If you’re reading this article, the chances are that you’re one of those people who prefer sleeping on stomach. However, even if you’re not, there’s one thing all people, disregarding their sleeping position, have in common - they’re going to need a high-quality mattress.
Despite that, we’re here to talk about a specific thing - stomach sleepers. There are lots of rumors about sleeping on your stomach. Some say it’s good for you, some say it’s the worst position you could choose, so let’s debunk the myths and answer, “is it bad to sleep on your stomach?”
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Is Sleeping on Stomach Bad for You?
If you’re a stomach sleeper or thinking of learning how to sleep on your stomach, there are some things you need to know. You might’ve already heard that sleeping on your back is considered the best position, but do you know what the scientists say about sleeping on stomach?
Starting on a bright note, I should mention that sleeping on stomach definitely has an advantage that sleeping on your back doesn’t have. It’s much more suitable for those who struggle with sleep apnea or snoring. However, the benefits kind of end here.
I might disappoint you if you’re a sworn stomach sleeper, but sleeping on your stomach poses quite a few serious risks to your health. So, let’s see what they are.
Strains Your Spine
First and arguably the most serious health problem you’ll likely come across if you’re interested in how to sleep on your stomach, is straining of your spine. That happens due to your body’s weight not being distributed evenly. When you’re sleeping on stomach, your whole body weight is mostly on the center of your body.
While what you might notice first is that you’ve developed back pain, it doesn’t end there. The spine is the epicenter of all your nerves. Therefore, if you strain your spine, you might notice the effects of it in different parts of your body.
If you realize that your arms often go numb or that you feel pains and aches all over your body, you might want to look into your sleeping position. The chances are high that your sleeping position is the one to blame for the pain.
What could make it even worse is an unsuitable mattress. One of the things that could be wrong is that it’s simply not good for your chosen sleeping position. If you’re a stomach sleeper, you’ll likely benefit from a firmer mattress.
If what you use is a soft, non-supportive mattress, you’re way more likely to wake up with pins and needles as well as pains in your body. Also, you should keep in mind that even if your mattress was top-notch years ago, there comes a time when you need to replace it.
So, if you were looking for an answer to the question of “Is it bad to sleep on your stomach?” I believe you understood the answer. Yes, sleeping is not the best for the health of your spine.
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Hurts Your Neck
Another drawback that you could notice if you sleep on your back is that it definitely isn’t the most natural position for your neck. Think about it. When people sleep on their back, do they lie down straightly down the mattress with their head stuffed to the pillow?
Well, no. It would be really hard to breathe that way. Therefore, those who sleep on their stomach turn their head to either side. That’s where it gets problematic. Turning your head to the side twists your neck out of its natural position.
If you stay in that position for a prolonged period of time, and an average night of sleep is definitely considered a prolonged period of time, it may have pretty bad consequences. That will likely result in neck pain or shoulder pain.
However, pain is a lighter consequence. If you’re not as lucky, you might end up with a herniated disc. Let’s have a quick biology lesson. Your spine is made out of several vertebrae, cushioned by gelatinous discs.
When you’re sleeping on your side, you’re putting enormous pressure on those disks. That may lead to the rupture of the gelatinous disc. And that’s not the best news for you, as the gel leaks out of the disc, irritating the nerves in the spinal column.
That leads to severe pain in the neck and shoulders. A herniated disc definitely needs to be taken seriously. If you suspect that you might have it, you should seek immediate medical attention.
So, yes, the answer to is sleeping on stomach bad for you is yes.
While after one night of sleeping on stomach you won’t likely end up having a herniated disk, if your go-to sleep position is sleeping on your stomach, you should be aware of the pressure that you’re putting on your spine and the possible consequences.
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Not Recommended for Moms-to-Be
Now that you’ve learned all the disadvantages of sleeping on your back, it might already deter you from sleeping on stomach. However, those who are pregnant should take extra caution. It’s highly inadvisable to sleep on your stomach if you’re expecting.
First of all, the most obvious reason would be that it’s uncomfortable. However, that only applies to later stages when your baby bump has grown considerably. There are other reasons too.
One of them is that the extra added weight pulls down your spine. As you’ve already learned, it’s best to keep your spine as close to the natural position as possible. When you’re sleeping on stomach, especially when pregnant, you tend to curve the spine way more.
Also, your growing baby needs space in your belly. When you’re lying on your stomach, you’re making it squeeze between your bed and your back. As you can imagine, it’s not the best thing for a fetus.
Some of the other concerns you could have are whether there’s enough blood circulation and if you’re getting enough oxygen. While sleeping on stomach might not be the most terrible sleeping position in these aspects, there’s one that would benefit the most from if you slept in it.
