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Sleeper Types: Stomach Sleepers

by BetterSleep
Jun 10 2022 • 4 min read

It is generally safe to sleep on your stomach. However, sleeping in this position has its drawbacks.

About 7 percent of the adult population prefer sleeping on their stomach. If you belong to the population who are stomach snoozers, read on to discover what you need to know about this sleeping position — and how to improve the quality of your sleep.

Drawbacks of Belly Sleeping

If you struggle to have a restful sleep, it may help to consider whether your preferred sleep position deprives you of a good night’s sleep. Below are some of the reasons to avoid sleeping in your stomach:

1. Stomach Sleeping Can Strain Your Spine

Sleeping on your stomach increases the risk of injuring your back, as it is difficult to keep the spine in a neutral position when you sleep in this position.

Moreover, the stress on your spine also increases pressure on the rest of your body structure. The spine is considered a pipeline to all nerves, so any pressure placed on it may affect other body parts.

2. Triggers Pain in the Neck

Stomach sleeping can also strain your neck and shoulders, leading to poor sleep and body aches in the morning. When you sleep on your stomach, you are likely to turn your head and neck to one side for an extended period. This position can cause stiffness and pain in the neck muscles.

Turning your head to the side while sleeping in this position may also result in twisting your neck. A twisted neck leads to neck and shoulder pain and the misalignment of your head and spine.

Research from academic and medical associations suggests that stomach sleeping or prone position is the unhealthiest sleep position.

3. Aggravates Discomfort and Pain for Pregnant Women

Pregnant women should avoid sleeping on their stomachs because it increases the risk of back pain. Back pain is common during pregnancy, and sleeping in this position only aggravates the problem. Additionally, stomach sleeping can cause discomfort and restrict normal blood flow.

Best Pillow Types for Stomach Sleepers

When you sleep on your stomach, you want to avoid elevating your head too much. The more you elevate your head, the more pressure you’ll’ place on your neck and spine.

For many stomach sleepers, the best pillow is no pillow at all! But if you prefer using a pillow nonetheless, find a thin pillow that doesn’t twist your neck upwards too much.

Benefits of Sleeping on Your Stomach

Belly sleeping is not ideal, and most experts suggest training yourself to sleep on your side or back.

Nonetheless, belly sleeping is not without benefits. You might want to consider this sleeping position for the following reasons:

  • If you are prone to snoring, you can assume the belly sleeping position to prevent obstruction in your airways.

  • Suppose you suffer from acute respiratory distress syndrome; doctors recommend sleeping on your belly. Acute respiratory syndrome is a serious condition characterized by inflammation of the lungs. The inflammation results in fluid leakage into the tiny air sacs of the lung, resulting in breathing difficulty.

    Patients who suffer from acute respiratory distress will find comfort in the belly sleeping position, specifically in improving oxygenation.

Best Mattresses for Stomach Sleepers

Stomach sleepers often experience sinkage around their midsection, especially if their mattress is old. They may also experience pressure in their shoulders, hips, and lower back if they sleep on the wrong mattress.

The best mattress for stomach sleepers is supportive without being too firm. A highly firm mattress will put too much pressure on your hips, shoulders, and lower back — but a mattress that’s too soft will make you sink too deeply and take your neck and spine out of alignment.

The exact firmness level depends on your body weight. Sleepers under 130 pounds should look for a softer option, while sleepers over this weight will sleep better with a more supportive mattress.

Is It Okay To Sleep On Your Stomach?

Stomach sleepers are the least common sleeper types regarding sleeping positions. Although many people prefer this sleeping position, it’s not ideal for many reasons:

  • To breathe adequately, you need to turn your head to the side, which may cause neck pain over time
  • Your spine may dip into your mattress, which can cause lower back pain
  • The pain in your neck, spine, and other joints may cause you to wake up during the night and get less quality sleep

But if sleeping on your stomach is the only comfortable position for you, here are a few tips to help you mitigate the risks of complications over time:

If you want to try a new sleep position, consider either back sleeping or side sleeping, depending on a few factors:

  • Try back sleeping if: you want the best position to relieve back and hip pain.
  • Try side sleeping if: you’re concerned about sleep apnea and snoring.

