The Myths Of Sleeping On Your Tummy
Are you a Stomach Sleeper?
Over the coming weeks, I will be asking Dunbar Physio’s Peter Curtain pertinent questions about Stomach Sleeping and posting his informative answers on here for you to read!
Below you’ll find our first two Sleep Q & A’s!!!
Peter Curtain, Physiotherapist, Dunbar Physio, 2011
1. From your experience, what kinds of problems can arise if you are a stomach sleeper?
From a physio point of view, stomach sleeping causes 2 major spinal problems: neck (cervical) pain and low back (lumbar) pain.
While stomach sleeping, the small joints of the spine (facet joints) are forced into extremes of range causing both discomfort and inflammation. The stomach sleeping position forces the head to be fully rotated to one side and tilted (laterally flexed) upward due to the height of the pillow. This position strongly compresses joints on one side of the neck and stretches joints on the other.
While on the stomach, the lumbar spine is put in a fully arched (lordotic) position. The lumbar facet joints are compressed together causing discomfort and possibly inflammation.
2. If I am having neck problems, should I be thinking of changing from a stomach sleeper to a back sleeper?
Certainly a review of your sleep position and then perhaps a change of position may be appropriate.
As mentioned, stomach sleeping stresses the cervical facet joints which may be the cause of the problems or be contributing to their continued aggravation. An alternative position would be to sleep either on the back or in side lying.
With any change of sleep position, we need to be patient and let the body adapt to it over a week or so. Sleeping in these new positions may be more comfortable with a pillow under the knees (on the back) or between the knees (side lying).
Usually, stomach sleepers do better on firmer feeling mattresses. Consider Essentia mattresses for optimal performance and spinal alignment.