Stomach sleepers are just 16 percent of the population, but for that sleepy minority, the tummy-down approach is the way to get your shut-eye. Who can blame them, right? It’s hard to find anything wrong with a full mattress body hug.
But turning your back to the rest of the sleeping world may be affecting your joints and sleep quality more than you think. The truth is, stomach sleepers encounter more sleep issues than those who sleep on their side or back. But if you’re a dedicated stomach sleeper, there’s no reason you can’t find the perfect mattress to belly-flop onto every night. You just have to know what to look for.
6 Things that Make the Best Mattress for Stomach Sleepers
- Adequate Firmness
- Spinal Support
- Pressure Point Relief
- Cooling Comfort
- Edge Support
Finding the best mattress for stomach sleepers is all about remembering not to pick a mattress just because it feels soft and squishy. A mattress like that may not be supportive enough. The real benefit to stomach sleepers comes from support for the spine, neck, hips, and shoulders.
But don’t worry, there are mattresses that perfectly balance that marshmallowy softness you love with proper support for your back and neck. We’ve got the low-down on exactly what you need to look for in a mattress and a pillow in our tips for stomach sleepers.
Here’s the good, the bad, and the snuggly on stomach sleeping.
6 Things that Make the Best Mattress for Stomach Sleepers
Stomach sleepers can be picky when it comes to finding the best mattress. To get the right support for a good night’s sleep, you need the perfect mix of the following factors.
Firmness may be the most important factor to consider when shopping for the best mattresses for stomach sleepers. You need a very precise level of firmness to keep your body from sinking too deep into the mattress and forming a bow shape. This body arching effect puts a strain on both the lower back and the neck and can result in some pretty uncomfortable mornings.
So, how do you find the right mattress firmness? It can be difficult because mattress firmness does not correlate to mattress thickness. Luckily, there’s a simple scale from 1-10 that helps determine firmness, and almost every mattress company conforms to it. A mattress with a firmness of 1 is the softest, while 10 is the firmest. Most mattresses fall into the range of 4-8, and stomach sleepers tend to prefer mattresses in the 6-7 range.
Keep in mind, finding the best mattress for stomach sleepers depends on your weight. Light stomach sleepers probably only need a level 6 firmness, while sumo stomach sleepers may need a 7 or above to keep their hips from sinking below shoulder level.
Good stomach-sleeper mattresses give way to the pressure of your head and stomach while supporting your neck and pelvis. This keeps the spine in a straight line and allows the body to relax tension-free. The wrong mattress will exacerbate joint pain and keep you waking up throughout the night. The next day, you’ll be both crooked and cranky.
Firmness definitely affects spinal support in a mattress, but where does that firmness come from, and will it last you years or buckle over time?
Stomach sleepers looking for proper spinal alignment should opt for a supportive mattress with density and firmness that won’t change over time. The comfort you feel now may not last long. You need a durable comfort layer and a solid base layer for support. A cheap memory foam mattress or innerspring bed is unlikely to satisfy.
The best mattress for stomach sleepers is one that will hold its shape and form, supporting spinal alignment throughout the night and for many years.
Hybrid mattresses with wrapped pocket coils offer a good mix of durability, firmness, and comfortable support that stomach sleepers need. Firm pillow top mattresses and mattresses with a solid support foam layer are ok, too. The Purple® Hybrid and Purple® Hybrid Premier are especially well-suited to stomach sleepers, as they contain Responsive Support Coils under the Purple Grid™, a comfort layer up to 4 inches thick that will not sag or buckle over time.
Pressure Point Relief
A mattress with pressure relief won’t just keep the tension off your neck and spine, but it will also promote healthy hips, shoulders, and other joints. This is especially important for stomach sleepers, as your hips and shoulders can sometimes rest in an awkward position when you’re in the prone position compared to when you’re standing or supine.
Pressure relief is provided by proper contour support. Contour support is the hug-factor of a mattress, or its ability to fit the shape of your body. If your mattress responds properly to each part of your body and allows it to sink in just right, you’ll avoid putting pressure on any particular part, and the mattress will evenly support your weight. You’ll know you’ve found good contour support when you feel weightless comfort and can sail away to dreamland like a sprawled-out Superman.
