Stomach Sleeper: The Habit That May Be Hurting You

Key Takeaways

  • Spinal Alignment and Stomach Sleeping: Stomach sleeping disrupts spinal alignment, straining the cervical and lumbar spine. This may lead to chronic lower back pain and worsen conditions like herniated discs.
  • Pressure on Neck and Shoulders: Stomach sleeping exerts significant pressure on the neck and shoulders, potentially causing persistent neck pain, stiffness, and issues like frozen shoulder.
  • Impact on Internal Organs and Breathing: Stomach sleeping may affect internal organs, causing digestive issues and restricting chest expansion, potentially leading to shallow breathing and respiratory problems.

Ever wondered if your favorite sleep position is a secret saboteur to your well-being?

This article unravels the not-so-sweet secrets of stomach sleeping—how it might be messing with your back, affecting your sleep, and even contributing to those unwanted face wrinkles.

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Drawbacks You Might Have To Bear As A Result of Stomach Sleeping:

Following are the main drawbacks that you might have to face because of your stomach sleeping habit:

1. Effects on Spinal Alignment:

Stomach sleeping disrupts the spine’s natural alignment, especially in the neck and lower back regions.

When you sleep on your stomach, your head is turned to one side, putting strain on the cervical spine.

This position also flattens the natural curve of the lumbar spine, contributing to discomfort and potential long-term issues.

Stomach sleeping often leads to overarching the lower back, causing increased pressure on the lumbar spine.

This can result in discomfort, muscle stiffness, and, over time, contribute to chronic lower back pain.

The strain on the spine during stomach sleeping may also exacerbate existing conditions like herniated discs.

“Stomach sleeping can place unnecessary strain on the neck and lower back due to the unnatural twisting of the neck and the increased arch of the lower spine,” says Dr. Jordan Burns.

Studies suggest that prolonged periods in this position can lead to chronic pain and discomfort, highlighting the need for awareness and modification of sleep habits for long-term spinal health.”

Strategies for Maintaining Spinal Health:

To mitigate the adverse effects of stomach sleeping on spinal alignment, consider incorporating strategies like using a supportive pillow under the hips to elevate the spine slightly.

Additionally, placing a thin pillow under the abdomen can help reduce the strain on the lower back.

Exploring alternative sleep positions, such as side or back sleeping, is also advisable to promote overall spinal health.

2. Pressure on Neck and Shoulders:

Stomach sleeping exerts significant pressure on the neck and shoulders.

When you sleep with your head turned to the side, it forces the cervical spine into an unnatural position, leading to strain on the neck muscles.

The shoulders bear the weight of the upper body, contributing to tension and discomfort.

Neck Pain and Stiffness

The strain on the neck during stomach sleeping can result in neck pain and stiffness.

The continuous pressure on the cervical spine may lead to muscle soreness, making it challenging to move the neck comfortably.

Persistent neck pain may also contribute to headaches and reduced overall mobility.

Shoulder Tension and Related Concerns

The shoulders, being a pivotal part of supporting the upper body in stomach sleeping, often experience tension.

This can lead to issues such as a frozen shoulder, where the joint becomes stiff and movement is restricted.

Additionally, shoulder pain and discomfort may radiate down the arms, affecting overall musculoskeletal health.

3. Impact On Organs and Breathing:

Stomach sleeping can impact internal organs, particularly those in the abdominal and chest regions.

The pressure exerted on the stomach and lungs may influence their normal functioning, potentially leading to various issues.

Pressure On the Stomach

Stomach sleeping compresses the stomach, potentially causing digestive issues such as acid reflux.

This pressure may affect the natural flow of stomach acids, leading to discomfort and heartburn.

Impact On Breathing

The position of the body on the stomach can restrict the expansion of the chest, making it harder for the lungs to fully inflate.

This may result in shallow breathing and, over time, could contribute to respiratory issues.

Proper breathing is vital for overall health, and the constraints imposed by stomach sleeping may adversely affect this essential bodily function.

Different Stomach Sleeping Positions:

Here are common stomach sleeping positions:

1. Head Turned to the Side:

In this position, the individual lies on their stomach with their head turned to one side.

