Sleeping on your stomach isn’t the most common sleep position, but it does account for about 16% of all sleepers. Sleep experts will tell you this particular position can be both helpful and problematic: sleeping on your stomach is preferred for those who suffer from acid reflux or heartburn; it’s a less desirable position for those who experience neck and back pain (and may even be the underlying cause of the problem). With that in mind, let’s explore a few tips and tricks for those with a penchant for tummy dozing.
Choose a softer, more moldable pillow.
When you sleep on your stomach, your neck is bent in an unnatural position, which can cause pressure on your jaw and neck. Since this position also puts your hips and chest directly against your mattress, sleeping on a pillow that is too firm or has too much loft will add pressure to your spine and increase the chances of poor spinal alignment. Ultimately, this can lead to shoulder, neck, jaw and back pain.
To maintain proper spinal alignment, opt for a softer pillow and, ideally, one that is more moldable. Stomach sleepers often find that pillows with shredded foam, which can be customized by adding or removing the filling, help reduce neck pain. Alternatively, a lower loft pillow with a plush firmness ensures your head is as close to the mattress as possible and remains properly aligned with the rest of your body.
Choose a medium or firm mattress.
If you sleep on your stomach, it’s important that your mattress promotes optimal spinal alignment throughout the night. Since this position is prone to back and neck pain, however, ensuring that your hips and chest don’t sink too far into the mattress is critical. We recommend choosing a mattress that is either medium or firm, depending on your height and weight. For stomach sleepers, finding a mattress that has just the right firmness is more difficult than other sleep positions—adding a mattress topper to soften a firmer mattress can be a great way to find the “just right” firmness level you’re looking for.
If you can, try to keep your legs as straight as possible.
Many people who sleep on their stomach will pull one knee up toward their body. While this might feel more comfortable in the beginning, doing so for a long time will actually make back pain worse since it throws the spine even further out of alignment. The trick with stomach sleeping is to keep your spine as straight as possible. That means positioning your limbs to keep your spine from curving or twisting unnaturally.
Help promote better alignment by propping your body up with an extra pillow.
Many sleep experts will recommend that stomach sleepers try their best to reposition their bodies into a side sleeping position. But for people who are used to dozing off on their stomachs, this can feel like a surefire cause for insomnia! To help, try using a pillow to prop your body up more onto its side. We recommend using a firmer and larger pillow for this, and one that is made of a supremely breathable material like latex foam. That way, you won’t feel sweaty or overly warm as you try to fall asleep.
Choose a bed with extra cooling comfort.
If you’re a stomach sleeper, it’s likely that more of your body is in contact with your mattress than side or even back sleepers. Plus, hugging a pillow or two can contribute even more to nighttime overheating! We recommend that stomach sleepers choose a mattress that has extra cooling to fend off night sweats — beds with advanced surface infusions are perhaps the best option for stomach sleepers that are prone to sleeping hot.