Stomach Sleepers: Dr. Tips & Recommendations

Written by
Dr Michael Breus
Last Updated
February 7, 2022
|
7
min read

Nearly 16 percent of the adult population in the United States sleeps on their stomach. Compared to back and side sleepers, this percentage is relatively small. Yet, sleeping on your stomach is one of the unhealthiest positions to sleep in. Stomach sleepers often wake up with more aches and pains than side or back sleepers, and we wanted to know why.

To help shed light on the problems of sleeping on your stomach, Purple partnered with the Sleep Doctor, Michael Breus Ph.D to provide things you can try and also offer a few healthy alternatives. Dr. Breus is the expert on sleep. He has been working with patients for 22 years, and he knows how to get the most out of sleep and has helped us write this guide on all things stomach sleeping.

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Is Sleeping on Your Stomach Bad? Positives and Negatives

Although there are a few benefits to sleeping on your stomach, the negatives easily outweigh the positives. If you are a regular stomach sleeper or if you wake up on your stomach every now and then, it’s important to know the pros and cons of doing so.

Positives

  • Can help prevent snoring
  • May reduce some sleep apnea symptoms
  • Can decreases acid reflux symptoms

Sleeping on your stomach may also help with certain respiratory symptoms. Still, there are far better alternatives to sleeping on your stomach. Let’s now look at a few of the negatives surrounding this sleeping position.

 

Negatives

  • Potential neck, back, and/or shoulder pain
  • A misaligned spine due to head extension
  • Increased appearance of facial wrinkles, yes this is true!
  • May cause numbness or stiffness, if arms are placed under your torso or above your head.

Spinal alignment is incredibly important to healthy and comfortable sleep. Stomach sleepers put their spines in a compromised position, and this results in soreness, joint and back pain, and more.

man laying on mattress with spine un aligned

How to Sleep on Your Stomach Safely: 6 Tips

If you find it difficult to sleep in any other position, other than on your stomach, below are six tips to try and help you do so comfortably and safely. These tips may not eliminate any or all stomach-sleeping problems, but they can help alleviate some aches or pains you may feel.

Sleep with a thin pillow or no pillow: Consider sleeping with as thin a pillow as possible, or no pillow at all, to keep your head and neck from raising your spine out of alignment. The less your head and neck are propped up the better your body alignment will be.

Sleep with a pillow under your pelvis: Placing a pillow under your pelvis and torso while you sleep will keep your lower back in a more supported and neutral position. This could help reduce any lower back pain you may feel in the morning.

man sleeping on mattress with pillow support

Sleep on a firm mattress: Choose a medium-firm to firm mattress to support your hips and other pressure points while you sleep. A firm mattress also prevents your body from sinking too far into the mattress and misaligning your spine.

Stretch before bed and when you wake up: Create an evening stretch routine to help loosen up your lower and upper back, lying down stiff usually is not very helpful. Next create a morning stretch routine to prevent any stiffness or soreness, especially your neck. Most people tend to sleep with their head facing to the left or right for most of the night and this can lead to a stiff neck in the morning.

Sleep with your legs together: Keep your legs together while you sleep to prevent your hips from getting misaligned. Many people who sleep on their stomachs tend to bend one leg, which could cause their hips to twist. Focus on keeping your legs straight to prevent any hip issues. HACK: hang your feet off the end of the bed, both pointing down, this keeps your hips straight!


Align your body before falling asleep: Get in the habit of aligning your neck, spine, hips, and legs before falling asleep. This will keep you developing bad sleeping positions while on your stomach and keep you from tossing and turning into a potentially uncomfortable position.

Can You Sleep on Your Stomach While Pregnant?

If you are pregnant, aim to sleep on your side instead of your stomach. Many doctors recommend you sleep on your side to keep you comfortable during such an important time in your life. You will sleep better, maintain proper blood flow, and prevent unnecessary back pain or other discomfort caused by bad positioning.

Tips to Stop Sleeping on Your Stomach

Getting in the habit of sleeping in a new position can take some time and patience. There are better alternatives to sleeping on your stomach, we promise. As you focus on a better position for you, you will soon notice how much of a difference it makes when you wake up in the morning. Here are several tips to help you transition to a different sleeping position without too much difficulty.

