Stomach sleeping is a less common sleep position, but for many people, it’s what feels most comfortable. For some, such as those with sleep apnea, this sleeping style may also be a way to help alleviate symptoms.
Stomach sleeping has both benefits and drawbacks, so it’s a matter of weighing the two before deciding to sleep like this.
If you’re a dedicated stomach sleeper looking to improve your sleep or this position is entirely new to you, you’ve come to the right place. We’ll discuss everything about stomach sleeping, from advantages and disadvantages to a few tips that can help you sleep on your belly more comfortably.
Benefits & Disadvantages of Stomach Sleeping
Stomach Sleeping Benefits
Stomach sleeping has pros and cons you should consider before committing to this posture. The first benefit of stomach sleeping is the ability to reduce snoring1. While on your belly, your airways stay open, which could help reduce snoring. This way, sleeping on your stomach may also help manage mild sleep apnea.1
Stomach Sleeping Disadvantages
With regards to disadvantages, you should remember that stomach sleeping is bad for your back. This position makes it harder to maintain good spine alignment because your midsection is more apt to sink into your bed. However, a highly supportive mattress can help with this, which is why firmer beds are usually recommended for stomach sleepers.
Another con to this sleep style is potential neck pain because your head must always be turned to the side, rather than aligned with the rest of your spine. Furthermore, if you have a pillow with a higher loft, this could worsen neck pain.
Additionally, stomach sleeping can be uncomfortable during pregnancy. Sleeping on your belly may not be dangerous for the baby, but you’ll find it harder on the spine as your stomach grows.
Last, stomach sleeping may cause premature wrinkles or more breakouts since your face is lying directly against your pillow.
Tips for How to Sleep on Your Stomach
In order to make stomach sleeping as healthy on your body as possible, it’s important to follow helpful tips.
Use a Flat Pillow
Stomach sleepers need a flat pillow. Sleeping on a thick pillow would force your head at an awkward angle that could make it difficult to fall asleep, and even if you do fall asleep, you’re likely to wake up with persistent neck pain. For this reason, the best pillows for stomach sleeping are the slimmer ones that keep your head closer to the mattress.
Put a Pillow Under Your Hips
Placing a pillow under your hips can help keep your back in a more neutral position by lifting the lower back. The added support reduces pressure on your spine, so you’re less likely to wake up with back pain.
Keep Your Legs Flat
Although most people prefer lifting one leg above the other or wrapping a leg around a pillow, this hurts your spine even more. So, instead of sleeping in a more distorted posture, it may be better to keep your legs as flat as possible to prevent the spine from twisting.
Stretch When You Wake Up
Stretching for at least 10 to 20 minutes in the morning or before bed may help mitigate muscle strain that may occur when sleeping on your belly. Try exercises that push your hips back, and remember to also stretch out your neck as it takes a lot of pressure. While some of these stretches should help reduce pain and pressure build-up, they also have an added perk of helping you to relax for better sleep.
Invest in the Right Mattress
Investing in the right mattress is key for healthy stomach sleeping. A great mattress for stomach sleeping is firm enough to support the body and prevent the stomach and hips from dipping. While softer mattresses offer exceptional pressure relief, they can allow the hips to sink into the bed, throwing the spine out of alignment. Back support is crucial, and you can only get this from a firm mattress.
Different Stomach Sleeping Positions
Stomach sleepers may still move around, even as they remain on the belly. Here are some of the most common ways to sleep on your stomach.
The arms up position includes sleeping with your head to the side and hands wrapped around your pillow. This is one of the safest ways to sleep on your belly, but only if you’re using a thin pillow or no pillow at all so that your neck isn’t as curved.
This position involves sleeping with one arm at your side and the other up to your head while your leg is in a runner position. Many people find this a comfortable posture, but unfortunately, it’s bad for your back and neck. The best way to improve it is to place a pillow under your forehead and keep your head face-down.
The skydiver position involves sleeping with one leg up and your arms by your head. To improve it, you should place a pillow under your pelvis and try to keep your leg down. This isn’t the best posture for your spine, but keeping your leg down will help it stay in a more neutral position.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is sleeping on your stomach good for your lungs?
Yes, stomach sleeping can be good for your lungs. Sleeping on your stomach can help your lungs by allowing them to work with less stress2. This sleeping position may also prevent collapsed lung, which is when the air sacs can’t inflate or may have fluid in them.2
Is sleeping on your stomach bad for you?
Sleeping on your stomach can strain your neck and back, leading to pain when morning rolls arounds. After a while, you may struggle to fall asleep at all due to pressure buildup. This is also a difficult position for pregnant women because there’s more weight in the belly, which puts added stress on the spine.
Is it okay to sleep on your stomach while pregnant?
Yes, stomach sleeping while pregnant is safe3 but may be uncomfortable, especially as you move further along into your pregnancy. If you’re pregnant and find stomach sleeping comfortable, even with a growing belly, you can continue doing so for as long as you wish. However, the ideal position for expectant mothers is sleeping on the left side.3
Learn More: How to Sleep While Being Pregnant
- “Choosing the Best Sleep Position”. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Webpage accessed November 28, 2024.
- “COVID-19, Lying in a Prone Position (Proning)”. Mount Nittany Health. 2021.
- “Sleeping Positions During Pregnancy”. Stanford Health. Webpage accessed November 28, 2024.
Olivera is a content writer for Sleep Advisor and is enthusiastic about sleep. She firmly believes in the benefits of daytime naps on top of getting a full 8-hour sleep at night.