Odds are you’ve heard the sad truth that sleeping on your side or stomach can lead to wrinkles. We know: As dedicated face-mashed-into-the-pillow sleepers, we were bummed about it, too. But the solution—learning to sleep on our back—seemed like an insurmountable task. Which is why we were so surp-cited (that’s surprised and excited) when we got in touch with sleep experts to find out how to train ourselves in the art of back sleeping and they said, “Don’t.”
While it’s true that nightly face-to-pillow contact can ultimately lead to wrinkles as the collagen and elastic tissue in your face break down with age, going out of your may to make sure your cheeks never touch the pillowcase might be causing other issues.
“In sleep medicine, we think of sleeping in the supine position as increasing the risk of sleep apnea,” says Katherine Sharkey, an assistant professor of medicine at Brown University. Shelby Harris, a behavioral sleep-medicine specialist, agrees: “I usually train people to sleep on their side or tummy since most of my patients have sleep apnea or snore loudly, and back sleeping can worsen that condition.”
In case you’re thinking that a little snoring is a small price to pay for a less wrinkly face, it’s worth noting that sleep apnea—a condition in which your breathing is intermittently obstructed while you sleep—not only makes those z’s you’re catching less restful, leaving you more tired during the day, but the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute also says that untreated sleep apnea can increase your risk of issues such as high blood pressure, stroke, heart attack, diabetes, and heart failure. Sleep apnea is also commonly undiagnosed, and some research suggests it’s particularly underdiagnosed in women, so the fact that your doctor has never mentioned it to you doesn’t mean you’re in the clear.
Sharkey also points out that a recent study showed that people aren’t very good at predicting what position they sleep in, so if worries about exacerbating your wrinkles are keeping you up at night, the best thing you can do is to stop stressing, slather on a retinol, and curl up however’s most comfortable for you.
Sleep your way to softer lips: