Are You A Stomach Sleeper? You Might Want To Switch It Up — Here's Why

mindbodygreen Editorial Assistant By Sarah Regan
mindbodygreen Editorial Assistant

Sarah Regan is a writer, registered yoga instructor, and Editorial Assistant at mindbodygreen. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from SUNY Oswego, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Illustration of a popular couples sleeping position.

We all know quality sleep is crucial to our overall well-being, but one factor that often gets overlooked is how we sleep. Certain sleeping positions can make it harder to breathe, put strain on your back, neck, or shoulders, and leave you sore the next day.

So, we asked experts to weigh in on the worst sleeping position for your health—plus what to do about it.

The worst position for sleep quality.

According to Nishi Bhopal, M.D., a psychiatrist specializing in sleep medicine, sleeping on your stomach is considered the worst position to sleep in. "It puts a lot of strain on the back and neck and can cause lower-back pain," she notes.

Sleeping on your stomach also makes it difficult to breathe, naturopathic sleep doctor Catherine Darley, N.D., says. And if you've ever gone to bed with a stuffy nose, for example, you likely know mouth-breathing at night will not leave you feeling rested the next morning.

"Ironically," chiropractor B.J. Hardick, D.C., adds, "the reason why this is the worst position is that your face actually can't be down." He explains that with your head twisted to one side, it puts a lot of strain on the ligaments of the cervical spine, and can also put certain cervical vertebrae in "compromising positions" for the length of the night. "I've rarely seen a good neck in a belly sleeper!" he tells mbg.


How to fix it.

If you really love sleeping on your stomach, Bhopal suggests using a flat pillow (or no pillow at all) to reduce that pressure on your back. But ideally, you might want to try side or back sleeping.

Sleeping on your back is considered the best for spinal alignment, though it can cause problems for people who snore, have sleep apnea, or even acid reflux. If those aren't issues for you, just make sure you have a pillow that supports your head and neck.

For side sleeping, Bhopal and Darley both suggest strategic pillow placement. You can put one pillow behind you and another between your knees to support your hips, Bhopal says, or per Darley's recommendation, a body pillow along your stomach can keep you from fully rolling onto it. 

And if all else fails and you're still waking up on your stomach, Hardick says it's important to offset stomach sleeping with at-home exercises to help out your neck and back, and even consider seeing a chiropractor if necessary.

The bottom line.



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The bottom line is, your sleeping position plays a big role in the quality of sleep you'll get on any given night, so if you're a stomach sleeper, you may want to try to switch things up.

Other factors to consider for getting a good night's sleep include, but aren't limited to, taking a sleep-promoting supplement like mbg's magnesium+, having a consistent sleep schedule, curating a great wind-down routine, and avoiding food and alcohol too close to bedtime.

Quality sleep doesn't have to be elusive, and when we mind our sleep hygiene, including our sleeping position, we're sure to wake up feeling refreshed.


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