and help you to sleep in positions that facilitate proper breathing. They’re also a good balance of soft yet firm, ensuring that you have no body aches or breathing troubles after you wake up.

Alternatively, you may want to use a wedge pillow, which is arguably one of the best ways to improve your sleep.

A wedge pillow is essentially a sloping pillow. Aside from helping you change your sleeping position, it has the following benefits.

  • Helps reduce snoring. Wedge pillows help to elevate your body slightly above the bed’s base level. This way, your breathing pathway clears up.
  • Clears up your nasal pathways. Since your body is elevated above the bed’s base level, any mucus you have will drip out of your nostrils instead of clogging your nasal pathways. This then reduces throat irritation, coughing, and other respiratory issues.
  • Helps reduce back pain. Because wedge pillows have a slanting angle, they realign your vertebrae and hips with your spine. Your body weight also gets distributed evenly, reducing lower back problems and other body aches.
  • Fights GERD or acid reflux. GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) is where your stomach’s acid flows backward into your esophagus. A wedge pillow aligns your body in such a way that your stomach acid stays in its proper place.
  • Eases heartburn. GERD often leads to heartburn, a burning and painful sensation that can interfere with your sleep. Since wedge pillows ease GERD, they’ll likely relieve heartburn as well.

In case you need wedge pillow recommendations, I suggest grabbing a Kӧlbs Bed Wedge Pillow with Memory Foam from You can choose between a wide variety of sizes depending on your personal preferences and comfort level. Plus, it’s styled in such a way that you don’t feel like you’re sleeping in a hospital room.

Kӧlbs Bed Wedge Pillow with Memory Foam Top | Chic Jacquard Cover | Wedge...
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Consult a Doctor Regarding Possible Health Issues

Some people may not experience health issues from sleeping with their arms above their head at all. If you’re not one of those people, you should probably consult a doctor regarding the health issues you may have as a result of (or being aggravated by) sleeping in the “Starfish” position. Your doctor may recommend more or less the same measures I gave above, or prescribe you medication to manage your health problems.

Final Words

No matter your reasons for sleeping in the “Starfish” position, it may cause you to have health issues. Luckily, you can change to a different sleeping position by training yourself to do so, purchasing more comfortable mattresses or pillows, and consulting with your doctor regarding other health problems you may have.

See also: Is It Good or Bad to Listen to Music While Sleeping?

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