Is sleeping on your stomach bad for you? Yes, but you can fix that — here’s how

A caucasian woman sleeps on her stomach in a white bed
(Image credit: Getty Images)

An estimated 7% of adults choose to sleep on their stomachs, but could sleeping face down actually be harmful to your health? Studies show that sleeping on our stomachs is the worst position for back support. This is because sleeping on our stomachs can cause our spines to dip out of alignment, causing back pain and, subsequently, disrupted sleep. 

When our sleep quality is diminished, it can lead to a whole host of other ailments, including poor cognitive function, a weakened immune system and, in the long term, increase our risk of developing cardiovascular disease.    

But while waking up with aches and pains and battling sleep deprivation is certainly no fun, there is one main benefit to sleeping on your stomach. Experts believe that sleeping on your stomach could help you to stop snoring

Thankfully, choosing the best mattress for stomach sleepers could help you sleep comfortably — and safely — on your front. But first, let’s look at the ways sleeping on your stomach could be harmful to your health, and how we can fix them. Let’s get started.

Three reasons why sleeping on your stomach is bad for you

1.  It causes misalignment of your spine  

When you sleep on your stomach, your torso sinks into the mattress and your back arches in response. This misalignment of your spine can quickly lead to back pain, especially if you currently sleep on a soft mattress which have a greater 'sink in' feel. Not only is waking after holding your spine in this position for a prolonged period of time can be agony, it can lead to your sleep needs not being met, which can lead to bigger knock-on health implications. 

Man sits on edge of bed with hand on his back

(Image credit: Getty Images)

How to fix that: Opt for a mattress that is firm enough to hold your spine in correct alignment, even when sleeping on your stomach. (Scroll to the bottom of the page for our pick of the best mattress for stomach sleepers). A medium-firm mattress should support your stomach sleep position, while also being comfortable for combi sleepers, too.

2. Your neck suffers, too

It’s not just your back that suffers when you sleep on your front — poor sleep posture can wreak havoc on your neck, too. In order to breathe freely, you need to turn your head to one side when you sleep on your stomach. But sleeping on a pillow that is too high can push your neck at an uncomfortable angle towards the top of your back. This can lead to stiff necks and headaches. 

How to fix that: Invest in a thin pillow that specifically supports your neck while sleeping on your stomach. One of the best pillows for stomach sleepers is the Tempur-Pedic Tempur Cloud Pillow, which is packed full (not too full) of NASA-developed cooling material that gently cradles your neck while sleeping on your stomach or back.

3. Your shoulders are unsupported 

When sleeping on your stomach, your shoulders are placed under increased pressure which can leave them feeling achy and numb. Which, after sleeping in this stress position for the past eight hours, is hardly surprising. 

How to fix that: Investing in a new mattress topper could transform the current feel of your existing mattresses, without the expense of buying a new mattress. The best mattress for stomach sleepers will provide blissful pressure relief to tired shoulders, and body contouring support. The Saatva Graphite mattress topper is our top choice for the best mattress topper for back pain, thanks to its soothing body hug feel. 

Woman stretches her neck after waking up

(Image credit: Getty Images)

What is the best mattress for stomach sleepers? 

Sleeping on your stomach can cause spinal misalignment, which can lead to both back and neck pain — especially if your mattress is too soft. Instead of simply vowing to stop sleeping on your stomach (tell that to your sleeping self), opting for the best mattress for stomach sleepers will help mitigate any aches and pains. 

A relatively firm mattress will ensure that your spine doesn’t dip too deeply into the mattress, which can put your spine under stress. Instead of sinking in, a firm mattress will hold you on top of the mattress and in the correct position. Our team of expert mattress testers recommend a medium-firm mattress which will suit most sleeping positions, as we tend to move around while we sleep. 

The Awara Natural hybrid mattress tops our best mattress for stomach sleepers guide, thanks to the excellent level of support it offers to both stomach and combination sleepers. And that’s in addition to its all-natural credentials (you can read our full Awara Natural hybrid mattress review here). Right now, there’s an up to 50% off sale at Awara, which brings the price of a queen size mattress down to $949 from $1,699. 

Nicola Appleton
Sleep Features Editor

Nicola Appleton is Sleep Features Editor at Tom’s Guide, specialising in quality news content surrounding sleep and wellbeing. Nicola cut her teeth as a journalist in a busy newsroom in Bristol, UK, 15 years ago as part of a team at Britain's largest independent press agency. Since then, her job as a journalist has taken her to the States, to Sydney, and then back to Blighty, where she has written and edited features for a whole host of prominent British and international brands, including  The Independent, The Sydney Morning Herald, HuffPost, Refinery29, Stylist and more. As well as tackling the vast topic of sleep, Nicola will be joining the raft of expert mattress reviewers at Tom's Guide, helping steer readers towards the very best mattresses on the market.