Sleeping on your stomach is hard on your spine. Here’s 3 reasons to avoid stomach sleeping.
Sleeping on your stomach forces a person to make a decision. How am I going to breath with my face in this pillow, the simple answer is to turn your head to one side or the other. Sleeping with your head turned, however, is going to place a large amount of tension on your upper neck. 70% of the necks turning ability happens at the top two vertebra in the spine called the atlas and axis. Sleeping for hours with the head rotated to breath will cause irritation in the joints that connect the atlas and the axis together. This irritation can and frequently does lead to headaches. Many people that I see in my office for chronic headaches are stomach sleepers.
Just as described in the above paragraph on headaches, sleeping on the stomach also puts a tremendous burden on the neck. Sleeping with the head turned for hours to the left or right will cause all the cervical vertebra to rotate and lock out. Hours of this stress will result in irritation to the joints in the neck. This chronic stress over time leads to neck pain and headaches. Simply moving off the stomach to side sleeping can reduce the amount of headaches and neck pain considerably.
Lower Back Pain
Stomach sleepers frequently put their arms up under their head to elevate it so they can breath. Worse they put their arms up on their pillow and elevate their head with raises them up even further. This move will cause the stomach sleeper to have to hyperextend their lower back. Hours of the lower back being hyper extended will place tremendous loads on the joints in the lumbar spine and pelvis and ultimately result in lower back pain or pain in the sacroiliac joints if they splay out a leg like a frog. Lower back pain is a common side effect of stomach sleeping.
Side Sleeping is Much Better
Simply flipping off the stomach and laying on your side is a much better way to sleep. Make sure to have a pillow that will keep your head in alignment with your upper back and it is also recommended to put a pillow between your knees to keep your SI joints from becoming strained. Learning to not sleep on the stomach and sleeping on the side can help to prevent headaches, neck pain and lower back pain.