Is Sleeping on Your Stomach Bad?

Is Sleeping on Your Stomach Bad?

Written by Dreamcloud Editorial Team

Last Updated on Sep 02, 2022

In this article:

    Did you know? According to a survey, 16% of adults are stomach sleepers, while most prefer side sleeping. And there is a reason why this sleeping position is out of favor.  

    Although stomach sleeping has its set of benefits, such as being the standard treatment for sleep apnea, it is also considered one of the most unhealthy sleeping positions. However, is sleeping on your stomach bad? Browse down to find out. Furthermore, like the side and back sleepers, a stomach sleeper also has its unique way of dozing off.

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    5 Stomach Sleeping Positions

    The tummy sleepers do not just lie on their belly; they like to switch it up a little and wiggle into a preferable position. Following are a few variations of stomach sleeping positions.

    Freefall

    In this position, a stomach sleeper sleeps with their heads to the side and hands wrapped around their pillow. It looks like the starfish's sleeping position but flipped to the belly side. 

    Running Man

    The running man position is when the sleeper is lying on stomach with leg up, one arm by their side, and the other up beside the face. And it looks like the sleeper is running in their sleep.

    Skydiver

    In this variation, a stomach sleeper sleeps on their stomach with one leg, and an arm stretched up by their head. The stretched arm and leg look like the sleeper is about to dive out.

    Stretched-Out Legs 

    Unlike the above three variations of stomach sleeping, the stretched-out legs aren't very popular. In this position, a stomach sleeper sleeps with their head to the side, hands by their side, and legs stretched straight. It looks like the log sleeping position, but the sleeper is flipped to their stomach.

    Typical Stomach Sleeping

    As the name suggests, it is the typical belly sleeping, where the sleeper is in the stretched-out legs position, but both the hands are pillowed under the head.

    What Happens When You Sleep on Your Stomach?

    It is like a routine for most people to wake up with sore muscles in the morning. Although, the pain can be due to an injury or chronic health problem. However, sleeping positions are one of the main contributors to sore muscles, especially for the stomach sleeper. While sleeping on the stomach,

    You Might Misalign Your Spine

    When sleeping, it is important to acquire a healthy posture that supports the neutral curve of the spine. Because when the stomach sleeper lies down, the torso naturally sinks into the mattress, causing the spine to bend out of its natural curvature. 

    You Might Experience Back, Neck, or Shoulder Pain

    A Stomach sleeper is required to turn their head to the side to breathe. However, twisting the head requires the neck to be twisted too, which can stiffen the neck muscles. An improper sleeping posture like this can build pressure points in the neck, shoulders, and back.

    You Might Notice More Facial Wrinkles

    Usually, a stomach sleeper presses their side or front of the face into the pillow, which can stretch and compress the skin. And according to a study, wrinkles or skin distortion can be due to compression during sleep.

    Sleeping On Your Stomach: Pros and Cons

    The table below represents the pros and cons of sleeping on the stomach. 

    ProsCons
    Standard treatment for Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), Reduces the risk of snoring, Stomach sleeping reduces acid reflux.Aggravates neck pain, Strains the natural curvature of the spine, Stiffens the muscles, Causes sleep lines, a.k.a facial wrinkles

    How to Properly Sleep on Your Stomach

    how to properly sleep on your stomach

    With cons outnumbering the pros, it is in the best interest of the stomach sleeper to learn the best way to sleep on stomach. Below are a few tips on how to sleep on your stomach and not distort the body posture.

    Use a Thin Pillow

    Ever wondered how sleeping on the back causes the spine to collapse? It happens because of the wrong pillow choice. When a stomach sleeper uses a thick pillow, the neck is elevated, causing the spine to strain out of its natural curve. Thus, using a thin pillow under the head balances the bodily posture when sleeping on the stomach.

    Stretch Daily

    A sleeper does not need to be in bed properly to improve their sleeping experience. According to Dr. Nikita Kohli, stretching in the morning relieves stress, improves mobility and flexibility, reduces soreness and pains, and improves body posture. 

    Place a Pillow Under Your Pelvis

    A stomach sleeper may use a thin pillow or none at all. Nevertheless, having a pillow under the stomach and pelvis area can be an advantage. Certainly, sleeping on the stomach strains the back. Therefore, to lift off the stress from the back, placing a pillow under the pelvis can help with the better alignment of the spine.

    Keep Your Legs Flat

    Besides considering the upper body position, the lower body should also be in proper alignment. Since bending the knees and legs in any position can curve the body unnaturally, keeping the legs flat and straight can contribute to the proper posture alignment.

    Keep Your Body as Aligned as Possible

    Whether the aforementioned tips are incorporated or not, or if the above tips prove to be out of your comfort, whatever the case may be. Remember just one thing, keep your body posture as aligned and neutral as possible. Relax down on the bed with the spine and hips in neutral alignment to not stress the spine, neck, and shoulders.

    Can You Sleep on Your Stomach While Pregnant

    Sleeping on the stomach during the first trimester of the pregnancy might feel comfortable; however, as the belly grows, sleeping in your normal position might seem uncomfortable. According to a study, the physical changes during and post-pregnancy can cause discomfort and maternal depression, adversely impacting maternal-child relationships, parenting practices, sleep quality, and general well-being.


    Therefore, it is a crucial step in pregnancy to rest sufficiently, and to do so, changing the sleeping habit is the first baby step. Health providers advise women to sleep on their left, providing better maternal and fetal health.

    How to Stop Sleeping On Your Stomach

    Old habits die hard; however, if that habit is the source of your discomfort, then you are better off with it. Following are a few tips on how to stop sleeping on your stomach.

    Shift Your Position When Possible

    Changes don't happen overnight. Take baby steps. Start by sleeping in your normal position; however, shift to a different sleeping position before getting into a deep sleep. And if the sleeper wakes up in the middle of the night, shift again. Get into the habit of flipping over to the back or side.

    Use a Body Pillow

    Stomach sleepers often find comfort with their front body pressed to the mattress. To transit the support, a body pillow by the side can provide identical comfort to the mattress while keeping the sleeper from rolling onto their stomach. 

    Sleep on a Memory Foam Pillow

    Learning how to not sleep on your stomach requires more than flipping or a body pillow. Consider purchasing a memory foam pillow since a stomach sleeper probably owns a thin pillow that can cause discomfort in any sleeping position other than the stomach. A memory foam pillow will support and contour the neck to maintain the posture neutral.

    Final Thoughts

    As aforementioned, switching habits won't happen overnight. However, persistence, practice, and good sleep hygiene will eventually lead to better sleep. Try and incorporate as many of the aforementioned tips as possible.

    And if the stomach sleeper can't seem to kick the habit of sleeping on their stomach, the least they can do is create a comfortable sleeping environment to support this sleeping position. Like, getting the best pillow and mattress for stomach sleepers.

    This article is for informational purposes and should not replace advice from your doctor or other medical professional.
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