Is It Bad To Sleep On Your Stomach?

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written by sleep expert Lauren Hall

Is It Bad To Sleep On Your Stomach?

Balancing a busy work schedule with a social life is no easy feat; even achieving 7-9 hours of sleep seems impossible on some days. When we are exhausted, we care more about falling asleep quickly and less about how our sleep posture affects our health and, in particular the stomach sleeping position.

But why is it bad to sleep on your stomach?

Well, there are more issues with stomach sleeping than many of us realize. Stomach sleeping can trigger chronic back pain and neck pain which can prevent us from getting a good night’s rest which gets from bad to worse as it can lead to sleep deprivation which opens up a whole new level of issues.

Despite sleeping on your stomach having benefits in reducing snoring and obstructive sleep apnea, it can cause a world of issues for your back and neck. As I said, it can lead to poor sleep at night and discomfort, which disrupts your day. So it is recommended that you switch this sleep position.

Not ideal for those with busy schedules; you need good quality sleep.

Whether you’re on a mission to find the best sleeping position for your health or just looking for tips for stomach sleepers, then I’m going to run through everything you need about stomach sleeping and the drawbacks of sleeping on your stomach, along with some stomach sleeping tips.

So stay tuned; you won’t want to miss this.

sleep on your stomach

Why Is It Bad To Sleep On Your Stomach?

 Sleeping on your stomach has its drawbacks; the only real benefit is reducing sleep apnea and reducing snoring. When you compare it to the bad things about sleeping on your stomach, then choosing side sleeping is a much sleep position as it also reduces these issues but doesn’t strain your body.

Sleeping on your stomach can cause extreme strain causing neck and back pain which can determine your quality of sleep and cause you to have poor sleep quality while waking up with aches and pains when you wake up in the morning.

So let’s talk about the reasons why stomach sleeping positions are bad for you and your health.

Puts Pressure On Your Neck & Spine

Sleeping on your stomach puts pressure on both your neck and back; most of your weight is in the middle of your body, so it puts your spine in an unnatural position which can cut off blood flow to certain parts of your body– this can cause pins and needles from this sleeping posture.

It starts with the spine as it places a strain on your back and spine because your weight is centered in the middle making it difficult to maintain a neutral spine position when sleeping. A thin pillow is recommended for stomach sleepers as it helps prevent your neck from twisting upwards.

While this doesn’t keep your neck and spine completely neutral, it can prevent you from causing more damage which a pillow with a high loft would cause. Since your spine is like the pipeline for all your nerves, spinal stress can call pain all around your body, and it can even cause tingling and numbness around your body.

In order to breathe, you need to keep your head turned, which moves your neck to the side, putting your spine in a compromised position. This can lead to shooting pains all throughout your body and even cause long-lasting back and neck pain.

Unless you’ve mastered breathing through your pillow without feeling claustrophobic, you need to turn your head to the side. This keeps your spine out of alignment, and over the years, serious neck and back pain problems can begin to develop, so sleeping on your stomach is a no-no.

It can also be quite uncomfortable to sleep on your stomach, making it harder to achieve restful sleep and to sleep comfortably. This can cause you to toss and turn in your sleep, which can lead to sleep deprivation which has significant effects on your health.

This pain can also carry into the day too; you could even get a herniated disc in your neck, which is super painful.

Not Recommended For Pregnant Women:

This is pretty obvious that you shouldn’t sleep on your stomach during pregnancy; this is also the case for women during early pregnancy. Pregnancy adds weight to the middle of your body, making it more likely that your spine can get damaged, making it not the best sleep position.

This position can also put pressure on the baby too which can lead to development issues. The best way for pregnant women to sleep is on their left side as it increases blood flow, and these sleep postures can help take pressure off your liver as well as reduce heartburn and promote comfortable sleeping.

Can You Sleep On Your Stomach While Pregnant?

Is it bad to sleep on your stomach while pregnant? This is a question asked by many moms to be, especially stomach or combination sleepers. When pregnant, there are already so many changes in your life, and changing your sleeping [position is no easy feat, but can you sleep on your stomach while pregnant?

Generally, sleeping on your stomach isn’t too bad up until your belly starts growing around 16-18 weeks but still not recommended as it puts pressure on the baby– which is not what we want when newly pregnant. Once your bump starts to show, stomach sleeping can be very uncomfortable.

This could interfere with your sleep and cause a lower quality sleep which can lead to sleep deprivation, which can increase the experience of premature birth, painful labor, and postpartum depression, so switching to a side sleeping position is recommended, especially your left side.

Avoiding sleeping on your stomach while pregnant is best, not only because of the discomfort but sleeping on your stomach can be dangerous for your baby. Instead, try to train yourself to sleep in the fetal position; it takes the pressure off your back, promotes blood flow, and helps keep airways open.

