Sleeping on the stomach is regarded by many doctors and experts as the worst position to get through the night. Many of us grew up lying down on our fronts clueless as to its potential drawbacks.
However, a deep dive into the topic of how to sleep better can reveal the numerous reasons why your favorite sleeping position is a no-no. Once you notice that lying down on the sides or the back is healthier for the spine, the temptation to switch to one of those positions as a stomach sleeper can be high.
You may, therefore, try lying down on the back or sides only to realize that the sudden switch may be harder than you envisaged. How do you stop sleeping on the stomach successfully? Is it even possible to switch from the stomach to the back or sides?
What Are the Best Alternative Positions For Stomach Sleepers?
Well, it is no longer a secret that lying down on the stomach may not be the healthiest position. But what is the best alternative?
Sleep.org experts rate back sleeping as number one even if it is not the most popular. This is because lying down on the back frees up the head, neck, and spine to achieve a neutral position. The result is a perfect redistribution of body weight to ensure you can wake up fully recharged and ready to go without pain and discomfort.
If you suffer from GERD or chronic acid reflux, lying face up can be great for the condition. As long as you get a pillow that provides the correct elevation for the neck and spine, getting through the night without problems can be a huge possibility.
Side sleeping can be a great option for those who suffer heartburn regularly. The straightening of the legs and torso during this position elongates the spine meaning you’re less likely to wake up to discomfort.
If you snore loudly due to sleep apnea or another condition, side sleeping may be the best for you.
Are you looking for more comfort at night as a side sleeper? Check out the article we wrote on the Best Mattress Toppers For Side Sleepers
Reasons Why You Should Stop Sleeping On The Stomach
Well, you’re now aware that sleeping on the tummy may not only be bad but can even be dangerous for your health. But how exactly does this position affect your sleep especially among those who derive more comfort compared to lying down on the back or sides?
1. Limited Oxygen Flow To The Brain
Experts believe that lying down on the tummy constricts the arteries close to your backbone because the head gets turned to the other side with the hands wrapped around pillows. This can limit the amount of oxygen flow to the brain.
Research has proven that the arteries of people with high levels of cholesterol typically suffer plaque blockage during stomach sleeping. Thus, lying down on the gut can be even fatal as the brain is starved of critical oxygen.
Sure, only insanely high cholesterol level patients could lose their lives due to their sleeping positions but why take the risk at all?
2. Neck Soreness And Stiffness
Sleeping on the stomach puts the neck in an unnatural position continuously throughout the whole night, according to Healthline. Blood vessels in the neck and shoulders may also be constricted throughout sleep thanks to the limited movement.
This can result in permanent nerve damage over time unless you switch to another sleeping position that is less stressful on the neck.
Also, the unnatural angling of the neck during stomach sleeping means a higher probability of waking up to a sore and stiff neck. This can lead to a lot of pain and discomfort that may affect maximum productivity at work or in school.
Are you tired of suffering neck pain? Click here to discover the article we wrote on Sleeping Without A Pillow: Everything You Need To Know
3. Excessive Pressure On The Joints
The Joint says sleeping on the belly can be a surefire way of putting excessive levels of pressure on the knees, elbows, and feet. This means twisting of those delicate joints in awkward angles that can cause significant pain in the morning.
It is not uncommon to wake up with numb feet or joints thanks to the complications of sleeping on the front. Others report numbness especially in the feet area which can cause walking difficulties and other forms of discomfort.
Thus, if you want to lower the risk of walking with a limp in the future, the time to switch to another sleeping position is now.
4. Unnatural Spine Positioning
Harvard Health reports that sleeping on the tummy is one of the most common ways of suffering spinal pain. This is because it inhibits the neutral positioning of the spine leading to excessive pressure on the back region.
By the time morning comes, the whole back or a significant portion is already sore and achy. Once you continue sleeping on the front, the excessive pressure exerted in the back can reduce the length of the backbone.
This may lead to chronic back pain and significant disruptions in your sleep quality over time.
5. Less Breathing Efficiency
Lying down on the tummy puts the chest in direct physical contact with the sleeping surface. This can compress the chest and reduce the efficiency of the sleeper’s breathing.
The result is excessive grogginess and fatigue by the time you wake up in the morning due to the lack of optimum oxygen supply to every area of the body.
Additionally, the soft tissue in the chest can get exposed to excessive pressure meaning a higher risk of suffering congestion, cysts, or inflammation of breast tissue known as mastitis.
According to Mayo Clinic, symptoms of mastitis may include consistent burning sensation especially in breastfeeding women as well as fevers and a general feeling of being unwell. Swelling of the breast and even breast lumps are also common.
