Is it bad to sleep on your stomach? In a nutshell, yes


by Daily Sabah with DPA

If sleeping on your stomach is your go-to snooze position, you might want to reconsider. (iStock Photo)

You know if you are a stomach sleeper that once you sleep that way there is no going back. Whether you lie like a starfish, with arms and legs spread out, or resemble a curled-up running man, sleeping in that heavenly position may not be the best for your health.

Doctors insist that changing your sleeping position is essential, as sleeping on your stomach can cause you great neck, back, hip and shoulder pain, and even headaches.

Sleeping on your stomach requires you to turn your head in one direction to be able to breathe, leaving your neck in constant rotation throughout the night. This causes diminished blood flow to the head and neck, which can cause headaches, kinks and pain.

If you have to sleep on your stomach or are just unable to fall asleep in any other position, there are pillows with holes in the middle that are made specifically for stomach sleepers. These will allow your neck to stay straight by providing support while you sleep.

Another problem with stomach sleeping is that to raise your head and shoulders enough to breath, you need to have an arch in your lower back. This causes compression in the spine and does not allow for proper alignment of ligaments, muscles, bones and joints. If you wake up with a stiff back or sharp pain in your back, or numbness and tingling in your legs or feet, stomach sleeping may, unfortunately, be to blame.

You can alleviate these aches by placing a pillow under your stomach. Just make sure the pillow is thick enough so that you can have a neutral spine. (This may require more than one pillow.)

Sometimes people will sleep with a leg up to the side – what I call a “three-quarter position” – and not really consider it stomach sleeping because the position allows you to turn to the side slightly. This is better than stomach sleeping because it takes the pressure off the lower back, but it can put extra pressure on the hip. To do the position correctly, you want to put several pillows under your stomach so that you are almost sleeping on your side.

Stomach sleeping and the three-quarter sleeping position also encourage you to have your arms overhead when sleeping. This puts tremendous pressure on your shoulders and nerves. Waking up with hands that are asleep or shoulders that are in pain is a big sign that you may be injuring yourself.

Even if you can shake the pain off quickly in the morning, over time it can become a greater issue. So how should you sleep then?

Lying on your back is the best position to sleep, followed by lying on your side. But even if you choose the back or the side, there are things that you need to do to maintain proper posture.

When lying on your back, you don’t want to lie completely flat, as that will cause a slight arch in your back. Place two or three pillows underneath your legs to put your back in a neutral position. You also want to make sure that your pillow allows your head to lie flat.

When lying on your side, consider a side sleeper pillow. Nothing fancy, but you need to fill the size of your shoulder to ensure your neck is in a neutral position. You do not want to use two pillows, as they can slide and cause you to shrug your shoulders in order to keep them in place, resulting in neck and shoulder pain. Also put a pillow between your knees to ensure a neutral spine. And if you have shoulder soreness, shoulder pain or are recovering from surgery and are a side sleeper, hugging a pillow will help by allowing increased blood flow to the shoulder.

While it is very hard to change how you sleep, it is important to start trying – even just falling asleep in the proper position, but shifting throughout the night, can save you and your body some unwanted aches and pain.



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