This can strain the neck, as it creates an unnatural twist in the cervical spine.

Over time, this may contribute to neck pain and stiffness.

2. Arms Extended Forward:

Some stomach sleepers prefer extending their arms forward, positioning them under or near the pillow.

While this may feel comfortable for some, it can contribute to pressure on the shoulders and may affect the alignment of the upper body.

3. One Leg Raised:

Occasionally, stomach sleepers may raise one leg slightly, bending it at the knee.

This variation can affect the alignment of the lower back and hips, potentially leading to discomfort over time.

4. Fully Stretched Out:

In this position, the individual lies completely stretched out on their stomach with arms and legs extended.

While it may feel relaxing initially, the lack of support for the spine may contribute to overarching of the lower back, potentially leading to lower back pain.

5. Arm Under the Pillow:

Stomach sleepers might tuck one arm under the pillow, aiming to find a comfortable position for the head and neck.

However, this can lead to increased pressure on the shoulder and may affect overall spinal alignment.

Strategies for Transitioning to a New Sleep Position:

Transitioning from stomach sleeping to a different sleep position can be challenging, but it’s a crucial step for improving overall sleep quality and minimizing potential health issues associated with stomach sleeping.

“Transitioning to side or back sleeping can be challenging for habitual stomach sleepers, but it’s crucial for spinal health,” says Dr. Burns. “Use body or strategically placed pillows to discourage turning onto the stomach during the night.”

“Over time, these aids can help retrain the body to adopt a more spine-friendly sleeping position.”

1. Gradual Adjustment Techniques:

a. Using Pillows for Elevation

Place a pillow under your hips or pelvis to create a slight elevation.

This can help reduce the strain on the spine and make stomach sleeping less pronounced.

b. Experimenting With Side Sleeping

Gradually introduce side sleeping by using a body pillow for support.

This can ease the transition and make the new sleep position more comfortable.

c. Creating a Conducive Sleep Environment

Ensure your bedroom is comfortable and conducive to restful sleep.

Invest in a comfortable mattress and pillows to support your preferred sleep position.

d. Developing a Consistent Sleep Routine

Establish a regular sleep routine that includes calming activities before bedtime.

This can signal to your body that it’s time to wind down and prepare for sleep.

By implementing these gradual adjustment techniques, individuals can make a smoother transition from stomach sleeping to a sleep position that better supports overall health and well-being.

2. Choosing the Right Mattress and Pillow:

Selecting an appropriate mattress and pillow is crucial for maintaining a healthy sleep position and ensuring overall sleep quality.

The choice of mattress and pillow can significantly influence spinal alignment and alleviate potential discomfort associated with stomach sleeping.

a. Considerations for Choosing A Mattress:

Medium-Firm Support

Opt for a mattress with medium-firm support to provide adequate spinal alignment.

This helps distribute body weight evenly and reduces pressure on specific areas.

Mattress Thickness

Choose a mattress of suitable thickness to prevent excessive sinking or firmness.

The goal is to maintain a neutral spine position during sleep.

Material Compatibility

Different mattress materials offer varying levels of support.

Memory foam and latex mattresses are popular choices for promoting spinal alignment.

b. Factors for Selecting the Right Pillow:

Height and Loft

Select a pillow with the right height to keep the head and neck in a neutral position.

The pillow loft should support the natural curvature of the spine.

Supportive Material

Opt for a pillow made of supportive materials, such as memory foam or latex, to maintain proper alignment and reduce strain on the neck and shoulders.

Personalized Comfort

Consider individual preferences and any specific musculoskeletal concerns when choosing pillows.

Personalized comfort plays a crucial role in ensuring a good night’s sleep.

3. Establishing a Sleep Routine:

Consistency is key when it comes to fostering healthy sleep habits, especially during a transition from stomach sleeping.

a. Relaxation Techniques Before Bedtime:

Stomach sleeping can often lead to tension in the neck, shoulders, and spine.

Engaging in relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing exercises or gentle stretches, serves as a calming prelude to sleep.

Deep breathing helps release physical and mental tension, making it easier for individuals to adjust to new sleep positions.

