There are days when you come home feeling extremely exhausted and completely overwhelmed by your day’s activities. 

Your mind is only entertaining one thought: to let your body lie down carefree and let your mind wander far away, thinking about nothing in particular. 

These are the days when sleeping in a particular position is far from your thoughts. In fact, lying down and adopting a sleeping position that feels more comfortable is the only priority. If you love sleeping as I do, one sleeping position that becomes apparent is sleeping on your stomach. 

Good for you. 

Did you know that that single act of sleeping on your stomach could be comfortable and appropriate for the time being, but in the long run can cause you more damage? Of course, you wouldn’t know, the only reason why you are even entertaining that thought of sleeping while facing downwards. 

On a serious note, the act of sleeping on your stomach is even prohibited in some religions particularly Islam. 

But why is it so? Could the leaders be jealous of letting their members enjoy the relaxing moment that comes with lying on your stomach or they know something that you didn’t know?

Let me take you through what I know from a medical perspective because I am not in any of the religions that ban members from sleeping on their stomachs. Read on…

Why is sleeping on your stomach a bad idea?

There are five reasons that make sleeping on your stomach a bad idea. These reasons are discussed below in detail and suggestions on how to stop sleeping on your stomach given.

Your stomach and organs around it are the first victims of your act!

Sleeping on your stomach exerts pressure on your stomach and its organs.
Credit: Self

Just imagine, sleeping on your stomach makes you feel comfortable, but ends up applying unnecessary pressure on your stomach and its organs. The stomach finds it difficult to continue with its process of digesting food. This is even serious for those who take their heaviest meal in the evening just before bed. Lying on your stomach, especially after taking a meal is known to cause a stomach condition known as acid reflux. 

Causes constriction of the blood vessels in the spinal cord and neck

Sleeping on your stomach causes constriction of the blood vessels in the spinal cord and neck
Image by Анастасия Гепп from Pixabay

On many occasions, you go to sleep only to wake up feeling some pain in the neck. One thing that makes you wonder is why this happens yet sleep is naturally known to bring about relaxation.

An explanation to this is that whenever you sleep on your stomach, you have to tilt your head sideways to enable you to breathe comfortably. However, in doing so, your spinal cord is forced out of its general alignment causing some constrictions on the blood vessels in the neck and forcing uncomfortable movements of the joints that are located in your neck. The end result of this is pain and restricting the movement of blood through the blood vessels to the brain and back.

The pain is as a result of joints not resting on their natural position. On the other hand, the blood supply to the brain is restricted. This makes the oxygen supply to your brain limited, hence feeling tired when you wake up. Sorry, I didn’t mean to take you back to Biology class. Enough said.

Strains the functioning of the heart

Sleeping on your stomach strains the functioning of the heart

Is sleeping on your stomach bad for your heart? The answer to it is affirmative. Sleeping on your stomach could result in a reduction in blood circulation due to constriction of the blood vessels. The most affected vessels are the ones around the neck as described above. This causes the heart to struggle while pumping blood to the rest of the body. In the long run, it will result in heart problems like heart failure. This is particularly evident in people with a lot of cholesterol that has reduced the size of blood vessels with time. This doesn’t mean that people without cholesterol in their blood vessels are safe. 

Makes it difficult to breath

sleeping on your stomach makes it difficult to breath

Let us face this fact, sleeping on your stomach compress your chest. While breathing in and out, it becomes difficult because you have to breathe in the air against your body weight. 

During the process of breathing in, the ribs have to move outwards and upwards. Now, imagine that the same ribs are pressed against your bed by your body. For them to move outwards and upwards, it means the ribs have to push the body upwards. This act in itself will make you tired in the long run apart from limiting your intake of fresh air.

Accelerates aging

Sleeping on your stomach can accelerate aging

Truth be told, sleeping on your stomach involves burying your head into the pillows. God knows what other material you could be using to support your head if it’s not a pillow. 

For ladies, the bad news is that this frequent act of having your face in contact with the pillow ends up causing breakouts on your face because the body oils from your pillow and blanket are clogged onto your face blocking the skin pores. These develop to permanent wrinkles, and before you know it, boom! Your face looks like that of an old grandma.

A lot of us won’t agree with this belief, but then given time and the continuous use of rough material for a pillow, the results will confirm one of your worst fears. 

The recommended way of sleeping on your stomach

This post has given various reasons why it is a bad idea to sleep on your stomach. 

Suppose you have gotten used to this habit such that any other sleep position will result in a complete lack of sleep? What can you do? Continue sleeping on your stomach and risk your life instead? A big no! There are ways you can still sleep on your stomach and reduce its consequences. 

The first thing to do is to support your head by placing a thin pillow on your forehead. A thin pillow will enable you to align your neck with your spinal cord and give you room for breathing. This reduces the effect of twisting your neck hence allowing sufficient blood to circulate to your brain. There are several options when it comes to choosing the best thin pillow for neck and head support. You can check out on the various affordable and best quality pillows at amazon.

