Some insist that sleeping on their stomach is the only way they can get to sleep comfortably. While it may provide a feeling of coziness and a relief of certain ailments, you could be doing your body some damage. If you’re a stomach sleeper, take note of the following five ways that it can be bad for you.
1. Strains Your Spinal Curve
Sleeping on your stomach causes uneven pressure on your back, particularly to the middle section, causing the spine to alter from its natural curve. The middle of your back contains the most weight, and generally, produces a lot of strain for stomach sleepers. Since the spine is the powerhouse of body structure and nerves, this can cause a multitude of issues including joint pain all over the body, numbness, and a tingling sensation in nerve endings.
2. Neck Misalignment
If you’re a stomach sleeper, chances are you don’t use a pillow. It’s incredibly difficult to rest your head and have it comfortably elevated while lying face down. It can also be nearly impossible to keep your neck straight whether you’re using a pillow or not. If you do manage to sleep on your stomach, your sleep is interrupted, and your oxygen intake can fall to a less healthy level.
For those that sleep with their head turned, this position can alleviate breathing issues but creates an unnatural neck position. This causes strain and tension in your neck. Though it may not be apparent after a just a few nights, it will create long-term issues. Stomach sleepers often have very tense necks and need frequent chiropractic attention. If you infrequently move while sleeping in this position, you may even develop what’s called a herniated disk. The spinal vertebrae shift, causing a rupture in the gelatinous disk. Effects of this health issue can be as severe as not being able to move your head to one side.
With all the neck and spine stress that sleeping on your stomach creates, it’s not surprising that people who sleep in this position suffer from more headaches than side or back sleepers. If you are already prone to headaches, this is definitely not the sleeping position for you. To determine if a headache is caused by your sleeping position, take notice of the time of day and frequency that you have them. If you have headaches in the morning that fade by the end of the day, it’s most likely your sleeping position that’s causing it.
Referring to the aforementioned issues with your neck, sleeping on your stomach can cause kinks in the temporal artery in your neck. These headaches come on quickly and disappear just as suddenly. The pain is felt behind the eye and can even cause watery eyes and a runny nose.
4. Shoulder Tension
Sleeping on your stomach does considerable harm to the alignment of the neck and spine, creating the previous issues mentioned above. Continued stomach sleeping exasperates neck pain, and these problems will eventually work their way into your shoulders. Nerve endings can be blocked, and tension from lack of support and strain on the neck can create knots in your shoulders. Long term, this will produce upper back pain as well. Once at this point, stomach sleepers experience pain and tension all up and down the back and neck, requiring professional attention for relief.
5. Early Pregnancy Danger
Of course, sleeping on your stomach during the later stages of pregnancy is off-limits and probably not even possible. However, there are body pillows on the market today that promote belly sleeping for pregnant women. These pillows usually feature a hole in the middle for the mother’s belly, giving the impression that it’s safe. Similarly, women who have not yet sported a noticeable bump in the first and second trimesters still believe it’s okay to sleep on their stomachs.
Extra weight, while pregnant, can cause pain during pregnancy and does not promote the restful sleep that’s so desperately needed. Stomach sleeping can also create a cramped space for a growing baby, which researchers think can cause abnormal development. The best way for moms-to-be to sleep is on their left side. This position allows for an increased healthy blood flow, which provides optimal oxygen levels for mom and baby.
Tips to Alleviate Pain From Stomach Sleeping
Those that sleep in this position may want to reconsider. If you’re a serious stomach sleeper, and it seems to be the only way to fall asleep or stay that way, there a couple things you can try to alleviate the issues associated with stomach sleeping- though, these are not recommended for pregnant women.
Place a pillow underneath your pelvis instead of your head. It can help alleviate the weight on the middle of your back and promote a more aligned spine. It will also keep your head lying flat, which is better than the neck strain that arises from having it elevated. Finally, be sure to stretch every morning. This can help reverse any damage that a night of stomach sleeping may have done.