Sleeping on your side with the right support can help keep your spine in a neutral position which can help relieve back, hip, and neck pain. Back sleeping is not recommended when pregnant, though, as this can put pressure on the main vein, which carries blood from the mother’s leg to their heart.

All in all, there are some serious long-term effects for a stomach sleeper, so if you can switch, then I would highly recommend it, but if not, here are some tips of how to properly fall asleep on your stomach with minimal damage and spinal misalignment.

Sleeping on your side can also help reduce sleep apnea symptoms, and sleeping on your left side can also help reduce pregnancy-related acid reflux as it prevents stomach acid from leaking into the esophagus, which also helps with gastroesophageal reflux disease too.

pillow hugging side sleeper

Tips For Stomach Sleeping:

There are a few ways you can sleep comfortably and safely on your stomach; despite not recommending it but using these tips should help with back and neck pain. But I would recommend switching to a side or back sleeping position for better sleep council.

Use The Right Pillow:

Using the right pillow under your head can help prevent your spine and neck from twisting and turning into awkward positions while you rest. For stomach sleep positions, it is recommended that you use a thin pillow or no pillow underneath your head because using a pillow that is too high can make matters worse.

This paired with your head twisted in order to breathe, can also cause neck ache too.

If you’re using a pillow that has too high of a loft, your neck will be elevated above the rest of your body which can put your spine in all kinds of compromised positions that further cause problems. This is the main reason why stomach sleepers are not recommended to use a pillow, and if they do, it has to be super thin.

You’ll want to keep your body straight and aligned, so using a thin, soft, flat pillow or no pillow at all will help keep your spine aligned and prevent you from putting your neck in awkward positions. Another option is to sleep with your head facing down and put your forehead on the pillow instead of your entire head.

This can help open up your airways and keep your head elevated enough, so you don’t need to turn it. It may feel odd and wrong at first, but there are far more benefits on relieving neck and back pain for stomach sleepers by sleeping this way, so it’s worth a shot!

Pop A Pillow Under Your Hips:

For many of us who sleep with a partner, using a memory foam mattress is the ideal choice; not only does it reduce motion when your partner moves in the night, but it is also ideal for both back and side sleepers, but for stomach sleepers… not so much.

Memory foam is well known for its conforming capabilities, which are loved among many sleepers, but it can be a stomach sleeper’s worst nightmare as your body sinks into the mattress, causing your spine to become even more misaligned. It throws your spinal alignment and puts strain on your lower back.

So while a firm mattress is recommended, it’s not always easy buying a new, firmer mattress, especially if you sleep with a partner that has a different firmness preference to you. Instead, stomach sleepers can place a thin pillow under their hips to promote the natural spine curve and prevent sinking into the mattress.

This can help keep your spine as neutral as possible. Memory foam is not recommended for stomach sleepers unless it is very firm as it causes your body to sink.

This puts your body in even more uncompromised positions, while memory foam is brilliant for offering pain relief and more restful sleep for the back and side body position; for side sleepers, it causes your hips to sink, which can cause more pain than good.

The best mattress for stomach sleepers has to be an innerspring mattress or firm hybrid mattress. If you still want memory foam but want more of a responsive, firm feel is recommended for stomach sleepers. If you sleep with a partner, definitely opt for a hybrid as it offers more comfort for a wide range of sleep positions.

Stretch Regularly:

Stretching regularly during the day can help improve your stomach sleeping position, waking up and stretching in the morning can help you deal with any discomfort and pain and help relieve pressure points and muscles that have gone a bit stiff in the night.

The best stretch to help relieve aches and pains in the morning is to sit with your shins on the floor and your toes pointed forward, push your pelvis downward and reach forward. This will help stretch out both sides of your back and help relieve and pains throughout your back.

Neck rolling is also advised for stomach sleepers, so sit up and roll your neck in a circle. This will help loosen any knots which have formed by twisting your neck in the night. It can also help ease stiffness in your shoulders, spine, and neck throughout the day. It is recommended to do this during the day.

stomach sleeper

Final Thoughts:

According to the national sleep foundation, it is best to switch to side sleeping over stomach sleeping. There are a few ways to learn how to sleep on your side; one is starting on a sofa for a few nights to prevent your body from rolling onto your front.

Side sleeping positions offer the same benefits on sleep apnea and snoring as stomach sleeping does, but it is much more comfortable and better for your health than sleeping on your stomach. It helps keep your spine in a neutral position while relieving pressure points.

It is the preferred sleep position of many.

Sleeping on your side with the right mattress and support can even help relieve shoulder pain, hip pain, and lower back pain while also helping promote healthy blood flow. While sleeping on your side may still cause sleep wrinkles, these are nowhere near as bad as sleeping on your stomach.

So make the switch today! Either flatter the pillow or train yourself to sleep on your side to improve your sleeping postures. Or if you want to know the best sleeping positions, then check out my full guide. It’s just sleep science, after all…

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