Stomach sleeping is not common, but if it’s your preferred sleeping position, you’ll want to make it as comfortable as it can be. This article aims to help you pick the perfect pillow for sleep while you’re in this position.
About 7% of people are stomach sleepers.
Sleeping on your stomach can help reduce sleep apnea. On the other hand, it can lead to facial wrinkles and cause neck and shoulder pain.
When sleeping on your stomach, place a pillow under your hips to keep the spine aligned.
Pillows made from down alternative, memory foam, and latex are excellent options for stomach sleepers.
Stomach sleepers usually prefer pillows that have a lower loft, are soft to medium firmness, and offer good support for the head and neck.
Pros and cons of sleeping on your stomach
Stomach sleeping is the least preferred sleep position — only about 7% of people are stomach sleepers. If you are one of them, it’s good to know that this position has advantages and disadvantages.
Pros of stomach sleeping
Research suggests that sleeping on your stomach may help reduce snoring and improve obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) symptoms.
OSA is when the airways get blocked during sleep, interrupting or reducing normal breathing. This happens because the muscles of the throat relax and stop the airflow. Lying face down can help prevent the muscles in the back of your throat from relaxing too much, preventing OSA from happening.
A study published in 2015 found that sleeping on your stomach was better at reducing airway collapse and improving OSA severity than sleeping on your side or back.
Cons of stomach sleeping
Experts discourage sleeping on your stomach. Lying with your face down and your head to the side can put unnecessary strain on your neck and shoulders, causing discomfort. It also increases pressure on your spine, leading to back pain.
Another not-so-great consequence of sleeping on your stomach is facial wrinkles. When you sleep face down, different forces affect your facial tissues. While you shift during the night, your skin gets stretched and pulled in different ways, which can result in wrinkles.
How to sleep on your stomach
If you can't give up sleeping on your stomach, here are some tips to ensure your maximal comfort and safety:
- Place a pillow under your hips. This will lift your lower back and help keep your back in a more neutral position.
- Keep your legs flat. While sleeping on your stomach, you may want to bend your legs, but avoiding doing so is better. Try to keep your legs straight to prevent twisting your spine.
- Head forward. Sleeping on your stomach with your head turned to one side can put excessive pressure on your neck and shoulders. To avoid this issue, try to keep your head facing forward. You can place a pillow under your forehead to elevate your head slightly to help you with this.
- Choose a good mattress. Stomach sleepers should also choose their mattresses wisely. Since they tend to press their hips and tummy into the mattress during sleep, it's essential that the mattress isn't overly soft, as it may conform too much to the body and put pressure on the spine. Choosing a mattress for stomach sleepers may provide adequate support and help prevent back pain, a frequent complaint of stomach sleepers.
- Stretch often. Taking 10 to 15 minutes in the morning to stretch is a good way to alleviate the possible discomfort of sleeping on your stomach.
Pillow types for stomach sleepers
Pillows can be crafted from a wide range of materials, and each has its pros and cons. Let’s explore the main types and how they work for stomach sleepers.
Memory foam is a synthetic material that molds closely to the contours of your head and neck, adding more comfort to your nights. If you’re a stomach sleeper, a memory foam pillow can be a great choice. It can help alleviate tension and maintain spinal alignment. However, brand-new memory foam pillows can have a noticeable odor due to off-gassing. So if you’re sensitive to smells, it might be a good idea to choose a different option.
Latex is a natural material derived from rubber trees. It is the top choice for many stomach sleepers because it's breathable and doesn’t trap heat. Additionally, latex pillows offer great support and can conform to the contours of your head and neck. On the other hand, some people may feel latex pillows are a bit too thick and heavy.
Down and down alternative
Down is a natural material that comes from the soft under-feathers of ducks and geese, valued for its exceptional softness.
If you want something that feels like down but isn’t animal-derived, down alternative pillows are the way to go. They’re usually made from materials like cotton or polyester and mimic the fluffiness of real down.
Stomach sleepers tend to find these pillows comfortable because they’re nice and plush. They’re also less likely to cause allergies compared to down.
Buckwheat pillows are stuffed with buckwheat hulls, the outer shells of buckwheat seeds. These hulls have small spaces between them, promoting airflow and keeping the pillow from becoming too warm.
One benefit of this pillow is that you can adjust its height by adding or removing hulls. However, some people may find buckwheat pillows too firm.
Kapok is a natural material obtained from the seed pods of the kapok tree. Kapok pillows are soft, breathable, and hypoallergenic, making them a good option for stomach sleepers.
Feather pillows are super soft and light. They're a great pick for stomach sleepers because you can customize their height by simply adding or taking out feathers. However, some people may have allergies when sleeping with these pillows.
What to consider when buying a pillow for sleeping on your stomach
Pillows come in all types, sizes, and shapes, making the process of pillow shopping quite challenging. If you happen to be a stomach sleeper, consider these essential features when choosing your next pillow:
- Loft. This is the pillow’s height. Stomach sleepers typically prefer lower loft pillows with a height below 3 in (8 cm).
- Firmness. For stomach sleepers, soft- to medium-firm pillows are usually a good choice, but pillow firmness preference can vary from person to person.
- Shape. Pillows filled with down or down alternatives tend to compress easily and may lose their form during the night, requiring occasional fluffing for comfort and support. Latex pillows, on the other hand, are better at retaining their shape and offering consistent support for stomach sleepers. Similarly, memory foam pillows can compress under pressure but quickly regain their original shape when the pressure is relieved.
- Support. It’s essential that the pillow offers sufficient support for your head, neck, and shoulders. This helps maintain proper spinal alignment.
- Pressure relief. Stomach sleepers often experience pain and discomfort since this position puts excessive strain on the neck and spine. Choose pillows with ergonomic support specifically designed to ensure the correct alignment of your head, neck, and spine. Materials such as latex and memory foam are also great at relieving pressure in these areas.
- Quality. When shopping for a pillow, make sure to check out the quality of the materials. High-quality materials are pricier but generally last longer.
Pillow shopping might seem a simple task, but it can get tricky, especially if you’re a stomach sleeper. To sleep comfortably in this position, opt for pillows that have a lower loft, are soft to medium-firm, and provide excellent head and neck support. Also, prioritize quality materials that will ensure your pillow lasts for many years.