6. Acid Reflux, Gastritis, And Ulcers
Did you know that going to bed in the belly position can exert unbearable pressure on the stomach itself? Surrounding organs such as the liver may also be affected resulting in interruptions in their daily functioning.
So while lying down on the front might feel more comfortable, it can affect the quality of your health over the long run.
Besides, hitting the hay in this position immediately after a full meal may lead to acid reflux and associated side effects such as heartburn and pain. Remember, acid reflux can lead to stomach ulcers and gastritis in the long run.
Looking for natural remedies to battle chronic heartburn? Click the link to read the epic piece we wrote on Sleeping On The Left Side:7 Health Benefits You Didn’t Know
7. Facial Wrinkles and Aging Signs
Have you ever looked in the mirror after waking up from a stomach sleeping position? The wrinkles on the face can be staggering.
Lines and creaks on the pillows and bedsheets may be directly imprinted onto your face, especially in the cheeks and forehead.
Besides, sleeping with your face compressed to a pillow or mattress throughout the night can starve the facial muscles of important blood supplies. The result is facial puffiness in the morning and over time, the skin begins to lose its elasticity.
Wrinkles and facial lines become permanent fixtures on the skin in the long-term especially on the cheeks and under the eyes. The shoulders and neck also begin showing signs of aging such as lines and wrinkles.
have you read the article we wrote about Sleeping After Botox? Click the link to discover how to enjoy a pleasant night after the powerful anti-aging procedure.
8. High Blood Pressure
Have you been diagnosed with cardiovascular problems? If yes, did you know that going to bed in the stomach position can cause more issues for the heart?
That’s right! Lying face down may increase the pressure on the heart meaning extra stress that can surge your heart rate and arterial pressure.
Remember, sleep naturally lowers down not only the body’s temperature but the heart rate as well. Hypertension in the middle of the night can, therefore, inhibit falling and staying asleep.
Additionally, since lying down on the tummy is linked with mediocre quality of shuteye, blood vessels can constrict, leading to high blood pressure
9. Numbness In The Arms
Lying down on the front can be so uncomfortable for the body that most people are forced to seek additional support from the arms. This may result in the sleeper interlocking both arms and putting his head on it.
Others try to prop up support for the head by placing their arms under the pillows. This increases the pressure on the arms and reduces blood flow to the region. As a result, you’re likely to wake up to numb arms, a condition that is known medically as Paraesthesia.
Tips To Stop Sleeping On Your Stomach
Even if you’ve been sleeping on the stomach all your life, putting an end to the habit is not impossible. Now that you know the various problems associated with that sleeping position, getting the extra motivation to transition away from it should be easier.
Here are the critical steps to stopping stomach sleeping for good:
1. Prepare Your Mind
The mind is the most powerful part of the human body. As long as you convince the mind of the need to make any changes in life, achieving it physically becomes much easier.
Sure, this does not mean you won’t suffer problems getting it done or you can simply roll over into another sleeping position without effort. But, enlisting the help of the mind can increase your endurance levels significantly.
This means you can be better equipped to deal with problems encountered during the transition process.
One of the most powerful ways to prepare mentally is to keep reminding yourself of all the reasons why sleeping on the stomach is bad before going to bed. Then tell yourself that you have to make changes now before things get worse.
Even when you drift off to sleep, these powerful words can be engraved in your thought process. Additionally, you can try both back and side sleeping to determine which one is more comfortable.
Keep telling yourself repeatedly that you’ll sleep in the newly determined position from now onward especially just before bedtime. For instance, if you’ve decided to switch to back sleeping, keep telling yourself over and over again that “I’ll sleep on my back from now”
But don’t just pay lip service, switch to the back, and remain there until you doze off into Dreamland. Over time, you’ll find the new position much more comfortable.
Besides, every time you wake up on the stomach in the middle of the night, switch back to the new position and maintain it until you fall asleep again.
2. Sleep In The Sofa Or Stack Up Pillows
Sleeping on the sofa can be a great way for long-term stomach sleepers to switch to another position. The limited space in sofas means that once you go to bed on the sides or the back, you’re more likely to maintain the position for the rest of the night.
This is unlike a large bed where you can easily switch to the default stomach sleeping position unintentionally while asleep.
If you struggle to get the much-needed rest in sofas, another option may be to stack up pillows on each side of your body with little room to maneuver. Then go to bed on your back or sides keeping in mind that there’s no space for rolling over back onto your belly.
3. Use Cervical Pillows
If you’re desperate to switch from stomach sleeping to the back or sides, cervical pillows can come in handy. These pillows provide extreme comfort for side and back sleepers but nearly impossible to sleep on the front.