Gentle stretches, focusing on areas like the neck and lower back, promote flexibility and alleviate any discomfort accumulated during the day.

b. Creating a Conducive Sleep Environment:

For stomach sleepers aiming to break free from the potential drawbacks of their preferred position, creating a conducive sleep environment is a pivotal step.

The sleep environment plays a crucial role in facilitating a successful transition to alternative sleep positions.

Ensuring the bedroom is comfortable and conducive to restful sleep involves optimizing factors like room darkness, comfortable bedding, and maintaining an ideal room temperature.

These adjustments contribute to a calming atmosphere, supporting the body’s readiness for a new sleep style.

A well-designed sleep environment not only aids in the physical transition away from stomach sleeping but also enhances the mental and emotional aspects of the shift.

By incorporating elements that promote relaxation and comfort, individuals can set the stage for a successful and sustainable adjustment, fostering improved sleep quality and overall well-being.

4. Consulting with a Healthcare Professional:

Recognizing the potential impact of stomach sleeping on spinal alignment, neck and shoulder pressure, and overall sleep quality, individuals considering a transition away from this habit may find valuable guidance by consulting with a healthcare professional.

Persistent discomfort or challenges in adapting to new sleep positions may warrant expert advice.

Seeking a comprehensive sleep assessment from a healthcare provider ensures a thorough understanding of individual sleep patterns and associated concerns.

Collaboration with specialists, such as sleep experts or physical therapists, allows for personalized solutions tailored to specific musculoskeletal needs.

Healthcare professionals can offer insights into effective strategies, monitor progress, and provide support throughout the transition process.

Their expertise ensures a holistic approach to addressing concerns related to stomach sleeping, contributing to improved sleep and long-term musculoskeletal health.

“Consulting with a healthcare professional can provide personalized strategies and support for those struggling to change their sleeping habits,” notes Dr. Burns.

“Chiropractic care, in particular, can offer adjustments to alleviate discomfort caused by stomach sleeping and exercises to strengthen the core and back, promoting healthier sleep positions.”


Is stomach sleeping bad for your back?

Yes, stomach sleeping can adversely affect your back. It disrupts the spine's natural alignment, especially in the neck and lower back regions, leading to discomfort and potential long-term issues.

Can stomach sleeping cause neck pain?

Absolutely. Stomach sleeping exerts significant pressure on the neck, forcing the cervical spine into an unnatural position, which can result in neck pain and stiffness.

What are the potential impacts on internal organs from stomach sleeping?

Stomach sleeping can compress the stomach, potentially causing digestive issues like acid reflux. It may also impact breathing by restricting chest expansion, potentially leading to respiratory issues over time.

How can I transition from stomach sleeping to another position?

Gradual adjustment techniques, such as using pillows for elevation, experimenting with side sleeping, and creating a conducive sleep environment, can aid in a smoother transition away from stomach sleeping.

Why is it essential to consult a healthcare professional for persistent discomfort related to stomach sleeping?

Persistent discomfort may indicate underlying issues. Consulting a healthcare professional ensures a thorough sleep assessment and personalized advice tailored to specific concerns, enhancing the effectiveness of transition strategies.


In summary, ditching stomach sleeping leads to better sleep and overall well-being.

While it might feel cozy, it can mess with your spine, neck, and shoulders.

The tips provided—keeping a regular sleep routine, trying relaxation techniques, and consulting pros when needed—guide a smooth transition.

This not only boosts sleep quality but also ensures lasting musculoskeletal health.

Everyone’s sleep journey is different, and the process matters as much as the goal.

This article is for informational purposes and should not replace advice from your doctor or other medical professional.

Sarah Anderson, Certified Sleep Science Coach Sarah Anderson

Sarah Anderson is a sleep, health, and wellness writer and product reviewer. She has written articles on changing and improving your sleep schedule, choosing the right mattress for chronic pain conditions, and finding the best pillow for you. Sarah Anderson has her Bachelor of Arts degree from Arizona State University in Journalism and Mass Communications. Prior to working for Zoma, she wrote for a variety of news publications. Sarah's work has been featured on Bustle, PureWow, and other publications.

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