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Last Updated March 17, 2023
Here, we will explore the benefits and drawbacks of stomach sleeping, who should and shouldn't try it, and how to succeed at it. Once you are done reading this article, you will have a better understanding of stomach sleeping and how to master it.
In general, there are 3 common sleeping positions, with stomach sleeping being the least common. It's like a triangle, with side and back sleeping being the two longest sides, and stomach sleeping being the shortest, less traveled side.
Even though stomach sleeping isn't the most popular position, some people find it to be the most comfortable. Despite being an accepted sleep posture, stomach sleeping can lead to several potential health issues, including neck and back pain, sleep apnea, and acid reflux.
Stomach sleeping, or the prone position involves sleeping on your stomach with your arms stretched out in front of you, your head turned to one side, and your legs slightly bent. This position can help reduce snoring and sleep apnea but can also cause neck, back, and shoulder pain.
According to studies, around 7.3% of the world's population prefers sleeping on their stomachs.
While stomach sleeping has many benefits, there are also some potential risks. That's why understanding the pros and cons is important before doing so.
Sleeping on your stomach is unsuitable for a variety of reasons.
Sleeping on your stomach can strain your neck and spine because as yourhead is tilted to one side for quite a while, causing back pain and stiffness. Sleeping in this position is much similar to that of carrying a heavy backpack on one side of your body for a long period of time; it will create an imbalance in your posture and cause discomfort.
Stomach sleepers often experience numbness and tingling in their arms and legs due to the pressure of their body weight. Plus, the stress put on your body is only exacerbated by the external pressure of gravity. This can lead to sleep disruption and eventually sleep deprivation, which can affect your overall health.
Stomach sleeping may also result in acid reflux, as lying flat on the stomach can cause stomach acid to flow back into the esophagus. Studies suggest that sleeping on your left side is best for people who have acid reflux.
When you sleep on your stomach, you may get wrinkles on your face. Studies have revealed that pressing your face against a pillow, as one would do while stomach sleeping, hastens the onset of facial aging due to the distortion created on your face. So, if you're looking for a sleeping position that won't make you look older, we're afraid stomach sleeping isn't it.
It's important to note that not everyone will experience these negative effects, and everyone has their own preferred sleeping position. If a person finds stomach sleeping comfortable and does not experience any of these negative effects, they can continue to use it as a temporary sleeping solution. However, it is recommended that you experiment with different positions to find the one that works best for you.
Despite the potential health risks, there are still some advantages to sleeping on your stomach.
Sleeping on your stomach has been found to be beneficial in reducing sleep apnea, a condition characterized by collapsing of the airway during sleep, leading to interrupted breathing. Stomach sleeping keeps the airway open, reducing the possibility of it collapsing.
Snoring is another issue that may be alleviated partly by sleeping on your stomach. Stomach sleeping keeps the airway open for snorers, allowing air to move more easily through the throat.
Another benefit of stomach sleeping is that it is a good option for people who prefer a firmer mattress. The mattress's pressure on the stomach can aid in keeping the spine in a neutral position.
The benefits of stomach sleeping are less well-established and less well-known than the drawbacks. Before sleeping in this position, it's also important to consider the potential negative effects on the neck, back, and shoulder.
The best way to sleep on your stomach is with a thin pillow and a firm mattress.
Unlike side sleeping, which necessitates a medium loft (between 3-5 inches) or high loft (above 5 inches) pillow, and back sleeping, which necessitates a medium loft pillow, stomach sleeping necessitates a low loft pillow that is less than 3 inches.
A thin, under-3-inch-high pillow will assist in maintaining your neck in a neutral position, reducing neck and shoulder pain and preventing spinal misalignment. It may also aid in the reduction of sleep apnea symptoms. Conversely, using a thick pillow raises your head above your body, putting strain on your neck and spine throughout the night and eventually causing neck pain and posture misalignment.
