Facts About Stomach Sleepers and What They Need from a Mattress
Stomach sleeping tends to get a bad rap among doctors, massage therapists and chiropractors as the worst sleeping position. But despite this, according to a national sleep survey, 16% of the population cite this as their preferred sleeping position. Stomach sleeping does offer some health benefits, but on the wrong mattress, it can lead to major issues.
Benefits of Stomach Sleeping
Your sleeping partner will rejoice to hear that stomach sleeping helps reduce snoring. Stomach sleeping opens up the airways and prevents the tongue from falling back onto the soft palate, one major cause of snoring. Stomach sleeping also aids in positive digestion by allowing gravity to guide food through the digestive tract while you sleep.
Potential Problems of Stomach Sleeping
On the wrong mattress, stomach sleepers run the risk of developing neck, lower back and spinal issues, especially if they also use a pillow. Sleeping on your stomach may allow the hips to sink lower than the shoulders, placing strain on the mid to lower back, neck and spine. Stomach sleeping on a mattress that doesn’t provide enough support can cause the back to arch, over-extending the lumbar spine and leading to chronic lower back problems. For stomach sleepers on the heavier side, these problems can be even worse. Stomach sleepers who also use a pillow and turn their head to the side while they sleep may develop significant neck strain, including herniated disks, as a result of the strain placed on the spine.
What Stomach Sleepers Need from a Mattress
Because of the potential for neck, back and spinal issues associated with stomach sleeping, it’s important to select a mattress that provides enough support to ensure proper spinal alignment. The softer the mattress, the less support it provides. Stomach sleepers should select a firm mattress that will provide a flat surface for their hips to rest on, preventing the spine from sinking and falling out of alignment. In addition to selecting a firm mattress, stomach sleepers can help alleviate neck and spinal issues by sleeping with no pillow, or a very flat pillow, as well as placing a pillow underneath the pelvis to promote a healthy spine curvature.
What Is the Best Mattress Firmness Level for Sleeping on Your Stomach?
Stomach sleepers need to make sure they are selecting a mattress that will provide the best support for their lower back, neck and spine.
Mattress firmness is rated on a scale from 1 to 10, with 1-4 measuring very soft to soft, 5-7 medium to medium-firm and 8-10 firm to very firm.
Very Soft to Soft
Mattresses with firmness ratings 1-4 offer a softness that will allow you to feel more “in” than “on” them. Imagine sinking into a plush cloud. While this may sound appealing, for stomach sleepers this is the worst firmness level because it offers the least amount of spinal support when sleeping on your stomach.
Medium to Medium-Firm
Medium to medium-firm (aka luxury firm) mattresses provide a middle ground between soft and firm. Slightly firm, with a plushness that offers some give, this is the most popular mattress firmness for all sleepers. However, just as with very soft and soft mattresses, the medium to medium-firm mattress will not be firm enough to provide ample support for stomach sleepers. If you sometimes sleep on your stomach but typically sleep on your side or back, this firmness level may be enough to provide the support you need.
Firm to Very Firm
For a substantial feel with minimal surface give, the firm to very firm mattress will provide the best support for stomach sleepers. Firm enough for your hips to lie on a flat surface without sinking below your shoulders, this mattress will give you the feeling of being more “on” than “in” it as you sleep on your stomach. This firmness level will ensure proper spinal alignment for stomach sleepers.
How to Choose the Perfect Mattress Firmness Level for You
If you’re waking with aches and pains or suffer from chronic back pain, it’s a sign your mattress may not be providing the level of support you need. Choosing the perfect firmness level for you depends largely on the position you tend to gravitate more toward when you sleep.
The vast majority of people (74%) prefer sleeping on their side, and given its health benefits, it’s no surprise. Good for reducing snoring and aiding in digestion, side sleeping offers the same health benefits of stomach sleeping, without the potential for contributing to neck, back or spinal issues. With that said, side sleeping can be hard on your shoulders and hips. A mattress with a very soft to soft firmness level is ideal for side sleepers because it provides body-contouring comfort that will help prevent morning aches and pains in your joints.
Back sleeping is considered the healthiest sleeping position for spinal alignment. Because the body’s weight is evenly distributed across all areas of the mattress, back sleepers can sleep comfortably on any firmness level.
In order to avoid neck, back or spinal issues, a firm mattress is needed to provide adequate support for stomach sleepers. A firm mattress will prevent the stomach sleeper’s hips from sinking lower than their shoulders, which would cause the back to fall out of alignment.
For sleepers who switch positions a lot in their sleep or tend to fall asleep in whatever position they land when their head hits the pillow, a medium firmness or luxury firm is ideal. Providing adequate support for stomach sleeping but enough plushness for side sleeping, the luxury firm mattress provides a perfect middle ground that will offer support throughout the night for switch sleepers.
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