According to the sleeping experts at the Mayo Clinic, sleeping on your stomach is one of the worst possible positions to sleep in. It puts undue pressure and strain on your lower back. Even chiropractors have come out against sleeping on your stomach as they claim it creates rotation in your spine.
So, case closed, right?
Stomach sleeping is bad for you and a quick Google search will return many reputable websites saying as much?
There are millions of people who sleep on their stomachs. Some do it out of habit. Others do it to reduce snoring and cut down on sleep apnea. Still others just toss and turn and somehow wind up sleeping on their stomachs 90% of the time. We’re going to look more in-depth at stomach sleepers and the negative drawbacks as well as the benefits (if there are any).
Stomach Sleepers: What’s in it for Them?
Stomach sleeping has been often referred to as the “position of last resort”. It’s the only position that you or a loved one can fall asleep in. This could be due to a back injury, or being subconscious of your snoring and/or sleep apnea. Whatever the case is, stomach sleepers do it because it’s the most comfortable out of all the sleeping positions.
Chiropractors have stated that if you sleep 8 hours a night, that’s 8 hours that your spine is completely rotated. While it may temporarily alleviate back pain, it can just as easily aggravate it even further, along with causing neck and other pains. The reason it causes neck pain is due to your head being turned to the side (when you’re on your stomach) and that can cause alignment issues between your spine and neck.
In fact, it has been stated that because the human spine is a pipeline for nerves that run throughout your body, you could experience pain in a wide variety of areas, not just your back and neck. Sometimes the pain can be misdiagnosed and attributed to something besides the position you sleep in at night.
Best Mattresses for Sleeping on Your Stomach
Out of the 3 sleeping positions (back, side, stomach), the stomach sleepers have the most to gain, as well as the most to lose when it comes time to choosing their mattress. For side and back sleepers, you have a 50/50 chance of getting it wrong, and there is some leeway and margin for error. But for stomach sleepers, you absolutely HAVE to get the right kind of mattress, lest you exacerbate the problems even further.
When looking for the right mattress for sleeping on your stomach, you’re going to want to find one with proper back support. The mattress you choose should not act like a hammock in which all of your weight sinks down to a singular point on the mattress.
Memory foam is quite popular for stomach sleepers. The denser the foam layer, the more it will feel like you are floating on air. This will provide the proper support to your back, lessening the potential damage done by sleeping on your stomach. Try to avoid normal foam type mattresses as you will feel like you are sleeping “in” the mattress instead of on top of it.
What are the Best Pillows for Stomach Sleepers?
Pillow selection is also of the utmost importance for those who sleep on their bellies. You’re going to want to find a pillow that doesn’t stress the neck or cause any undue misalignment from your spine. Most pillows on the market are made for back and side sleepers. These kinds of pillows will push your head up, and if you fall asleep in this position, you will wake up with a very sore neck (at best).
You’re also going to want to find a very thin pillow. One that is no more than 3 inches thick should mitigate the damage caused by higher loft pillows designed for back sleepers and side sleepers. There are actually pillows out there that are specifically designed for stomach sleepers. They are shaped like a wedge and provide the needed support for your back and neck as well as keeping your spine in a neutral position.
Stomach Sleepers: It’s Not All Fun and Games.
So, let’s recap: Stomach sleepers do not do it for fun.
They sleep on their stomach because it’s either the only position that they can fall asleep in, or to alleviate some other medical condition such as sleep apnea or snoring. While it is generally advised to try to sleep on your side (and force it to become a habit), there are those who will continue to revert to sleeping on their bellies regardless of whether medical experts deem it “ideal” or not.
If you must sleep on your stomach, then prior to searching for a new mattress and pillow to buy, you should try to sleep with a thinner pillow under your lower abdomen or pelvis. If the pillow causes strain, then you can always try to sleep without a pillow and see how that goes (probably not well).
Mattress choice is very important for stomach sleepers. You’re going to want to find one that supports your back/spine completely. Anything that makes you feel like you’re sleeping in a hammock, do not buy. It will not provide the proper support that your spine requires and you’ll most likely wind up feeling very sore the next morning. If you can afford it, a “personalized” mattress (top of the line, most expensive) is the only route to go.
Pillow choice is key as well. You should avoid big, fluffy pillows that force your head and neck to go out of alignment with your spine. Sleeping in this position will definitely cause you neck pains the morning after. Try to search for a memory foam pillow that has high density foam. Or you can try for a thinner pillow that’s under 3 inches thick.