But, don’t confuse contour support with a form-fitting foam mattress. Mattresses that sink in too much will leave you worse off because you’ll be stuck in an unhealthy sleep position and you’ll be unable to adjust your position as you sleep.
What stomach sleepers want is a mattress that is scientifically engineered to be soft where they want it but firm where they need it. A pressure relieving mattress offers support without giving up comfort. This is what makes the Purple™ Grid so special. A comfort layer that hugs the body without sinking in, the unique elastic polymer material provides perfect support to each part of the body, leaving stomach sleepers aligned, loved, and never under pressure.
You’re going to spend a lot of time with your mattress, so you want to pick one that really gets you. A responsive mattress moves with you and responds to your body every time you change position.
Highly bouncy mattresses are super responsive and adapt to your movements instantly, while soft foam mattresses usually hold their position when you move and take some time to change their shape — think of the image of a hand pressing down onto a memory foam layer. When the hand lifts, you can still see its imprint.
Stomach sleepers need a mattress with more responsivity because they tend to shift their legs, do horizontal jumping jacks, and change their head position often at night. A mattress with high responsivity will allow for easy movement while sleeping. It’s also ideal for older stomach sleepers who may be less mobile in general.
Mattresses with the best responsivity are made with wrapped pocket coils, dense poly foam, and the Purple™ Grid.
Because they “hug” their mattresses, stomach sleepers tend to trap more heat compared to other sleepers. A stomach sleeper’s body temperature can eventually rise enough to rouse them from a deep sleep. This can interrupt the sleep cycle, leading to restless nights and drowsy days.
Look for a mattress that promotes good airflow and efficiently disperses heat. The best mattresses for stomach sleepers who overheat at night are the least dense mattresses. Memory foam and latex foam tend to trap heat and lead to a hot stomach. A gel memory foam mattress might help with the heat a bit, but not much. If you need a quick fix to sleep cooler, you might find a little relief from organic cotton sheets or a gel foam mattress cover, though bamboo sheets are known to be cooler and more breathable.
In time, however, you should choose a mattress that promotes airflow throughout every layer. Purple’s hyper-elastic grid comfort layer has thousands of channels to diffuse body heat, helping sleepers with hot stomachs reach the ideal sleeping temperature and stay cool all night.
The importance of edge support may not affect all stomach sleepers, but it’s important for couples sharing a bed and for those that like to sleep on the edge of the bed. A mattress with edge support remains firm and supportive around the borders of the bed. This allows edge sleepers to feel comfortable whether they like to sleep with a dangling arm, leg, or head anchored to the edge.
A hybrid mattress or pocket coil mattress can be a good choice for edge support. Be wary if you want a foam mattress or a mattress made from gel memory foam or Dunlop latex. These foam layer options are known for poor edge support. For an optimal comfort level, choose a mattress with a solid base layer of support foam or innerspring, such as the original Purple ® Mattress or Purple® Hybrid. Purple mattresses now have extra reinforcement on all sides for better edge support, and more durable, softer comfort.
Pros and Cons of Stomach Sleeping
Stomach sleeping presents a mixed bag of pros and cons for sleepers. Spoiler alert: they’re mostly cons.
- Inhibits snoring
- Decreases symptoms of sleep apnea
- Reduces acid reflux and heartburn
- Wake up feeling anxious
- Strained spine
- Pressure on joints in back and neck
When you lie supine, your spine is strained, which puts pressure on your back and neck joints. Eight hours of joint pressure leads to some long-term consequences to your joints. So, even though you’re happy as a little clam sleeping on your stomach, you may not feel its effects on your body for decades.
The mattress belly flop also affects your sleep, as joint pain—combined with the intense body heat you generate—rouses you from your deep sleep cycle, causing you to toss and turn. You may not even be aware of the constant arousal and the sleep deprivation side effects.
Sleep quality and joint wear and tear are the “good news” for those worried about their appearance. As comforting as it can feel, squishing your face into your pillow can actually cause the “formation and progression of facial wrinkles.” That’s more crow’s feet, mouth lines, flattening of the forehead—and you thought it was the constant facepalms!