That sleeping position I’m talking about is sleeping on your side. Research shows that sleeping on your left side is the best sleeping position when pregnant. It promotes blood flow and increases oxygen levels you get, consequently adding to the oxygen your fetus gets.
How Should I Sleep Then?
Well, by now, you see that I’m not an advocate for learning how to sleep on your stomach. Therefore, I definitely suggest sleeping in other positions. There are three main sleeping positions: sleeping on your back, sleeping on your side, and sleeping on stomach.
Now that we’ve established why sleeping on stomach might not be the best idea let’s see what there is to learn about sleeping on your side and back. Let’s start with the back.
Sleep on Your Back
Sleeping on your back is considered to be a superior sleeping position. It is said to help deal with pains that you might experience simply due to your poor choice of a sleeping position. It also aligns your spine naturally, meaning that your spine won’t be too curved nor too straight.
What is more, it is said to reduce pressure headaches, which you might experience in other sleeping positions. And lastly, it’s worth mentioning that it prevents wrinkles.
While sleeping on your stomach or on your side, the skin of your face is rubbing against the pillow, resulting in wrinkles appearing earlier. It’s not the case with sleeping on your back.
Your face has no contact with other materials when sleeping on your back. Therefore, you can enjoy a wrinkle-free face for a little longer.
It’s important to note that your sleeping position is not the only factor that determines when you start seeing your first wrinkles. Your lifestyle choices, such as diet, smoking, moisturizing, and, especially, how much sleep you get are some of the aspects which you should keep in mind.
Sleep on Your Side
Even though I said that sleeping on your back is the best sleeping position out of them all, there are cases when you should consider sleeping on your side instead. One of the cases is if you snore.
Snoring is extremely common. Lots of people do it, especially when they get a cold, resulting in a clogged nose. However, some snore more and more loudly than others. There are a lot of factors that determine that.
Despite that, you should keep in mind that sometimes even the loudest snorers stop snoring once they transition from sleeping on their back to sleeping on their side. So, if you or someone close to you snores, try sleeping on the side.
Another, more serious case when you’d better sleep on your side than your back is if you have sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is quite a common sleep disorder. Its main symptom is stopping and starting to breathe abruptly in your sleep.
Sleep apnea may have severe consequences on your health and sleep quality if you don’t combat it. The problem is that, naturally, because you’re asleep when it occurs, it’s not easy to notice. While the main sign of it is your breathing stopping and starting in your sleep, there are other signs you might want to look out for.
One of the signs include loud snoring, but it can be hard to differentiate between simple snoring and sleep apnea induced snoring. However, if you snore, you might start getting suspicious. Other signs include waking up with a dry mouth, insomnia, headaches, and waking up short of breath.
All these symptoms might indicate that you’re dealing with sleep apnea. If you notice these, you might want to ask one of your roommates or family members to watch you when you sleep. If they notice abnormalities in your breathing, make sure to see a doctor.
Also, if you live alone, there’s a solution for that. You might want to install cameras and microphones in your bedroom, so you could see the footage of you sleeping by yourself. This could definitely help you indicate possible signs of sleep apnea.
It was already mentioned, but you should sleep on your side if you’re expecting. Other sleeping positions are not really suitable for those who are pregnant. Therefore you should avoid them. It would be best for you and your baby if you slept on your left side.
People sleep in three main positions, on their backs, on their sides, or on their stomachs. However, sleeping on stomach is not the best option for your health. The main problems that arise are your spine and neck not being aligned and also some negative effects of sleeping on stomach when you’re pregnant.
Sleeping on stomach might only result in pains, but you can also experience more severe consequences. One of the worst-case scenarios is getting a herniated disc from sleeping on your stomach. Due to the health risks, it’s not exactly advisable to sleep on your stomach.
You’d better opt for sleeping on your back. Another option is sleeping on your side if you struggle with things such as sleep apnea or snoring, and also, you should sleep on your side, especially the left one, if you’re pregnant.
However, after all, the choice of which way you’re going to sleep is yours. Either way you choose to sleep, you’re going to need a high-quality mattress. If you’re sleeping on your stomach or your back, you’re going to benefit from a firmer mattress.
1. Yusuf S. Khan; Forshing Lui "Neuroanatomy, Spinal Cord"
2. Tomasina Stacey and Edwin A Mitchell "Sleep position and risk of late stillbirth"
3. Victor Gabriel Clatici, Daniel Racoceanu, Claude Dalle et al. "Perceived Age and Life Style. The Specific Contributions of Seven Factors Involved in Health and Beauty"