How Sleeping in Your Side or Stomach Causes Fine Lines and Wrinkles on Skin

In addition to wrinkles, sleeping on your side may also have an effect on other age-related skin changes, like more volume loss on the side you sleep on. “Almost every derm can identify which side a person sleeps on when they come in for fillers,” says New York City-based board-certified dermatologist Dhaval Bhanusali, MD.

What’s the best position to sleep in for avoiding lines and wrinkles?

All three dermatologists we spoke to gave us the same bad news for side and stomach sleepers.

“As far as the skin-friendliest way to face, sleeping on your back with your head facing out and center will definitely reduce the risk of developing sleep-related skin problems to the greatest degree,” Dr. Maiman says.

Dr. Bhanusali reluctantly concurs. “Back is still the preferred way, although admittedly, it’s very difficult to do, and most don’t — including me,” he says.

Dr. Robinson also recommends lying on your back, though finding the perfect level between too flat and too propped up can be a challenge. “Elevating too high may cause your chin to drop and your neck to scrunch up, while being too flat may lead to waking up with puffy eyes from the accumulation of fluid and lymph in the upper body,” she says. 

Do certain types of pillows and pillowcases help?

Pillows are the ultimate frenemy. We rely on them for comfort, but they can betray us — and not just regarding our skin. 

“Pillow science needs to get better,” says Dr. Maiman. “With age, our neck and body joints need increasingly more support, but too many pillows can exacerbate these problems.” Humans evolved without pillows, she says, so, arguably, no pillows would be ideal — but between the aforementioned puffiness that can be caused by lying too flat and our desire for comfort and support, it’s not a terribly appealing option.

If you struggle to sleep on your back but would like to give it the old college try, you may want to look into specialized pillows like one of the many cradling designs that keep you facing up while supporting your neck.  We like the memory foam YourFacePillow, for which you can buy a specially shaped satin pillowcase.

Speaking of satin pillowcases, there’s no harm in investing in one for your current pillow if you’re committed to side sleeping. “I’m not convinced that [satin] pillowcases work for actual wrinkle improvement, but I do think having a gentle pillowcase and sheets can be beneficial, including less abrasion while you sleep and, in some cases, less chance for bacteria and dust to accumulate,” Dr. Bhanusali says.

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