Is Sleeping on Your Stomach Bad?

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Most people are glad to get any sleep at all with everyone having busy lives and loads of distractions during the day. Once their tiresome working day is over, people want only one thing—to get under the sheets and get a good night's sleep. But what about the position that you’re in while sleeping? Most people don’t think much about it but look for a position that feels comfortable in the moment. However, you should know that some positions could actually allow you to sleep better at night.

Although many people love sleeping on their stomach, the position may be damaging to their health. Even though it can help prevent sleep apnea and reduce snoring, this position has a negative impact on your back and neck, which leads to poor sleep and the feeling of discomfort throughout the rest of the day. Plus, it can be uncomfortable for pregnant women to sleep in this position.

Why Is It Bad to Sleep on Your Stomach?

Let's have a look at the three most important reasons why sleeping on your stomach is not good for you:

Infographic 3 Reasons to Avoid Stomach Sleeping

1. It Places a Strain On Your Spine

As you've probably already heard, many people who sleep on their stomach experience some kind of pain—whether it's in their joints, back, or neck. It's sure to affect how much sleep they get during the night. Such pains usually lead to waking up in the middle of the night, directly affecting the amount of sleep that you'll get, which then leads to a feeling of discomfort during the rest of the day.

According to one medical research group, sleeping on your stomach is bad for your back, as it places a certain amount of strain and pressure on your spine. The reason behind this is that the middle part of your body is exactly where most of the weight is, making it difficult to maintain a neutral position of the spine during the night.

This stress on the spine leads to increased stress on the rest of your body structure and, additionally, to pain in all parts of the body, since the spine could be considered as a pipeline for the nerves. It also leads to sensations such as numbness and tingling, which are rather uncomfortable.

illustration of a person having lower back pain

2. It Causes the Pain in Your Neck

Just like with the spine, sleeping on your stomach may also cause neck problems. Unless you manage to find a way to breathe through the pillow, you have to turn your head to one side when you're sleeping on your stomach. This causes your neck to be twisted, putting your spine and head out of alignment, leading to some severe damage. You probably won't notice this damage after only one night, but the problems will unquestionably become evident over time.

One of the biggest neck problems that you certainly don't want to experience is the so-called herniated disk. This issue appears when the spinal vertebrae shift enough to cause a rupture of the gelatinous disk inside, causing the gel to leak out and irritate the nerves. This is very painful and requires professional treatment to heal.

illustration of a person trying to ease neck pain

3. It’s Really Bad For Moms-To-Be

It gets harder and harder to physically sleep on your stomach in the later pregnancy stages even if you wanted to (hello, baby bump). After week 16 or so, it might start to feel like you’re laying on a growing watermelon. Plus, the extra weight around the middle of the body increases the pull on the spine and can lead to acute back pain. And pregnant women don’t need any extra reasons for back pain.

Although it’s not necessarily dangerous for the baby, it can be uncomfortable for you. A medical study from 2012 suggests that when a pregnant woman is sleeping on her left side, the healthy blood flow will be increased and thus provide the optimum levels of oxygen for both the baby and its mother.

Want to know more? Check out our guide for sleep during pregnancy.

Tips for the Stomach Sleepers

Despite all these warnings, some people have been sleeping in this position for their whole lives and don't want to make a change. If you're one of them, check out these tips—they will help you avoid potential complications:

  • Always use a thin pillow, or don't use a pillow at all. The flatter the pillow, the less angled your neck and the head will be. View Our Guide: Top Pillow for Stomach Sleepers

  • Choose a mattress for stomach sleepers. Typically, that means a slightly firmer than average bed that will allow you to get a good night's rest on your stomach.

  • Putting a pillow under your pelvis is guaranteed to help. It will keep your back in a more neutral position, taking the pressure off your spine.

  • Two to three minutes of stretching in the morning will help you to put your body back into alignment and strengthen the supporting muscles. Always start the stretching session with a little bit of warm up, and be gentle!

FAQs

Is it bad to sleep on your stomach when pregnant?

Sleeping on your stomach during pregnancy isn’t bad, but it can be uncomfortable. However, it’s okay to sleep like this if you find it comfortable enough. Although you may switch to your side eventually, sleeping on your stomach is also safe – much safer than sleeping on your back.

What’s the healthiest sleeping position?

Although side sleeping is preferred by most adults, sleeping on your back is still considered the healthiest sleeping position. It protects the spine while also relieving pain in the hips and knees. In addition, sleeping on your back helps keep the spine in alignment, reducing pressure on your joints. However, pregnant women should avoid sleeping on their back due to pressure on the inferior vena cava.

Why is stomach sleeping so bad?

Sleeping on your stomach strains your back and spine because most of your weight is in the middle of the body. This throws the spine off, making it difficult to maintain a neutral position, increasing stress on the rest of your body.

Conclusion

There are quite a large number of people who sleep on their stomachs, despite the disadvantages of this position. We're pretty sure that mothers-to-be won't do such a thing, but the rest of the people who sleep in this position are putting a strain on their spine and neck, which might result in herniated disk disorder or nerve problems.

If you're among those people, we would advise you to try changing your sleep position as soon as possible to avoid these severe consequences. Of course, you don't have to do it immediately—try lying on your back or your side while you're relaxing during the day, and then it might just become your habit during the night. If it still doesn't help you, check out the tips mentioned above, which will, at least, help you avoid the possible complications.

Our team covers as many areas of expertise as we do time zones, but none of us started here as a so-called expert on sleep. What we do share is a willingness to ask questions (lots of them), seek experts, and dig deep into conventional wisdom to see if maybe there might be a better path towards healthy living. We apply what we learn not only to our company culture, but also how we deliver information to our over 12.7M readers.

Sleep research is changing all the time, and we are 100% dedicated to keeping up with breakthroughs and innovations. You live better if you sleep better. Whatever has brought you here, we wish you luck on your journey towards better rest.

Sleep Advisor