Is stomach sleeping bad for you? | Total Performance Physical Therapy

Is stomach sleeping bad for you?

September 13, 2019

In a nutshell, yes.  And I know this makes me a very unpopular person among those people who sleep on their stomach.  Stomach sleepers are very staunch in their sleeping habits and resist change.  Many of them insist that they are unable to sleep in any other position than on their stomach.  But, sleeping on your stomach is bad and can be the cause of neck, back, hip and shoulder pain and even headaches.  Therefore, changing your sleeping position from your stomach is essential to good health.

In order to sleep on your stomach, you must turn your head in one direction in order to be able to breathe.  Your neck is in constant rotation through the night.  The way your spine can recover, is to be straight.  Having your spine straight like when laying on your back for example, allows proper alignment of ligaments and muscles and bones.  This proper alignment is imperative for good muscle and joint health.  Also, when rotating your neck like when you lay on your stomach you can cause diminished blood flow to the head and neck, which can cause headaches, kinks and pain.  If you are someone that suffers from numbness and tingling in your hands or feet, stomach sleeping can be to blame.

It is to be noted that there are pillows with holes in the middle that are made for stomach sleepers.  These pillows do work and can be used.  These will allow your neck to stay straight while you sleep.  Unfortunately, most are stiff and uncomfortable but if you are someone who cannot give up sleeping on your stomach, then purchasing a pillow with a hole in so you can sleep on your stomach without rotating your neck.

Another problem with stomach sleeping is the arch that you have in your lower back.  In order to raise your head and shoulders enough to breath you need to have an arch in the back.  This causes compression in the spine and again does not allow for proper alignment of the spine causing ligaments, muscles and bones to not be in the best position to recover.  If you wake up with a stiff back or sharp pain in your back or numbness and tingling in your legs.  You can alleviate this arch by placing a pillow under your stomach.  Just make sure it is a thick enough pillow so that you can have a neutral spine so it may require more than one pillow.

Sometimes people will bring a leg up to the side and not really consider it stomach sleeping because raising the leg to the side will allow you to turn to the side slightly.  This is better than stomach sleeping because it does take 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 even the three-quarter sleeping position also encourage you to have your arms overhead when sleeping.  Many people like to sleep on their hands which allows your head to rotate more comfortable.  This puts tremendous pressure on your shoulder and nerves.  Waking up with hands that are asleep or shoulders that are in pain is a very big sign that you are causing injury to yourself.  Even if you can ‘shake it off’ quickly in the morning, having any pain is the sign that you are causing damage that overtime will not be able to be shaken off.

So how should you sleep then?

In the video we show you how you should and how you should not sleep but we will go over how to sleep now.

Laying on your back is the best position to sleep, followed by laying on your side.  But even if you chose the back or the side there are things that you need to do to set up yourself correctly in order to be able in the correct posture.

When laying on your back, you don’t want to lay flat on your back.  That’s also is going to pull a lot on your low back and cause a slight arch.  You also want to make sure that you have 2 or 3 pillows so that when you put your legs on the pillows, they don no flatten out and defeat the purpose.  You also want to make sure that there is a pillow that allows your head just to lay flat.  It should fill the small curve in your neck and not have your head raised too much or back too far.

When laying on your side the most important thing is the pillow.  You will need a side sleeper pillow.  Nothing fancy but you need to fill the size of your shoulder.  You do not want to use 2 pillows.  This is a huge mistake.  The pillows can slide and will cause you to shrug your shoulders in order to keep them in place and this will cause neck and shoulder pain.

Also, when you sleep on your side you want to put a pillow in between your knees.  And you want to hug a pillow so you shoulder is not drifting too far forward or backwards.  Hugging a pillow is going to allow increased blood flow to the shoulder, which is going to help rejuvenate that shoulder, especially if you have shoulder soreness, shoulder pain or recovering from surgery, sleeping on that side and hugging a pillow is really going to help.

While it is very hard to change how you sleep it is important to start trying, even just starting out in the proper position can save you and your body some unwanted aches and pain.

If you are experiencing back pain in Norristown or back pain in Hatfield or back pain in North Wales or back pain in Bucks or Montgomery county PA call 215-997-9898.