How to Properly Sleep on Your Stomach
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Mattress Nerd consulted Dr. Tom Ingegno, DACM, MSOM, LAC, to ensure that this article met our editorial standards
If you’re one of the few people who sleeps on their stomach, then you’ll understand how difficult it can be to get comfortable. While there are some benefits that come with stomach sleeping, such as reduced chances of snoring and obstructive sleep apnea, overall, we typically recommend that you try out other positions and sleep postures.
Related: Is it Bad to Sleep on Your Stomach?
Sleeping on your right or left side might cause shoulder pain and hip pain, and becoming a back sleeper can cause you to snore, but these alternate positions are ultimately much healthier and can deliver a much better sleep experience. For example, these positions can help improve blood flow, reduce heartburn, and they’re much more comfortable for pregnant women.
However, if you’re having trouble deviating from your stomach sleeping style, we believe that there are ways to enhance your experience so that you get a good night’s sleep. First, you’ll want to make sure you’re sleeping on one of the best mattresses for stomach sleepers. Then, you’ll want to follow our helpful guide.
Use the Right Pillow
When you sleep on your stomach, you need to consider how this impacts your spine and neck, as well as the natural curve of your body. Sleeping on your stomach can cause your spine to be misaligned, which can lead to back pain in the morning. In addition to this, you have to sleep with your head turned to the left or right, resulting in neck pain. If you’re using a pillow, your neck will be elevated above the rest of your body, further causing problems. That’s why it’s actually recommended that stomach sleepers avoid using pillows altogether so that you can keep your body level and straight.
If you’re unwilling to ditch the pillow, we advise you to at least look into thin, soft, or flat pillows that will be easier on your neck. Our best pillows for stomach sleepers guide has several great options.. Another option is to sleep facedown and place only your forehead on your pillow rather than your entire head. By sleeping in this way, you can potentially open up your breathing passages and keep your head elevated enough so that you won’t need to turn it. This position may seem odd and uncomfortable at first, but it can be a possible cure for adamant stomach sleepers who are tired of neck and back pain.
Put a Pillow Under Your Hips
While you may not want to use a pillow for your head while sleeping on your stomach, you can still benefit from putting one underneath your hips and pelvis. If you’re a stomach sleeper, you’ll notice that your hips and pelvis tend to sink into the mattress (especially if it’s made of memory foam or if it’s on the softer side of the firmness scale). With your hips so low, you’re throwing off your spinal alignment and putting a lot of strain on your back. Placing a pillow under your hips can keep these parts of your body elevated, ensuring your spine stays nice and straight as you sleep.
You don’t need to be lying in bed in order to improve your stomach sleeping experience. You can take steps each morning upon waking up, such as stretching, which will help you deal with any discomfort or pain. One effective type of stretch to do in the morning is to sit with your shins on the floor and your toes pointed backwards, also known as the “child’s pose.” Next, you’ll want to push your pelvis downward and reach forward. This will allow you to stretch out both sides of your back after a good bout of stomach sleeping.
Another stretch to consider if you’re a stomach sleeper is a simple technique known as neck rolling. When you wake up, sit up and roll your neck in a circle. This helps loosen any knots that may have formed overnight and can make your neck, spine, shoulders, and other ligaments feel less stiff throughout the day. You can even perform this maneuver once or twice throughout the day if you continue to feel any stiffness or soreness.
How to Switch Sleeping Positions
It can be difficult to change your preferred sleeping position, but with enough practice, it can be done. If you’re a stomach sleeper, a good way to start your transition is to try sleeping on a sofa or a loveseat. Since these spots are too narrow to allow you to sleep on your stomach, you’ll be forced to sleep on your left or right side in the fetal position. After a few sessions like this, you’ll start to acclimate to the new sleeping positions.
Another tip for helping you shift away from stomach sleeping is to invest in a body pillow. By hugging the pillow while side sleeping, you can replicate the sensation of sleeping on your stomach, except you won’t need to worry about the painful side effects.
One other option that may work for you is a sleep deterrent. There are certain orthopedic pillows you can purchase that will actually create an uncomfortable feeling anytime you try to sleep on your stomach, which can condition you to avoid this sleep position. Another cheap and effective sleep deterrent is to put a tennis ball in the pocket of your pajamas and then attempt sleeping on your back. If you try to turn over in your sleep, the ball will poke into your leg, forcing you to shift back onto your back.
While these are all great suggestions for helping you switch your sleeping position, you need to remember that it may take time. You might find yourself accidentally flipping onto your stomach as you sleep, but with enough practice, you can prevent this from happening and start to improve your sleep experience. See our article on how to train yourself to sleep on your back for more information.
If you’re a stomach sleeper who’s tired of waking up with neck and lower back pain, just know that you’re not alone. Fortunately, there are ways to remedy these annoying aches and pains, such as the tips we mentioned above. If you find that putting a pillow under your hips, stretching, or sleeping without a pillow under your neck don’t work, then you’ll need to start changing your sleeping posture to get a more restful sleep.
By transitioning into a side sleeper, you’ll not only have fewer aches and pains on your neck and back, but you can also mitigate other annoying sleep issues like heartburn or acid reflux. If you’re unhappy sleeping in a side position, you can try back sleeping as well to see if it helps. It’s important that you take measures to find the best sleep position for yourself, and when your do, be sure to take a look at our best mattresses for back sleepers and best mattresses for side sleepers guides.
Nobody deserves to have a rough night’s sleep, and we hope these guidelines can help you on your journey to improving your sleep experience and finding the best sleeping position.
Meet Our Medical ReviewerDr. Tom Ingegno, DACM, MSOM, LAC Dr. Tom Ingegno, Doctor of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine, has over 20 years of experience in the integrative and functional medicine space. He owns and operates Charm City Integrative Health, a multifaceted clinic that NYT bestseller and futurist David Houle called, the “Future of Medicine.”
Best Mattresses for Stomach Sleepers
Calling all stomach sleepers! Shopping for a mattress for your sleep position is no simple task. Check out our top picks for the best mattresses for sleeping on your stomach sold online and in-store.