Sleeping on your stomach: The problems with tummy-sleeping

When we head to bed, most of us naturally assume the position that’s most comfortable. But for tummy-sleepers, their favourite position has a ‘dark’ side.

Our SleepX investigators explored different sleeping positions and came up with the ‘hottest topics’ around how we sleep.

But first, what does your tummy-sleeper position say about your personality?

Are you gregarious and brash? Are you ‘allergic’ to criticism and a little nervy? Do you avoid extreme situations?

According to Professor Chris Idzikowski, director of the UK Sleep Assessment and Advisory Service, you’re what he calls a ‘free faller’.

What impact does sleeping on your stomach have on your back?

If your preferred sleeping position is face down on the pillow, with arms and legs outstretched, you may not be doing your neck and spine any favours.

Tummy-sleeping can put strain on the joints in your back and neck. As most of the weight is in the middle of your body, your spine tends to be out of alignment when in this position. This can lead to aches and pains, can make your wake up through the night, and may leave you feeling wrung-out in the morning.

Putting stress on your spine and the nerves along your spinal cord, can also lead to pain and ‘odd’ sensations elsewhere in your body, like tingling and numbness.

Tummy-sleeping can also be bad for your neck

When you sleep on your stomach, you need to twist your neck to one side to breathe. This can cause havoc with the alignment of your head and neck. It also puts pressure on the discs between the vertebrae that work to cushion your spine.

Sleeping on your stomach can increase wrinkles

If you don’t want to ruin your ‘beauty sleep’, experts recommend back-sleeping is the ideal position. When you sleep on your stomach, you put direct pressure onto your face. This can lead to more wrinkles on your forehead and cheeks.

Sleeping on your stomach is a ‘no-no’ when you’re pregnant

There’s no need to tell women in the later months of pregnancy to avoid tummy-sleeping. It’s just not possible! But even in those early months, experts recommend avoiding it to reduce back-strain.

Recent UK research, has led The Australian College of Midwives to urge pregnant women to sleep on their side because it halves the risk of stillbirth.

How can stomach-sleepers avoid back-ache?

If you simply can’t change how you sleep, there are a few ways of reducing the strain on your neck and spine:

1. Place a pillow under your pelvis.
This helps put your spine into a neutral position to avoid any strain.
2. Stick to a flatter pillow.
A pillow with a lower-profile keeps your head and neck in a less-angled position.
3. Choose the right mattress. 
Having the right mattress is crucial no matter what position you sleep in. The best mattress for a stomach-sleeper is one that is both comfortable and supportive. Choose a mattress that has a good warranty (10 years is best).
4. Have a good stretch.

A little gentle stretching first thing in the morning can help the alignment of your spine and warm-up the supporting muscles.


Pro's and Con's of Sleeping on your back

Side Sleeper: How to Sleep on Your Side the Right Way