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Stomach Sleeper: What You Need to Know

By: Christina Davies
Updated on: April 05, 2024
FAST FACTS

  • Stomach Sleeping Variations: Three common stomach sleeping positions include the Freefall, Running Man, and Skydiver positions, each with its modifications for better spinal alignment and reduced strain.

  • Health Concerns: Stomach sleeping can lead to spine misalignment, back, neck, and shoulder pain, and increased facial wrinkles due to pressure and rubbing against the pillow during sleep.

  • Adjustment Tips: Using a thin pillow or none, practicing daily stretching, placing a pillow under the pelvis, and keeping legs flat can help stomach sleepers reduce discomfort and improve spinal alignment.

  • Transitioning Techniques: Gradually shifting sleeping positions, using body pillows, and considering memory foam pillows can aid stomach sleepers in transitioning to side or back sleeping positions for better sleep quality and overall health.

Sleeping positions play a vital role in our overall health and well-being. While there are many common positions, such as side sleeping and back sleeping, stomach sleeping, also known as the prone position, is chosen by a small percentage of people. In this article, we will dive into the benefits and disadvantages of sleeping on your stomach and also provide tips on how to sleep in this position properly.

The Stomach Sleeping Positions

Did you know that there are different variations of stomach sleeping positions? Let’s take a look at three common ones:

The Freefall Position

The freefall position is characterized by sleeping with your head turned to the side and your hands wrapped around the pillow. While this position is not inherently bad, it can be improved. To enhance this sleeping posture, consider using a very thin pillow or even omitting the pillow altogether. This will prevent your neck from being too curved, reducing strain on your spine and neck.

The Running Man Position

The running man position involves sleeping with one arm to the side and the other arm and leg raised in a running position. To optimize this stomach sleeping position and alleviate strain on your back and neck, keep your hips and legs straight. Additionally, place a pillow under your forehead and rest your head face-down. Despite sounding uncomfortable, this modified belly sleeping position may actually be better for stomach sleepers.

The Skydiver Position

The skydiver position is characterized by sleeping with one leg raised and both arms extended above your head. To improve this position, keep your leg down at all times and place a thin pillow under your pelvis. These modifications will help align your spine in a neutral position and prevent twisting.

The Impact of Stomach Sleeping

While stomach sleeping may have some advantages, it also comes with its fair share of disadvantages. Let’s delve into the potential issues associated with this sleeping position:

Spine Misalignment

Maintaining a healthy sleeping posture is key to proper spine alignment. However, stomach sleepers often experience misalignment as their torsos sink into the mattress due to body weight. This sinking effect leads to back arching, causing the spine to deviate from its natural alignment. Over time, this misalignment can result in back strain, aches, and other discomfort upon waking.

Back, Neck, and Shoulder Pain

Stomach sleepers often turn their heads to the side for breathing during sleep. This rotation of the neck can further contribute to spine misalignment. Additionally, incorrect sleep posture can lead to headaches and pain in the shoulders, neck, and arms.

Facial Wrinkles

Sleeping on your stomach can cause more facial wrinkles than in side or back sleeping positions. The constant pressure and rubbing of your face against the pillow can stretch, tug, and squeeze the skin throughout the night, resulting in more pronounced wrinkles over time.

The Pros and Cons of Stomach Sleeping

To determine whether sleeping on your stomach is good or bad, let’s examine the pros and cons:

ProsCons
Potential reduction in acid refluxNeck pain and Stiffness
Reduced snoring and sleep apneaPotential back strain
Alleviation of sleep apnea symptomsIncreased risk of wrinkles

Unfortunately, the cons outweigh the pros, making stomach sleeping generally unfavorable for your health. The risk of experiencing back, neck or shoulder pain is higher for stomach sleepers. Therefore, learning how to transition away from sleeping on your stomach is crucial.

How to Properly Sleep on Your Stomach

While it may be challenging for stomach sleepers to abandon their preferred sleeping position completely, several adjustments can help improve the experience. Here are some tips on how to sleep better on your stomach:

Use a Thin Pillow

Using a thin pillow or no pillow at all is recommended for stomach sleepers. This allows your neck to be less angled, minimizing the risk of back and neck pain. The closer your neck is to the mattress, the lower the strain on your spine.