This can make it easier to switch from stomach sleeping since nobody wants to lie down with unbearable levels of discomfort.
In a matter of weeks, you may get so attached to the newly-forced position that switching back to stomach sleeping even on a regular pillow can seem uncomfortable. This trick may work well for those who have been struggling to shift from tummy sleeping without success in the past.
I always look forward to retiring to bed on my Milemont Memory Foam Cervical Pillow from Amazon after a hard day of work. It has transformed the quality of my sleep by eliminating neck stiffness and shoulder pain since I ordered it 3 months ago. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
3. Get Hypnotized
Did you know that hypnotherapy has a track record of success in helping people change from even the oldest habits? Well, there’s a ton of research to back that up.
From excessive drinking to smoking and even serious drug addictions, hypnotherapy has helped many people break away from some of the most difficult habits.
The process involves a hypnotherapist who voices suggestive commands while you’re in a state of trance. Due to the enhanced relaxation and focused state of mind, the commands and images presented will likely have the desired impact on you.
This can help even the most stubborn people switch from stomach to side or back sleeping. If you have a friend undergoing this form of therapy, you can ask him or her for a referral to a reputable hypnotherapist in your city.
A quick Google search can also reveal popular hypnotherapy practitioners close to where you live or work.
However, if the act of hypnotherapy sounds unnerving, enlisting your partner or close friend to tag along during sessions can be a smart move. Alternatively, you can ask the hypnotherapist to videotape your sessions for a personal review later.
4. Try Tennis Balls or Marble
Sometimes, the ability to break away from a bad habit successfully requires some creativity. If your attempts at quitting stomach sleeping aren’t working, a good option may be to tape a marble or tennis ball on your chest.
Every time you accidentally lie down on the tummy, the ball will press against the chest and lead to discomfort. This can force you to stick to the back or sides until that position becomes the default.
5. Enlist Your Partner’s Help
Your partner’s help can be critical to quit the unhealthy habit of lying down on the tummy at night. If you share a bed, tell your partner to roll you over gently each time he or she wakes up in the middle of the night and notices that you’ve switched back to your old position.
Since the amount of progress being made can be difficult to measure, a partner can also keep an eye on you during the night.
Each time your partner wakes up, he can monitor your default position to determine whether you’re making progress in the quest to change from stomach sleeping.
6. Be Patient
Patience is a virtue and this old saying rings true when trying to shift from sleeping on the belly to another position. Understand that it is a process that can take weeks or even months to master. After all, you may have been sleeping on your tummy practically all your life.
You wouldn’t expect the brain to get comfortable with another position overnight, would you? As long as some progress is experienced, however small it may be, know that you’re on the right track and commit to completely overhauling your default sleeping position.
7. Switch To The New Position Every Time You Wake Up
Have you just woken up on your belly after going to bed on the back or sides? Know that it is only normal. The body is still used to the old sleeping position and is yet to get comfortable with the new one.
So don’t beat yourself up too much. Instead, every time you wake up on the tummy, gently roll over to the side or back and resume sleeping. It is only a matter of time before these slip-ups become a rare occurrence.
8. Use Some Accountability
Accountability can be a great method to find the motivation to achieve difficult results. There are a variety of ways to go about it. For instance, you can tell your partner that every time you’re caught lying on the tummy, you’ll pay a fine of $10 or do boring chores such as dishwashing or cooking.
The quest to avoid paying up or doing those chores can be engraved in your subconscious, leading to a quick getting used to sleeping in another position.
9. Try Different Tactics
While one tactic may work well for somebody, your body may be more receptive to another. So pick a few of the tips above and practice them for a couple of weeks. If at the end of those weeks, you’re not experiencing any progress, you may have to switch it up again.
This can help you gain the necessary results much quicker.
10. Sleep In A Recliner
Sleeping in a recliner can be a smart way to kick a long-term stomach sleeping habit. These specialized chairs force sleepers to lie down on the back throughout the night with little room to roll over to another position.
Over time, back sleeping which is regarded as the healthiest position can become the norm.
The JUMICCO Fabric Recliner Chair from Amazon allows me to sleep pleasantly throughout the night. It features breathable fabric with thick padding for the ultimate comfort while sporting an armrest and footrest for elevating the legs.
Here’re the practical steps to stop sleeping on your stomach regardless of how dedicated you may be to that position. As long as you prepare well mentally, understand that there are no shortcuts to achieving results, and enlist the help of your partner or other accessories, you can finally quit the stomach sleeping position.
Just follow our steps above and you can be a full-fledged back or side sleeper within the spate of a few months. Good luck with your journey.