You might not have given much thought to your sleeping position. It seems self-explanatory after-all. But like most things in life there’s a right way and there’s a wrong way. Unfortunately for all you stomach sleepers, you’re doing it the wrong way and here’s why.
What’s Wrong With Sleeping On Your Stomach?
Stomach sleepers are the most likely to experience aches and pains in the morning. Aches like these can crop up in the joints, neck or shoulders, but begin with the spine. Sleeping with your spine out of alignment seriously affects your sleeping cycle; leading to tiredness, stress and mood swings.
Sleeping on your stomach puts more stress on your spine. The Mayo Clinic tells us how stomach sleeping puts pressure on the middle of your back. This added pressure makes it difficult for our spine to maintain a neutral, flat position during the night.
Over a few hours, stress on your spine will travel to other areas of the body. Most commonly those linked to the spine; hips, shoulder, neck and ribs. Because the spinal cord is where the central nervous system is located, it’s not uncommon for pains to appear in parts of the body further afield.
Sleeping with your spine out of alignment will manifest in tingling sensations or feelings of numbness in parts of the body. Nearly 80% of Americans will experience back pain at some point in their lives. Regular aches and pain are less common which means you should reconsider your sleeping position.
It’s safe to assume that people who sleep on their stomachs won’t be sleeping face-down; unless they figured out a way of breathing through their pillow! No, most people will twist their neck towards the wall in order to breath during the night.
The problem with sleeping on your stomach is two-fold. First of all, you have to twist your neck to the side in order to breath. The second issue is that your head is pushed back, putting more pressure on your spine. It might feel comfortable at first, but after ten hours, it’s inevitable you’ll start to ache.
In the worse cases this twisting and stretching can cause a herniated disc. Herniated discs occur when the softer, gel-like tissue in the spine seeps out of a tear in the tougher exterior. Needless to say, this is an extremely painful condition because it irritates nearby nerve centers.
Herniated discs are an extreme outcome. Less harmful conditions can include a cricked neck, or feelings of tiredness during the day. This is because your body is unable to enter healthy sleep cycles during the night. Without the correct amount of REM sleep, you won’t feel well rested.
When You’re Pregnant
Thinking for two means you must take extra caution when it comes to everyday habits, including sleeping. Sleeping on your stomach isn’t possible in the later stages of pregnancy. But developing good habits in the early days will help you get that all important rest.
Squeezing your bump between your spine and mattress won’t be comfortable. There’s a lot of evidence to suggest that adopting a left sided sleeping position helps to circulate blood and oxygen better. Adopting and adapting to an alternative sleeping position early on will pay dividends in the long run.
If you’re struggling to get to sleep in any other position it might be worth investing in a donut pillow. This rubber rings, help to prop you up during the night relieving pressure from your stomach. They’re recommended my midwives although, most women will natural revert to side sleeping as they grow bigger.
How To Stop Sleeping On Your Stomach
We’re all creatures of habit. When it comes to sleeping we know what feels best. But what feels best isn’t always the best for your body. Here’s five effortless steps to help your change your sleeping position.
Step One: Get Used To Sleeping On Your Side
There’s a strong body of evidence to suggest that side-sleeping is the best for rest. Curling your knees up toward your chest will help to maintain the natural curvature of your spine. It also opens your airways and reduces snoring. The first step is to begin sleeping on your side, it may feel odd at first, but your body will soon get used to it.
If you share your bed with a partner, they can also help encourage you to sleep on your side. Even during sleeping hours, it can be helpful to be moved into a side sleeping position to help your body adapt to the new style.
Step Two: Understand How Stomach Sleeping Affects You
By reading this article you’re already on the way to changing your sleeping position. Understanding the negative consequences of sleeping on your stomach will give you the motivation to change and stick to it.
Here’s a few bullet-points to keep in mind:
- Stomach sleeping twists your neck causing aches during the day
- Pushing your head back stops your spine from staying in natural alignment
- Stomach sleepers record the poorest quality of sleep
- With less ventilation it’s common for stomach sleepers to get hot during the night
Step Three: Understand How Stomach Sleeping Affects You
New sleeping positions feel uncomfortable during the first few weeks. Investing in a pillow that supports your neck, head and shoulders will help relieve discomfort. Orthopedic pillows are usually in a two-wave, contoured design built from comforting memory foam.
You can also buy orthopedic pillows in a rhombus shape. These tend to sleep a bit cooler than their memory foam counterparts but can be equally comfortable. Try experimenting with different shapes to find the right one for you.
Step Four: Make A Relaxation Routine Before Bed
Acclimatizing to a new position isn’t easy. Setting up a routine to make yourself feel relaxed can really help you adjust. Having a hot bath before bed, avoiding your cell-phone or computer and keeping lights low can really help you get ready for sleep.
Step Five: Keep At It
Consistency is more important than effort. Always try to start the night on your side. If you wake up in a different position or have trouble sleeping you can revert to type. But make sure you’re starting each evening in your new sleeping position.
If you’re still finding it hard you might want to consider upgrading your mattress. Stomach sleepers prefer medium-firm mattresses. If you’re thinking about switching to your side, then opting for a firmer mattress could really help.
Not only that, inner materials like memory foam or latex will contour to the shape of your body. This is more comfortable but also reduces pressure points which cause back-aches. Balancing sink and support will be a key part of training yourself to stomach sleeping.
Stomach Sleeping Tips
- One way to reduce back pain is by sleeping with a pillow support. Placing a firm pillow, or better yet a lumbar support, underneath your pelvis will help to keep your spine flat. This reduces muscle exertion which will result in better sleep with less aches.
- Sleeping on your stomach is hard enough. Don’t make it any harder by pushing your leg up to one side. Doing so will twist your lower back and is sure to result in aches in the morning. Try keeping your legs flat during the night.
- A thick pillow will push your head back in relation to your spine. The result of this movement is that the muscles in your neck and shoulders must work harder. For the best results, sleep using a thin pillow or no pillow at all.
- The right mattress is certainly a factor for stomach sleepers. Neither too firm nor too soft, stomach sleepers are the goldilocks of sleepers. A firm mattress will put added pressure on the spine whereas a mattress too soft will see you sink in to it. Medium firm should be just right although, you may want to experiment with different textures to find what’s right for you.
- Getting the right mattress material is important for stomach sleepers. If you’re opting for memory foam, ensure that it is gel-based to help circulate airflow and keep you cool during the night. Latex tends to breathe better and should be your number one option. We wouldn’t recommend coil springs as they are always on the firm side and more likely to sag over time.
- Experiencing back pain once or twice a month is a part of everyday life. But if you wake up with back pain regularly, start thinking about changing your sleeping position. Side-sleepers have the least risk of back pain resulting from sleeping position
- Morning stretches can work wonders for stomach sleepers. It doesn’t have to be a full workout, just a few simple stretches for 5 minutes when you wake up and before bed. This well help to relax your muscles whilst off-setting the extra work your muscles are doing in the night
- Another top tip is to try sleeping without a pillow. If you must twist your neck to sleep, there’s no reason that you have to push your head back as well. Sleeping without a pillow will ensure you maintain a natural posture during the night reducing the amount of work your spine has to do.