Put a pillow beneath your pelvis and lower abdomen. A thin pillow should suffice in this situation. This reduces the strain on your back by relieving it of pressure. Stomach sleeping is known to be difficult on your back, and this method can help reduce the risk of back pain while also providing a comfortable position.
It is also critical that you use a supportive mattress. When you sleep on your stomach, pressure is exerted on your back and spine from both within your body and external factors such as gravity. A supportive mattress can effectively counteract this pressure and place your body in a neutral position that benefits the health of your spine and back.
The posture you must adopt is entirely up to you. The freefall/skydiving position is a well-known stomach sleeping posture in which you place your arms under or around the pillow and turn your head to any one side.
You can use a body pillow to help keep your spine in a neutral position. Body pillows are intended to provide additional support and cushioning to the entire body, reducing the risk of misalignment and pain.
Certain ergonomic pillows are specifically designed for belly sleeping. They are frequently used for therapeutic purposes, but the average sleeper can also benefit greatly from them. However, they may be more expensive than standard pillows, so keep that in mind.
When sleeping on the stomach, some people may find the pillow uncomfortable. If this is the case, avoid using a pillow underneath your head and instead try laying your head down on the mattress.
A healthy, balanced diet combined with a regular eating schedule can work miracles for those adopting the stomach sleeping position. This includes avoiding stomach-upsetting foods and not eating or drinking an hour or two before bed.
Stretch every morning to relieve any pent-up stress or tension in your body. Stretching also helps to straighten your spine, giving you good posture and a much-needed energy boost.
Finally, ensure that you sleep in a cool, dark room. This will allow you to fall asleep faster and stay asleep for longer.
Stomach sleeping is not considered harmful during the very early stages of pregnancy (1-12 weeks/First Trimester). However, stomach sleeping positions are not advised after the second trimester (13-26 weeks). It will pose a risk to the developing fetus, and your growing belly will make it difficult to sleep well.
Sleeping on the left side is considered to be safest and healthiest for pregnant women, as per a study. For more information on sleeping positions for pregnant people, take a look at this guide.
Latex and memory foam pillows are the two best pillow types for stomach sleepers. Latex provides excellent support and contouring to the head, neck, and shoulders. Memory foam is designed for people who prefer contouring and softness over support.
Choosing a soft firmness level and a loft of less than 3 inches should make either of these pillow types ideal for stomach sleeping. Other pillows that work well for this sleep position include down and down-alternative pillows. Here is an little guide on choosing the perfect pillow for you.
A firm, supportive mattress that provides adequate contouring and relieves pressure points is the best mattress for stomach sleeping. Hybrid and innerspring mattresses, which use spring coils as their support core to maximize the level of support, can provide the firm support you seek.
Pocket coils, also known as Marshall coils, are the ideal spring coil for these mattress types. They outperform their competitors (Bonnell, offset, and continuous coils) in almost every way. Choose either latex or memory foam for the foam comfort layer.
Latex mattresses with all-foam construction are also ideal for stomach sleeping. Simply choose Dunlop latex over Talalay, and you'll have a supportive mattress with adequate cushioning. Memory foam mattresses tend to conform too much, which means you may sink into the mattress, and your spine may become misaligned.
Stomach sleeping can be a comfortable sleeping position for many people, but it's critical to understand the risks and take the necessary precautions to avoid them. Make sure you're using a thin pillow designed specifically for stomach sleepers, along with a supportive mattress with enough contouring. Placing a thin pillow beneath your pelvis and lower abdomen will also help to relieve back strain, allowing you to sleep comfortably and wake up feeling rested.
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Disclaimer: What is said in this article has been referenced from multiple sources and is intended only for educational and informational purposes. Please note that no content in this article is a substitute for professional advice from a qualified doctor or healthcare provider. Always consult an experienced doctor with any concerns you may have regarding a health condition or treatment, and never disregard any medical suggestions or delay in seeking treatment because of something you read here.