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The Health Dangers of Sleeping on Your Stomach

 Getting a good night’s sleep is one of the most important things for your overall health, however, there are certain intrications on the way you should sleep as well. While there are certain sleeping positions that are comfortable for you, some are better for your body than others. In particular, medical experts unanimously agree that the worst position is sleeping on your stomach. According to Alex Savy, a certified sleep science coach, sleeping on the stomach could lead to various short-term and long-term health issues. Read on to learn about the dangers of sleeping on your stomach, how to reduce them, or how to unlearn the habit altogether. 

Related: Your Gut and Overall Health May Be Dependent On Your Sleep Position

What could sleeping on your stomach result in?

Most of the issues that stem from sleeping on the stomach are the result of poor spinal positioning. When lying on the stomach, the spine loses its natural curve, and therefore, you can experience tension or strain in the back. This can lead to back pain in the morning or, in more serious cases, chronic pains in the lumbar spine, which is the lower back. You don't just put pressure on your spine when sleeping on the stomach, but on the heart and lungs as well.

Stomach Sleeping: Worst Position For Your Health, man sleeping on his stomach

The position also puts your hips in an anterior position, which further increases the curve of the lumbar spine and can create spinal disk problems. According to Healthline, a herniated disk is another risk that comes with sleeping on your stomach. It is a condition that occurs when there is a rupture in one of the rubbery cushions (disks) that sit between the individual vertebrae that stack to make your spine. When this gel-like material bulges out from the disk, it can irritate the nerves. 


Your neck can also suffer damage, as it is twisted to one side for most of the night. "In order to breathe while lying on your stomach, you must twist your neck to one side. This creates a twist in your neck and puts it out of alignment with the spine," Savy says. That way, one side of the neck gets tight, while the other gets weak. Knots and tension can form in your neck, causing everyday pains and aches, and even more serious neck ailments over time.

 

Stomach Sleeping: Worst Position For Your Health, senior woman having back pain
If your neck, back, and hips weren’t enough, this sleeping position can also cause headaches. The twisting of the neck can lead to neck and shoulder pain and this “tightness in the muscles here can cause pain and can also cause headaches," explained physical therapist Nicole Lombardo.

How can you make stomach sleeping less dangerous?

Despite all these warnings, if there simply isn’t a different position you are able to fall asleep in, there are a few ways you can lessen the damage. Some healthcare experts suggest placing a pillow under your legs, which elevates the feet above the knees and helps minimize backaches. Another helpful tip is to place a pillow under your hips to keep your lower back in a more neutral position. 

It is also important to find a pillow that keeps your head in a more neutral position. "Think of one that has a cutout, like when you get a massage. Or simply alternate which side your head turns to from night to night," is the advice of Lombardo.

Stomach Sleeping: Worst Position For Your Health, woman sleeping on the side
The most helpful thing to do, however, is to simply train your body to sleep on the side, which is considered much healthier. For a smooth transition, wedge a pillow between the stomach and your mattress. Doing so will prevent people who are used to sleeping face-down from rolling over their belly while asleep. At the end of the day, quality sleep will prove beneficial in almost every aspect of your health, so changing your sleeping habits is definitely worthwhile. 
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