Whether you’re a stomach sleeper or not, you can improve the quality of your sleep by implementing a relaxing bedtime routine. Try the BetterSleep app to find the best sounds, meditations, or bedtime stories for you.

Factors to Consider when Choosing the Best Sleeping Position

Anyone who has ever struggled to fall asleep knows how frustrating it can be. Lying in bed for hours, tossing and turning, can leave you feeling exhausted and overwhelmed.

Below are factors to consider when choosing the best sleeping position:

Risk of Neck and Back Pain

Considering the risk of neck and back pain is important, especially for people who experience other medical issues. Experiment with various sleeping positions if you tend to suffer from soreness in your spine. Use pillows and find what works best for you.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

If GERD keeps you up all night, consider sleeping on your left side. Gastroesophageal reflux usually happens when acid moves back up to the esophagus while you are lying down.

Gravity will work well for your if you sleep on your left side. When you sleep on your left side, reflux is not likely to happen as your stomach stays below your esophagus.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) occurs with the blockage of the airways, making breathing difficult.

Sleeping on your belly or your side may help alleviate symptoms of OSA. There is less likelihood of airway obstruction as gravity pulls the tissues in your mouth and throat forward.

Wrap Up

Most people think one sleeping position is just as good as the next, but this isn’t true. Different sleeping positions offer different benefits and can be more or less comfortable for different people.

It’s important to find a sleeping position that is not only comfortable but also beneficial for your health.

Did you know that sleeping on your stomach can cause back pain and snoring?

Experiment with different sleep positions until you find the one that is best for you. Sleeping on your side might be more comfortable than sleeping on your back, or vice versa.

Stomach Sleeping FAQs

Does sleeping on your stomach trigger a herniated disc?

Your spine is forced into an unnatural position when you sleep on your stomach. The unnatural position can put undue strain on the muscles and ligaments that support your spine, and over time, this can lead to a herniated disc.

The discs in your spine act as shock absorbers, cushioning the bones and protecting them from impact. With repeated use, the discs can wear down, and the gel can leak out through cracks in the cartilage.

This can cause the disc to bulge or even rupture, resulting in a herniated disc. In addition to causing pain, a herniated disc can also lead to nerve damage.

What is the healthiest sleeping position?

Side or back sleeping positions are considered the best sleep positions. These positions promote healthy blood flow, allowing you to have a good night’s rest.

What are the factors that contribute to a good night’s sleep?

When it comes to getting a good night’s sleep, there are a lot of different factors to consider. Pillows, sheets, and blankets all play a role in how comfortable you’ll be, but the position you sleep in is also important. Some people prefer to sleep on their backs, while others find sleeping on their stomachs or sides more comfortable.

Does the belly sleeping position reduce sleep apnea?

In general, sleeping on the belly may help to reduce sleep apnea by keeping the airway open. This is because gravity helps keep the tongue and soft palate in place, making it less likely for them to collapse and block the airway.

However, not all experts agree on this point, and more research is needed to confirm the effects of sleeping position on sleep apnea. In the meantime, individuals who suffer from sleep apnea may want to experiment with different positions to see what works best for them.

How can you prevent back and neck pain when sleeping?

One of the best ways to prevent back and neck pain when sleeping is to use a pillow that supports the natural curve of your spine. A pillow that is too high or too low can strain your neck and back, but a pillow with the right size and shape will help keep your spine in alignment.

In addition, it is important to sleep on a mattress that provides adequate support for your body. A firm mattress will help prevent wrinkles in your skin, while a softer mattress may offer more comfort and alleviate joint pain.

Finally, be sure to use bed linen that is soft and smooth so as not to irritate your skin. These simple tips can help prevent back and neck pain when sleeping and wake up refreshed and rejuvenated.

Is sleeping on your stomach bad?

Sleeping on your stomach can be bad for your health in several ways. For one thing, it can put pressure on your spine and lead to back pain. It can also cause neck pain since you’ll likely turn your head to the side to breathe.

In addition, sleeping on your stomach can contribute to wrinkles since you’re constantly pressing your face into the pillow. Finally, it can also be bad for your digestion since you’re more likely to experience heartburn and indigestion when you sleep on your stomach. If you’re looking for a good night’s sleep, it’s best to avoid sleeping on your stomach.

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