Is sleeping on your stomach bad? A few things you should know
Is your default snooze position set to “sleeping on stomach?” Heads up: sleeping on your stomach may not be the best sleep pose to produce good sleep.
Your sleeping position doesn’t only affect your sleep quality. It contributes to your overall wellbeing. If you think about it, you spend roughly one-third of your life asleep (during which time your body performs vital restorative functions). When your sleeping posture is not complementary to your body’s natural alignment, this can make it harder for your body to perform its sleep-miracles.
So let’s explore stomach sleeping, and why you should think about swapping it out for a new posture to get better z’s.
Problems caused by sleeping on your stomach
When you sleep on your stomach (no matter how comfortable it is during the night), you may wake up with a kinky neck (and not the good kind), a stiff back, hip and shoulder pain, and even headaches. As sleeping on your stomach requires you to turn your head in one direction to be able to breathe, this unnatural position puts your neck in constant rotation throughout the night.
But wait, there’s more. Here are some other issues that can be caused by this sleep stance:
Impact on the spine
Sleeping on your stomach places strain on your back and spine. This is because most of your weight is in the middle of your body, making it difficult to maintain a neutral spine position when you’re asleep. This stress on your spine increases pressure on other joint structures, and since the spine is a channel for your nerves, spinal stress can cause pain just about anywhere in your body.
Have you woken up with parts of you that have “fallen asleep”? This too could be caused by “blocked” nerves from sleeping on your stomach.
We’re pretty sure you haven’t developed a superhuman ability to breathe through your pillow. (If you have, please share!) As most of us need to turn our heads to the side when we sleep on our stomach, we place our head and spine out of alignment. Where you might not notice what damage you’re creating internally over time, chronic neck pain can develop.
Avoid sleeping on your stomach if you’re pregnant
When you’re pregnant and sleeping for two, you’re after as much rest as you can get. Although we’re sure you wouldn’t likely sleep on your baby bump when you’re in the last stages of your pregnancy, you should avoid it early on, too. As you have “new” extra weight around your middle, this will put pressure on your spine. Plus, if you’re sleeping on your stomach, your baby will be forced to squeeze in between your spine and the mattress, which may cause some discomfort.
We suggest as a pregnancy sleep solution that you sleep on your left or right side as this can provide healthy blood flow and keep the oxygen levels moving for you and number two.
Tips for sleeping on your stomach
Although stomach sleeping isn’t the best for your physical health, we get that this may be your chosen sleeping situation. To limit the complications that stomach sleeping can have on your body, try these tips to alleviate any discomfort:
- Use a thin pillow. The flatter the pillow, the less out of alignment your neck and the head will be.
- Look for a mattress that is specifically designed for front sleepers. (Yup, there is such a thing). These mattresses are firmer than an average bed to allow you to be comfortable while you sleep on your stomach.
- Experiment with a pillow under your pelvis. This aims to keep your back neutral, alleviating the pressure on your spine.
- Get out the yoga mat and make stretching a new morning routine. This may help put your body back into alignment and strengthen the supporting muscles.
What is the healthiest sleeping position?
Stomach sleepers, it’s time to turn over. Lying on your back and side are sleep-expert approved as the best sleeping positions. Where it might not be the easiest to adopt, try alternating from your side to your back. These positions allow your body to sleep in a neutral position, maintain good posture and get better sleep.
While we know that it’s hard to change how we sleep, we do recommend that you give it a go. Even if you just fall asleep in a new position, you’re on your way to better, more restful, (and pain-free) z’s.