But to be fair, stomach sleep has a few benefits. For one, it’s a great alternative position for those who suffer from snoring and sleep apnea. Stomach sleeping is also a better position than back sleeping for reducing heartburn and indigestion.
Pillows for Stomach Sleepers
It’s the age-old problem for belly sleepers: Should I use a pillow or go straight head-to-mattress? Best answer: You should use the method that aligns your neck and spine.
Some stomach sleepers prefer going pillow-less, but it doesn’t always work out. Many of these sleepers start with their head on the mattress, only to wake up sleeping on their arms or hands. You should never trust your arms to maintain your sleeping position. They will move, shift, or fall asleep throughout the night. That won’t ensure consistent neck alignment—only numb noodle arms.
Without a pillow, your head and neck will likely arch down or up, leading to neck pain and poor sleep. But getting the wrong pillow can make things even worse. Oh, the plight of being a stomach sleeper…
Stomach sleepers with pillows that are too thin often compensate by adding their arms into the mix. Others reshape overly stuffed pillows by pushing the material away from their heads and forming a small nook, so their heads don’t overheat.
Luckily, there are a lot more pillow options these days than just a bag of feathers that flattens immediately and a cotton balloon that sends your head into the stratosphere.
Look for a pillow with contour support and maximum airflow, such as the Purple® Pillow. This pillow is made with the same material as the Purple™ Grid, meaning it’s responsive, durable, supportive, and super soft. The grid design consists primarily of empty channels for airflow, making this a contender for the most breathable pillow for stomach sleepers ever made.
You don’t have to choose between reshaping an overly stuffed pillow to roughly fit your head, using your arms as bony cushions, or waking up to a sweat-soaked pillowcase. Instead, opt for a Purple pillow — a good stomach sleeper pillow made from softer, more breathable material that will keep your neck aligned and your head cool.
Tips for Stomach Sleeping
If you really prefer to sleep belly-down rather than belly-up (you’re not a dead fish after all!), here are a few tips to get the best rest possible and to find the best bed for stomach sleepers.
Prop Up Your Pelvis
Like Elvis during the Vegas years, most of your body’s weight is centered in your middle. The weight distribution causes your pelvis to sway and sink into the mattress, throwing your back out of alignment. Putting a flat pillow under your pelvis (a few inches below your belly button) will help keep your back in a more neutral position, taking the pressure off the spine and decreasing lower back pain.
Keep Your Legs Straight When You Sleep
Remember the cultural phenomenon called planking? Yeah, it was pretty silly, but it’s also a great way to sleep on your stomach and avoid back pain. Many stomach sleepers and partial stomach sleepers tend to jack their legs up into a fetal-esque position. But over time, this can put a strain on the spine and lead to back pain.
Keeping your legs straight may not be all it takes to promote a spine aligned with your head and hips, but it’s a step in the right direction.
Face-Plant on Your Pillow
This might sound a bit weird (and you’re likely to give your partner the heebie-jeebies), but sleeping with your forehead on the pillow instead of turning your head to the side can help to take tension off your spine. This position is better for the upper vertebrae in the neck. Releasing the tension there can have a cascading effect that loosens pressure in all the way down the spine and into the joints and hips. It can also help to improve posture.
To assume this position, you’ll need a very breathable pillow that doesn’t try to murder you in your sleep. Choose a soft pillow with as little density as possible and many open air chambers, such as the Purple® Pillow.
Morning Stretches for Night Comfort
Immediately upon waking up, do 2-4 minutes of stretching to work out any stiff or kinked muscles. Take a lesson from yoga class and do Downward-Facing Dog, Happy Baby, or similar yoga poses for some wonderful back extensions. Go easy, though! Your body isn’t warmed up yet, so make sure to stretch gently.
Train Yourself to Sleep in a Different Position
Because the downsides of stomach sleeping can outweigh the upsides, you may want to train yourself to sleep on your side or back. Here are a few ways to get there:
- Use an orthopedic contoured pillow. They’re horrible for sleeping on your stomach, so they’ll guide you into another position.