Try a body pillow: Body pillows make it easier to sleep on your side. Try holding the body pillow in front of you between your arms and legs to help you stay on your side while you sleep. You may find that the body pillow helps prop you up on your side and keeps you off your stomach.

Get a new mattress: Many people tend to compensate for an uncomfortable mattress by sleeping on their stomachs. If you find your mattress slightly uncomfortable, purchasing a softer mattress may help you develop a more comfortable sleeping position. Also, look for mattresses that keep you cool while you sleep, like a hybrid.

The tennis ball trick: If you want to break the habit of sleeping on your stomach, make it uncomfortable to do so. Place a tennis ball either in your pajama pocket or at chest level to prevent you from rolling onto your stomach. This uncomfortable trick will help you break that habit in no time.

Stay consistent: With all bad habits in life, it takes consistent effort to break them. According to many habit researchers, 14-21 days is usually about the time it takes to either break or form a new habit. Sleeping on your stomach is no different. It may take you a few nights to get used to a different sleeping position, but as you stay consistent, the new habit will form and your sleep will improve. The more consistent you are to changing positions, the faster it will be to do so.

Choosing the Best Pillow for Stomach Sleepers

The right pillow will make all the difference in waking up with or without a stiff neck. Neck pain is a common complaint for stomach sleepers, but with a pillow designed for stomach sleepers in mind, you can wake up feeling refreshed and well-rested.

When it comes to the right stomach-sleeping pillow, choose one that will keep your head at an appropriate angle. Stick to flatter pillows and those that help keep you cool at night, as well as those that contour to your face and head.

We recommend the Purple Harmony Pillow. It’s made with the same cushioning technology as our Purple mattresses, and supports your head without straining your neck. Along with its moisture-wicking, breathable mesh material, you’ll sleep coolly and soundly and wake up feeling your best self.

Choosing the Best Mattress for Stomach Sleepers

A proper mattress can help make sleeping on your stomach more comfortable. Look for one that offers firm support, especially for your hips, shoulders, and spine. You also want a mattress that contours well to your body to keep your spine in alignment as you sleep. A good memory foam or hybrid mattress will best support your pressure points and keep you cool at the same time.

Our Purple Hybrid Mattress offers everything a stomach sleeper needs to sleep well. With its unique combination of Purple’s innovative gel Grid, wrapped coils, and cushioning foam, you get the comfort and support to sleep comfortably and wake up rested. The coils also allow for better airflow so you sleep coolly. If you’re looking for a mattress that can support you while you’re on your stomach, the Purple Hybrid Mattress is the right fit for you.

“ As a stomach sleeper myself, I can tell you that having the right mattress pillow combination is critical to wake up feeling refreshed and ready to meet the day!”

- Dr. Michael Breus Ph.D, subject matter expert sleep

Frequently Asked Questions About Stomach Sleepers

Is a soft bed or hard bed better for stomach sleepers?

Generally a more firm bed is better for stomach sleepers to provide the proper support to prevent the back from arching backward.

Is it bad to sleep on your stomach?

We do not recommend sleeping on your stomach. Stomach sleeping can cause unnecessary back, neck, and joint pain compared to side and back sleepers. If you do choose to sleep on your stomach, make sure to sleep with either no pillow or a thin pillow, and use a firm mattress.

What kind of bed is good for stomach sleepers?

A firm bed is best for stomach sleepers. Firm mattresses help to support the key pressure points while you sleep and can keep your spine in a neutral position. Too soft of a mattress may cause unnecessary back, neck, and shoulder pain.

Is it possible to snore while sleeping on your stomach?

Yes, it is possible to snore while sleeping on your stomach, yet stomach sleeping can help prevent snoring. Even if snoring is problematic, we recommend finding other alternatives than choosing to sleep on your stomach. Stomach sleeping can cause unwanted back pain and stiffness.

Harmony Pillow

Harmony Pillow

Doesn't fall flat, stays cool all night. Innovative no-pressure support so you'll sleep comfortably no matter your preferred sleeping position.

Purple Hybrid

Purple Hybrid

Our Most firm mattress. More firm while not sacrificing comfort.