How Bad Is It Really to Sleep on Your Stomach?

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Sleeping on your stomach can lead to disrupted zzzs and pain down the line.
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If you asked a room full of people how they like to sleep, you'd probably get a slightly different answer from each person. Some like to sleep on their side, hugging a pillow, while others prefer to stay on their back all night. And you may even meet one or two people who get their best shut-eye facedown.

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Everyone has their own preferred position, and contrary to popular belief, there's no "perfect" way to sleep. With that said, there are better and worse positions for optimal rest. And unfortunately for stomach sleepers, your preferred posture is the latter.

But just how bad is it really to sleep on your tummy? Read on for the answer, and then learn what you can do about it.

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4 Reasons Sleeping on Your Stomach Isn't Ideal

1. It Can Cause Neck Pain

Sleeping on your stomach is arguably the worst sleep position, according to sleep specialist Michael Breus, PhD, author of ​​The Power of When.​ And that's because it often causes some pretty bad pain and soreness, especially in your neck.

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Often, when people sleep on their stomachs, their neck is elevated too high. Plus, your neck is twisted to one side throughout the entire evening. As a result, many experience neck pain the morning after sleeping on their stomach, Breus says.

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2. It Can Strain Your Lower Back

Lower-back pain is another common issue with stomach sleepers, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Sleeping on your front side extends your neck and spine, which puts extra stress on the joints in your spine and lower back. And when you sleep on your stomach, it's challenging to keep your spine properly aligned, Breus says.

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While this may not cause pain or pressure after a night or two, consistent stomach sleeping can lead to discomfort or pain in the long run. And stressing out the sensitive joints in your back can also hamper your mobility, making it harder to sit with good posture or perform daily tasks.

3. It Causes You to Move Around

Stomach sleepers are often the ones who move around the most throughout the night, too, Breus says. Sleeping facedown compresses the joints in your neck and back. And it can also cause your arms to go numb, considering they usually sit under the weight of your body.

Due to the discomfort this position can cause, stomach sleepers tend to shift or jolt around more often at night, causing sleep disruption. And a lack of quality sleep is linked to all kinds of negative health effects, like overweight and high blood pressure.

4. It Can Make Acid Reflux Worse

Any flat sleeping position can worsen symptoms of acid reflux — and that includes stomach sleep. When you stand or sit upright, gravity helps prevent acid in your stomach from rising back up your throat, according to the GI Society.

But when you lay flat in bed, gravity isn't there to help you, making it easier for acid to rise up and disrupt your sleep.

So, How Bad Is Sleeping on Your Stomach?

There's no one perfect sleep position out there. But full transparency: Stomach sleeping is definitely the worst one, Breus says. It causes the most discomfort during and after sleep and can cause joint mobility problems down the line.

Although not many people actually sleep on their back through an entire night, it's the most optimal sleep position, Breus says. It can be a little problematic for people with snoring problems, as this position can make it tougher to breathe (snorers are better off on their sides). But it's definitely the best for your joints and alignment.

How to Tweak Your Sleep Position

Unfortunately, training yourself to sleep in a new position isn't so easy, Breus says. A sleep expert can offer a personalized plan to help improve your sleep posture and position. But a lot of the DIY tricks don't usually help much.

With that said, there are tweaks that can help make stomach sleeping more comfortable for your body.

1. Ditch the Pillow

Breus recommends sleeping with a very light pillow under your head or none at all. This brings your head back in line with your spine, relieving some of the pressure on your neck and back.

2. Elevate Your Pelvis

Placing a small pillow under your pelvis is another tip that may add some comfort, according to the University of Rochester Medical Center. This can help correct an over-arched lower-back, bringing your lumbar spine into alignment with your mid- and upper-back.

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Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.