“Dr. Smith, is it ok to sleep on my stomach?” ~Brian M.

 

This is a really good question I seem to get often, Brian.  The American Chiropractic Association recommends two sleeping postions: sleeping on your side or sleeping on your back. In other words, on your stomach is probably the last position your chiropractor would want you to be in during sleep. But why is sleeping on your stomach not recommended?

One of the biggest reasons stomach sleeping is less than ideal is the strain it can put on your neck and shoulders. This is the result of you’re keeping your head turned to one side all night long. Think about it this way, what if you walked around with your head turned to one side?  After just a few minutes, you would probably start to notice stiffness, soreness, pain, muscle tension, and maybe even dizziness. If it bothers you to stand up and have your head turned to one side for just a short time, imagine what it’s doing to your head and shoulders when they’re in that position all night long!

In the short term, sleeping on your stomach can really stress and strain the soft tissues (muscles, ligaments, and tendons) in the neck and shoulder region. It’s the long term effects of stomach sleeping that can really affect your health. The pressure exerted on the spine, along with pressure on the soft tissue, can cause premature degeneration of the spine. This position can also affect the alignment of the spine and exert pressure on the nerves coming off of the spinal cord in the neck region. Pins and needles in the arms, along with other symptoms, can be the result of this pressure.

So, there are several structures in and around the neck and shoulder region that can be affected by sleeping on one’s stomach at night.  Protect your spine and sleep on your side or back. Proper pillow usage is also key to sleeping in the best and most safe positions. If you have any questions about pillows, pillow placement, or proper sleeping positions, please feel free to ask us on your next visit so we go over it on you.

 

Yours in health,

 

Dr. Kristin Nuccio Smith, DC

 

Sources:

 

American Chiropractic Association: Tips to Maintain Good Posture

Cleveland Clinic: Posture for a Healthy Back

Midweek: Sleep Posture