Stomach Sleeper: The Habit That May Be Hurting You
August 3, 2020 | Casper Editorial Team

Are you a stomach sleeper? If so, you make up part of the 16% of adult sleepers who prefer to sleep on their stomachs. While you may not make up the majority of snoozers (like side sleepers), stomach sleepers have their own unique way of dozing off.
 
Sleeping on your stomach is known as the prone position. It’s a body position where a person lies flat on their chest. It represents those that lay face down with their whole body touching their mattress. While belly-flopping onto your mattress is good for those that snore, it’s considered one of the most unhealthy sleeping positions.
 
If sleeping on your stomach is something you can’t live without, read on to learn more about the pros and cons, the correct way to sleep on your stomach, and what to do if you want to switch up your sleeping position.

Different Stomach Sleeping Positions

Those that sleep on their stomach don’t just lie flat on their belly; they like to switch it up every now and then. Below are a few popular variations of the stomach sleeping position.

The Freefall

 
A person sleeps with both hands near their head and their legs striaght down. Illustration
 
This position represents those stomach sleepers that sleep with their heads to their sides and their hands wrapped around their pillow. If this is you, this position isn’t half bad. However, if you want to optimize it to make it better for your spine and neck, opt for a thin pillow under your head or no pillow at all. This will make sure your neck isn’t too curved up.

The Running Man

 
A person sleeps with one arm hanging down by their side and one leg crossed over the other. Illustration.
 
The Running Man sleeping position can mean a couple of different things, but for stomach sleepers, it represents those few that pass out on their stomach with one arm at their side, and one arm and leg up in a running position. If you’re looking to modify this position to make it better for your back and neck, make sure to keep your legs and hips straight at all times. Then, place a pillow on your forehead and keep your head face-down. While this may be uncomfortable at first, it’s better than the alternative.

The Skydiver

 
A person sleeps with arms around their pillow with one leg curled and one leg straight. Illustration.
 
If you like to sleep on your stomach with one leg up and your arms up by your head, this position is for you. To modify this pose to make it better for your health, try to keep your leg down at all times and put a thin pillow under your pelvis. While still not great for you, these modifications will help keep your spine in a more neutral position and prevent it from getting twisted.

Is Sleeping on Your Stomach Bad? The Pros and Cons

Stomach sleepers, close your ears — yes, sleeping on your stomach is considered bad. Unfortunately, there are more cons than pros.
 
Pros and cons chart with information as listed below.
 
Pros

  • Reduces sleep apnea symptoms
  • Can mitigate snoring
  • Decreases acid reflux

Cons

  • Can cause neck problems over time
  • Places a strain on your back
  • Can cause wrinkles
  • Can cause numbness and stiffness

Sleeping in the prone position can place a strain on your spine and neck. It also has the potential to lead to shoulder and neck pain if you’re someone who tosses and turns at night.

Sleeping in this position can also place unwanted pressure on your muscles and joints — resulting in you waking up with aches and numbness. However, stomach sleeping is preferred over back sleeping for those that experience sleep apnea and snoring, because it keeps your airways open.

How to Sleep on Your Stomach Safely: 5 Tips

A person sleeping with their head on a thin pillow, a pillow under their abdomen, and their legs straight. Illustration
 
If you’re a stomach sleeper through and through, here are some tips to help you mitigate any pain that may be caused by your sleeping habit.
 

  1. Use a thin pillow: The flatter your pillow is to the mattress, the less angled up your neck is. This will help mitigate any neck pain. Better yet, try sleeping with no pillow at all. The closer your head is to the mattress, the less strain will be placed on your neck.
  2. Stretch daily: Add 10–20 minutes of stretching to your morning and nightly routine. Focus on exercises that push your pelvis back and stretch out your neck. Yoga moves such as the “child’s pose” are great for stretching out these muscles and helping you relax.
  3. Place a pillow under your pelvis: Similar to when you sleep on your back, keeping a pillow here will help keep your spine aligned.
  4. Keep your legs flat: Wrapping one leg on a pillow or lifting one above the other can twist your spine and exacerbate the strain placed on your back. Try to keep your legs as flat and as equal as possible.
  5. Keep your body as aligned as possible: Before you doze off, focus on relaxing your body in a neutral position. That means your hands are at your sides, your back and hips are straight, and your spine is not curved or twisted.

While sleeping on your stomach has its flaws, if you want to do it the right way, the tips above should help alleviate any aches and pains.

How to Stop Sleeping on Your Stomach

Breaking old habits is hard. If you’re determined to sleep in a different position, try out some of the tips below.
 

  1. Shift your position when possible: If you can, try to fall asleep on your back or side. However, we understand that this can be hard at first. If you wake up in the middle of the night on your stomach, get in the habit of flipping over. This will be uncomfortable at first, but soon you’ll get used to the feeling.
  2. Use a body pillow: Stomach sleepers often like the comfort of having their whole body on the mattress. To transition to sleeping on your side, try using a body pillow. This will help you doze off comfortably while keeping you from moving onto your stomach.
  3. Sleep on a memory foam pillow: If you want to learn how to sleep on your back or side, consider purchasing a memory foam pillow. The contours of the memory foam will support your neck and maintain its natural curves.

Switching up your sleeping position won’t happen overnight; it will take persistence. However, with time and practice, your body will learn to relax in another sleeping pose.

Can You Sleep on Your Stomach While Pregnant?

While sleeping on your stomach in your last trimester is pretty much impossible, you should avoid sleeping on your stomach in the early stages of your pregnancy as well. Doctors recommend not putting any more pressure on your stomach area than what is necessary. You want your baby to have as much room to move around as possible. Plus, putting extra pressure on your stomach can increase the strain on your spine. The best sleeping position for pregnant women is on your side. If you can, sleep on your left side. This can increase oxygen levels and improve blood flow for you and your baby.

Create a Safer Stomach Sleeping Experience

If you can’t seem to kick your habit of snoozing on your stomach, it’s important to create a comfortable sleeping environment to support this sleeping position.

Best Pillow for Stomach Sleepers

As we mentioned above, if you’re a stomach sleeper, you should sleep on a thin pillow or no pillow at all. However, many sleepers find comfort in a fluffy pillow. If you’re someone who can’t let go of their favorite pillow, try looking for one with a little less fluff. You want a pillow that supports your neck so that it is aligned with your back when you sleep. The Original Casper Pillow is soft and supportive, so you don’t have to compromise your comfort.

Best Mattress for Stomach Sleepers

If you don’t want to give up your stomach sleeping position, you’ll want to find a mattress that will support your sleeping habit. The wrong mattress can exacerbate the strain placed on your neck and spine, causing you to wake up with aches and pains.
 
The best mattress for stomach sleepers is a mattress that supports your midsection so that your hips don’t sink in. You also want to look for a mattress that contours to your body and keeps your spine aligned. If you’re choosing between memory foam or spring, a good memory foam or hybrid mattress will give your pelvis the most support while also contouring to your body in a way that will relieve your pressure points. If you’re a hot sleeper, sleeping on your stomach might make the heat worse. You’ll want to look for a mattress that has cooling properties so you don’t wake up in a sweat.
 
At Casper, we don’t discriminate. We create mattresses built for all sleeper needs. Whether you’re a stomach sleeper, back sleeper, or someone who likes to snooze in the fetal position, we have a mattress for you. Stomach sleepers should check out our Wave Hybrid mattress. It’s built for people with aches and pains who want cooling features.