Sleeping on stomach branded ‘unhealthy’ – ‘stressful’ on the spine

Snoring: Doctor explains how to sleep better at night

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Sleep plays a hugely important role in our health and well-being. Without enough, we struggle to function both physically and mentally. But it’s not just lack of sleep that can cause you issues – but the position in which you sleep.

According to sleep expert Kiera Pritchard, from Eachnight Mattresses, sleeping on your front is the least healthy way to lie.

She warned: “Back pain and sleep can exist in an ongoing cycle.

“If you have existing back pain, you might be getting less sleep because you are being woken by the pain, and the lack of sleep can also contribute to back pain because your body does not have enough time to restore its tissues while you sleep.

“A recent study found living with chronic pain can cost a person 42 minutes of sleep and acute pain episodes can cost 14 minutes of sleep.

“Sleeping on your stomach is one of the worst positions for back pain, as it puts unnatural pressure on your spine.

“It forces your neck to rotate to either the right or left side and this position can compromise the flow of blood, lymph, and spinal fluid and may cause joint pain.

“If you struggle to sleep on your back, side sleeping or sleeping in the foetal position is preferable to stomach sleeping.

“Side sleepers who cannot make the change to back sleeping are encouraged to use a pillow between their knees which aligns the hip flexors and neutralises the spine.

“Snorers should also sleep on their side, as back sleeping can make snoring worse. “

Ms Pritchard instead recommended sleeping on your back.

“Sleeping on your back is the most recommended position because the vertebrae in your back can align naturally in a neutral position without any kinks or curves,” she said.

“Sleeping on your back may be healthier for your spine whereas sleeping on your right side is beneficial for your heart. Stomach sleeping is the only position that is considered unhealthy as it is very stressful on your spine.

“Everyone’s body is different, and some positions may be better for you based on your height, weight, or previous injuries, but back sleeping is the most recommended position for those with back pain.“

Aside from helping reduce back pain, back sleeping has a “variety” of other health benefits, she said.

These include:

  • Preventing heartburn and acid reflux
  • Wrinkle reduction – back sleeping does not put any unnecessary pressure on the face while you sleep, so it will not cause creases which lead to wrinkles
  • Promoting drainage of the fluids in the sinuses if you have a cold or flu.

Ms Pritchard shared her top tips for sleeping on your back if it doesn’t feel easy at first.

“It may feel unnatural to sleep on your back at first, so try doing something enjoyable in this position for several nights, for example, listen to your favourite album or podcast while lying comfortably on your back,” she said.

“These exercises will help train your mind to associate this position with comfort.

“Use pillow props – many people feel vulnerable when sleeping on their backs, but you can counteract this by recruiting an array of pillows to support you. Most people feel supported with one pillow under each arm and one under the knees.

“Persistence – even if you fall asleep on your back, you will likely wake up in a different position. When you wake up, just flip back to your back and try again.

“Eventually, you will spend most of your time sleeping on your back.”

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