- Nap on the sofa for practice. The extra back support and reduced surface area force you to stay on your side.
- Use a body pillow to help you transition from full stomach sleeping to partial stomach sleeping. You’ll get much of the same sensation of lying flat, with fewer nasty side effects.
- Earn the nickname of the Princess and the Tennis Ball. Wear sleep pants to bed and place a tennis ball in your pocket. Every time you roll, the ball will poke you to stay in the desired position.
Other Stomach-Sleeper Questions
Here are some common answers stomach sleepers need to know.
Should pregnant women sleep on their stomach?
When you’re pregnant everything is harder, and this goes double for sleeping. While avoiding stomach sleeping late into your pregnancy is a no-brainer, it’s also good to avoid early on as well.
As that little bundle of joy grows and shifts, it puts pressure on different parts of your body. Starting around mid-pregnancy, OB-GYNs advise women to avoid sleeping on their backs. As the uterus grows, it compresses the large veins that pump blood from your legs back to your heart. Sleeping on your back can decrease this blood flow, causing dizziness, shortness of breath, or a faster heart rate.
If you’re a pregnant belly sleeper and can’t get the restful sleep you need unless you’re on your stomach, try using a donut-shaped pillow to support your belly and adjust your hip and neck pillow placements for good spine alignment.
Do stomach sleepers share similar personality traits?
Do you feel out of control? Do you often wake up feeling anxious about not finishing a task from the previous day? Yes? You sleep on your stomach, right? Whoa, how did we know that? Because we’re wizards! No, it’s simple statistics.
One British sleep survey of a thousand participants found that stomach sleepers, or “freefallers,” have body language that suggests feeling out of control, like life is happening around them and they are just hanging on for the ride. The “freefaller” position is described as having “the whole body outstretched flat on their stomach, arms at right angles, hands gripping the pillow as though holding on for dear life.” And it’s true that these people are reported to feel more anxious and defensive.
Is it safe for infants to sleep on their stomachs?
According to the latest research, it is not safe for infants to sleep on their stomach for fear of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). Babies sleep better and more safely on their backs, so let your little one sleep supine. They can choose to walk the path of the stomach sleeper when they’re older.
Is sleeping on your stomach bad for you?
Stomach sleeping gets a lot of flak — and for good reason. For most people, it’s an unhealthier way to sleep for your back, neck, joints, and posture. It can even make you more stressed and affect cerebral blood flow. Sheesh!
But despite all that, stomach sleeping is not always bad for you. After all, stomach sleeping is good for people with sleep apnea, heartburn, and acid reflux. You just need to put in a little more work to find the perfect pillow and the best type of mattress for stomach sleepers.
Stomach sleepers’ mattress of choice is cooling, responsive, and has just the right firmness. Choosing a firmer mattress with all this good stuff isn’t easy, but a Purple mattress sits right in the Goldilocks zone. And even better, you can choose from a number of mattress types, bed sizes, and Purple Grid™ options.
A Mattress that Hugs You Back
Stomach sleeping might be controversial, but we can’t fault you for wanting to give your mattress a big bear hug every night. When you show your mattress the love, just make sure it shows it back.
Look for mattress features that provide pressure relief, contour support — and most importantly — spinal alignment. The best mattress for stomach sleepers should also be responsive to your movements and help keep you cool. We recommend choosing a medium-firm mattress with a durable comfort layer that won’t sag or buckle over time.
Purple mattresses are easily the most huggable mattresses for comfortable sleeping. Made with an all-natural and super long-lasting comfort layer, the Purple Grid, Purple mattresses offer the perfect mix of softer comfort, contour support, and perfect spinal alignment that stomach sleepers need.
The Purple mattress has something for stomach sleepers of all walks of life, with diverse mattress sizes, firmness options, hybrid innerspring mattresses, and luxury models.
If you’re a stomach sleeper, toss your pain, stress, and tension out the bedroom window and experience the best mattress hug of your life on a Purple mattress. Try it now for 100 days totally risk-free.
Happy stomach sleeping and sweet dreams!