The Downside of Stomach Sleeping

The Downside of Stomach Sleeping
Why sleeping on your stomach is bad for you and how to rid yourself of the habit!

Dr Jacques H Maree, Registered Chiropractor

This comfortable sleeping position may be the culprit of constant neck and back pain and interrupted sleep.

The dreadful neck and back pain that comes and goes!

The gnawing stiffness or irritation is at its worst in the morning but luckily dissipates throughout the day.

You have not recently outdone yourself at the gym, do not suffer from any systemic conditions and you feel you are definitely, way too young to suffer from Gout!

The matress salesman has promised; your brand new matress will have you sleeping like Sleeping Beauty, but why do you feel more like Sleepless in Seattle?

So, where to next?

It could quite possibly be you are sleeping on your stomach at night.

It is well known that sleeping on the abdomen promotes postural strain to the cervical spine and gives poor postural support to the lower back.

While lying on your stomach, one simply cannot sleep face down into a pillow. So, naturally a person turns his/her head to the side. By rotating your head 90⁰ to the left or right, for 6-8 hours, may cause locking or restriction of joint movement and spasmodic, fatigued musculature. Unfortunately leading to a very stiff neck in the morning!


The facet joints of the spine provide smooth movement between the vertebral segments. The orientation of these cervical and thoracic facet joints allows vertebral segments to glide smoothly over each other. This orientation changes when studying the lumbar spine. Their little joints are arranged to allow better flexion and extension compared to rotation.

As in life; a balance is needed between opposite movements to maintain equilibrium. Thus, extension is accentuated for a prolonged period while sleeping on the stomach. These posteriorly located facet joints are unfortunately compressed during the time spent on your stomach and may lead to quite some discomfort.

The preferred posture for sleeping is on your back or side.

For those individuals who have a habit of sleeping on their abdomen, it is often difficult to maintain a side or back position while sleeping. The natural tendency of these individuals is to roll onto the abdomen through the night.

One easy tip is to place a pillow between your thighs while lying on your side. Easy right! The positioning of the pillow would restrict your ability to turn onto your stomach.

While lying on your back, a pillow may be placed behind your knees. This pillow positioning will also prevent rolling onto your side or stomach, as well as maintain the normal curvature of your spine.

Attempting to sleep on your back may bring about snoring. If your morning back pain is associated with a few bruises in the shape of an elbow, the cause may be from something, or someone else entirely different!



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