The pressure on your stomach and its organs and the difficulty in breathing can be reduced by placing a pillow under your pelvis. The pillow will help raise your abdomen to a more neutral position. The stomach will be rid of the pressure and the chest will get sufficient room for ribs to expand and contract while breathing. The best pillows for stomach sleepers can be found from amazon. This can also be reduced by getting the best mattress for stomach sleepers.

It is also advisable to avoid sleeping on your stomach immediately after taking a meal. You should give time for your food to settle before sleeping. This will reduce the effect of acid reflux as discussed above. It will also enable your digestive system to function properly.

How to stop sleeping on your stomach

You could be struggling with transitioning from sleeping on your stomach to other sleep positions. It might not be a simple task, and no matter how much you try to do it, you still find yourself waking up facing downwards. 

Don’t worry, all is not lost. There is still something you can do about it.

The first natural position to transition to is sleeping on your side. This can be problematic since switching back to sleeping on your stomach is so simple. To ensure that you remain in this position for long, try to cuddle a pillow. You can also place a pillow between your knees as you sleep. The pillow that your embrace or the one between your knees will help prevent involuntary turning that could lead you to sleep on your stomach again. With time, the body will get used to sleeping in this position.

the other thing that you could do is to ask for help from your partner. Your partner could cuddle you or keep you in check just in case you try to turn to your favorite sleeping position. 

Other recommended sleeping positions

Various people adopt different sleep positions over time. The sleep position that you prefer depends on the level of comfort and relaxation that you get while asleep. Despite having several sleep positions that can be adopted, all of them fall on the three major categories. Sleeping on your stomach is one of them. Since we have looked at sleeping on your stomach comprehensively and its possible consequences, let’s discuss the other two positions that you can sleep in and still be relaxed throughout the night.

Sleeping on your back

Woman sleeping on her back

Sleeping on your back has got so many variations that will need its own blog post to discuss it completely. However, in a general view, it involves sleeping while you face upwards. Despite it being an option for those who can’t sleep on their stomach, it is also discouraged for pregnant women since it has far-reaching consequences on their general well being. But nonetheless, sleeping on your back has no problem considered to sleeping on your stomach. You should always make sure to fill gaps left by your body shape. This is particularly important for those people with wide hips. This can be done by stuffing a thin pillow to support your abdomen. These pillows can be obtained from Amazon.

Sleeping on your side

Woman sleeping on her side
Image by Claudio_Scott from Pixabay

Sleeping on your side is the most preferred and the most recommended position for everyone apart from toddlers below year one. One can sleep on the side while curled up in a fetal position or sleep straight like a log. One can also sleep on either side, but for pregnant women, it is recommended that you sleep on the left side.

You should always support your head with a pillow to make the neck vertebrae retain the general alignment of the spine. There are various recommended pillows for this sleep position and can be obtained from Amazon. 

Is it bad to sleep on your stomach while pregnant?

Despite the idea of a pregnant mother sleeping on their stomach sounding weird, most expectant women still do that during their early periods into pregnancy. This, however, becomes unbearable as the pregnancy grows with time. 

Sleeping on your stomach while pregnant is a bad idea. This is because the extra weight around the middle will increase the pull on your spine. Since you are ‘sleeping for two’, your baby will have limited space between your spine and the mattress, hence limiting their motion.

However, experts still advise that should a pregnant mother really need to sleep on their stomach well into their trimester, they should get a doughnut-shaped pillow. This pillow is specially designed to support the protruding belly and make the mother comfortable while reducing pressure on the baby.

The most recommended sleeping position for a pregnant person is sleeping on their left. According to a 2012 medical study, this sleeping position is recommended during pregnancy as it increases healthy blood flow for both the baby and the mother.

Pregnancy comes with its challenges. This is especially experienced during the last trimester. Pregnant women begin to feel uncomfortable, restlessness sets in, and with time, they take longer to fall asleep. It could be the right time to try a weighted blanket. But before you do that, you might want to check out: Weighted Blanket and Pregnancy: Is it worth the hype?

Parting shot

Sleep is meant for relaxation. However, at times, people wake up more tired than when they went to bed. In most cases, this is directly contributed by the sleep position that you adopted. 

Sleeping on your stomach is particularly discouraged because of its numerous effects on your general wellbeing. This might sound like a hard blow to those who have gotten used to sleeping on their stomach such that transitioning to other positions at this stage becomes difficult. The good news is that there are some recommended ways in which you can still sleep on your stomach and avoid wreaking havoc on your body. 

You can still adopt a few ways in which it can help you to stop sleeping on your stomach. The bottom line is that we care and we don’t want you to be a victim of sleeping on your stomach. Therefore, find a suitable method and start your journey to a relaxed and comfortable sleep without any worries today.

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