Stretch Daily

Incorporating stretching exercises into your routine can provide relief for stomach sleepers. Spending 10 to 20 minutes stretching before and after sleep, focusing on the pelvis and neck areas, can help alleviate discomfort. The child’s pose, a yoga exercise, is particularly beneficial for relieving back and neck pain.

Place a Pillow Under Your Pelvis

Consider placing a pillow underneath your pelvis to relieve back strain and promote proper spine alignment. This helps keep your spine’s natural curve intact and alleviates pressure on your lower back.

See Also: Types of Pillows

Keep Your Legs Flat

Optimal stomach sleeping involves keeping your legs flat. Avoid crossing or stacking your legs, which can exacerbate back strain and twist your spine. Strive to keep your legs as balanced and aligned as possible.

Maintain Body Alignment

Before falling asleep, consciously position your body in a neutral alignment. Keep your arms by your sides, ensure your lumbar spine and hips are straight, and avoid curving or twisting your spine. This promotes a healthier sleeping posture.

Stomach Sleeping During Pregnancy

Pregnant women are generally advised against sleeping on their stomachs, especially as their pregnancy progresses. The added pressure on the abdomen can restrict blood flow and potentially harm the baby. Side sleeping is typically recommended during pregnancy, as it promotes better circulation and optimal rest for both the mother and the baby.

How to Transition Away From Stomach Sleeping

If you are a habitual stomach sleeper and wish to transition to a different sleeping position, there are several strategies you can employ:

Shift Your Position When Possible

While initially falling asleep in a different position may be challenging, try practicing side or back sleeping. If you turn onto your stomach during the night, make a conscious effort to flip to another position. Over time, you will become more accustomed to your new sleeping posture.

Use a Body Pillow

To discourage stomach sleeping, consider using a body pillow. This can help prevent the tendency to switch to your stomach and provide additional support for side or back sleeping positions, promoting more restful sleep.

Try a Memory Foam Pillow

Buying a memory foam pillow can help you move away from sleeping on your stomach. Memory foam pillows contour to support the neck and keep the spine’s natural curves. Providing optimal support can facilitate the adjustment to side or back sleeping.

Transitioning from being a stomach sleeper to a different sleeping position may require time and effort. However, considering the potential negative effects of stomach sleeping, it is worth exploring alternative positions for improved sleep quality and overall well-being.

Remember, it’s always advisable to consult with your doctor or a medical professional for personalized advice regarding your sleep habits and any related concerns.

FAQs about Stomach Sleeper

Is stomach sleeping bad for you?

Stomach sleeping can strain the neck and spine over time. However, it might alleviate snoring and sleep apnea symptoms for some.

What mattress is best for stomach sleepers?

A medium-firm mattress can provide ample support and align the spine, benefiting stomach sleepers.

How can I prevent neck pain as a stomach sleeper?

Using a thin pillow or no pillow at all can help maintain a neutral neck position, reducing strain.

Can stomach sleeping cause back pain?

Yes, prolonged stomach sleeping without proper support can lead to back pain due to increased pressure on the spine.

Is there a way to transition from stomach sleeping to a different position?

Gradually introducing side or back sleeping by using pillows for support can help transition away from stomach sleeping.

Does stomach sleeping affect digestion?

In some cases, stomach sleeping might exacerbate acid reflux. Elevating the upper body slightly can alleviate this issue.

Conclusion

While some individuals may prefer stomach sleeping, it comes with potential drawbacks that can negatively impact your health. Spine misalignment, back, neck, and shoulder pain, and the possibility of increased facial wrinkles are among the concerns associated with this sleeping position. The cons generally outweigh the pros, making it less favorable for overall well-being.

If you are a stomach sleeper, implementing adjustments such as using a thin pillow, practicing daily stretching exercises, and maintaining proper body alignment can help alleviate discomfort and promote a healthier sleep posture. Transitioning to different sleeping positions, such as side or back sleeping, is also recommended to minimize the potential risks associated with stomach sleeping.

Ultimately, prioritizing a good night’s sleep and choosing a position supporting your body’s natural alignment is key. You can enhance your sleep quality and overall health by making conscious adjustments and seeking guidance from healthcare professionals.

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