A Guide To Perfect the Prone Sleep Position

A Guide To Perfect the Prone Sleep Position

Is the prone sleep position good for you? Stellar Sleep has more about the pros and cons of this stomach sleeping position.

Although sleeping prone isn’t necessarily the “best” way to sleep, it can have certain benefits when done appropriately. Perfecting the prone sleep position can help you make the most of it, providing you with more benefits and decreasing potential disadvantages as much as possible. 

What Are the Benefits of the Prone Sleep Position?

The prone sleep position entails sleeping on your stomach. While sleeping on your back (known as a supine sleep position) offers significantly more health benefits than a prone sleep position, some benefits are unique to stomach sleeping:

Improves Sleep Quality

Sleeping on your stomach may improve your sleep quality. Although there isn’t much conclusive evidence, those who sleep prone may experience fewer middle-of-the-night awakenings. This is key for increasing the amount of time you can spend in deeper REM sleep, where the mind and body can both recover, heal, and grow. 

If you’re waking up frequently in the middle of the night for any reason, you may technically be getting the right amount of sleep, but not in long enough periods for it to be beneficial. 

Reduces Snoring

Do you snore? Is your partner threatening to sleep in a different room if you don’t get your snoring under control? The prone sleep position may help minimize snoring, especially for people with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Sleeping on our stomach can reduce the likelihood of airway narrowing, the primary cause of most snoring. 

How Should You Sleep Prone?

There are many different ways to sleep on your stomach. If you feel most comfortable sleeping on your stomach, making a few small changes to your usual stomach sleeping game can help you benefit most from this position.

For example, stomach sleeping may be most comfortable when your mattress is medium to firm. Anything softer than that can cause you to sink into it, throwing your body out of alignment and causing musculoskeletal pain. 

In addition, minimize the strain on your neck by using a pillow that is as flat as possible — as long as it’s still somewhat supportive. The key is to use these tools to help “force” your body back into natural alignment so you wake up with less risk of pain and soreness.

It’s also important to keep your legs as straight as possible, supporting your lower back and hips. Keeping a leg up and out to the side can be tempting, but that can be harder on your hip alignment over the long term. 

Ultimately, listen to your body and adjust as needed for your well-being. Your body is excellent at making its own adjustments while you’re asleep, moving around until it can get comfortable again. When you find a comfortable, supportive position to fall asleep in, you increase the odds that you’ll sleep more deeply, experience less tossing and turning, and wake up feeling as well-rested as possible. 

Who Should Avoid Sleeping Prone?

Not everyone will benefit from a prone sleep position, even when they put extra precautions into place. For example, infants, those who deal with chronic back pain, and pregnant women should avoid sleeping on their stomachs. 

Infants

There is a reason that the NIH and the American Academy of Pediatrics started and promoted the “Back to Sleep” (now “Safe to Sleep”) campaign for parents and caretakers of newborns and infants — a supine sleep position really is the safest way for them to sleep. 

Scientifically, putting infants to sleep on their backs hasn’t just been shown to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome or SIDS — it’s considered the most critical risk factor related to this tragic event. When an infant sleeps on their stomach, there’s an increased risk that they won’t be able to lift their head up if their airway gets obstructed in their sleep.

Individuals With Back Pain

Sleeping on your stomach is also not the best choice for those who deal with either acute or chronic back pain. Although the firmness of your mattress does play a role, you’re more likely to “sink” into your bed and pull your sleep posture out of healthy alignment when you use a prone sleep position. Pain, whether it’s lower back, neck, or shoulder pain, can easily lead to the development of insomnia if left unmanaged. 

Pregnant Women

The last group of people who should avoid prone sleep positions are pregnant women. Although sleeping position isn’t a concern in early pregnancy, it’s not recommended that pregnant women sleep on either their backs or their stomachs after entering the third trimester (or after about 30 weeks gestation). 

While no direct correlation exists between sleeping prone and adverse pregnancy and birth outcomes, it can put direct pressure on the musculoskeletal system and increase aches and pains in late pregnancy. The result may be a reduction in blood flow to both mom and baby. 

Which Sleep Position Is Best?

There hasn’t been a conclusively proven best sleep position, but sleeping on your side is the most likely to provide you with the most benefits and the fewest drawbacks. 

In fact, studies have been performed that closely looked at the most common sleep positions — side, prone, and supine position — that helped to back this belief with research. Side sleep position (especially if you sleep on yoru left side) is the closest to natural body alignment and can help reduce the likelihood of acid reflux symptoms.

However, most of these studies were performed on people who didn’t deal with chronic sleep disorders or health conditions. They also consider that people often move multiple times in their sleep, landing in different body positions. Your sleep quality depends on the sleep position you spend the most time in, which you may not even be aware of without a sleep study.

If you decide to try side sleeping, there are a few tips to help you have the best experience possible. For example, it’s important that you do what you can to keep your body as in line and symmetrical as possible. 

For added benefit, slightly elevate your neck and head and place a pillow between your legs to support your hips. If you experience any discomfort, continue to adjust until you feel comfortable. 

The Bottom Line

Every body position you sleep in can have advantages and disadvantages, including prone sleep position. Finding a sleep position that works the best for your body and any pre-existing health conditions — like sleep apnea or neck pain — is crucial for helping provide the support you need when you sleep. 

For additional help, take our free sleep quiz to identify any specific areas you may need to adjust to improve your sleep health. Stellar Sleep’s CBT-I coaches are here to help you adjust your sleep routine so you can get the high-quality sleep you deserve. 

Sources:

The effect of the prone sleeping position on obstructive sleep apnoea | PubMed

Safe to Sleep | NIH.gov

The prone sleeping position and SIDS. Historical aspects and possible pathomechanisms | PubMed

The Relationship between Sleeping Position and Sleep Quality: A Flexible Sensor-Based Study | PMC

Maternal sleep position during pregnancy | NCBI Bookshelf

Sleep Position, Age, Gender, Sleep Quality and Waking Cervico-Thoracic Symptoms | NOVA

Complete our free sleep quiz to see:
  • How severe your insomnia is
  • How your sleep compares to others
  • How psychology can help your sleep
SHARE THIS ARTICLE
Break the insomnia cycle tonight

Related Posts