It’s often the case that when people sleep on their front, they do so because they’re looking for the most comfortable position. However, comfort is something we have been misled on.
How, you wonder? Well…
The story of comfort
For thousands of years, we’ve been conditioned that what we lie on has to be the most comfortable. This doesn’t change whether comfort to you personally means a soft mattress or a hard one – you would have gone for whatever you find the most comfortable.
Let’s think about comfort again. Imagine you’re in a chair, just sitting. You’re likely comfortable, right?
However, it’s most likely that you have a crossed leg, are slouching or are bent towards either side and are supporting yourself on your elbow.
Both scenarios are comfortable, yet bad for your spine in the long run.
So, comfort is misleading.
Why? Because posture follows the line of the least resistance. If you are used to sleeping on your stomach, of course you will find it comfortable.
However, what it’s doing to your spine is a whole different matter.
The impact of stomach sleeping on your spine
Think about the fact that posture is the eternal fight against gravity.
We know that once you’ve fallen asleep and everything is rested, then the only thing that’s pulling on your spine is your body weight and the gravitational pull, pulling it down.
If your spine is not in a neutral position (and we can essentially guarantee it’s not when stomach sleeping), then gravity is pulling your body weight away from your spine and down towards the bed.
So, you’re putting tension and pressure on your spine and the joints.
The impact of stomach sleeping on your neck
Now, your spine isn’t the only one suffering when you sleep on your front. Let’s not forget, your neck is the most delicate part of your spine. It suffers too.
Well, think of where your head is when you’re getting to sleep. It’s stretching your neck, either all the way left or all the way right.
And whichever way it is, you’re probably always sleeping on the same side, right?
This means that through the night, you’re extending muscles on one side of the neck, and allowing your muscles to shorten on the other side.
If you don’t believe us, you can test this yourself.
Check if your neck is affected by front sleeping
Try this experiment. Sit with your arms by the sides of your shoulders, and turn your head all the way right and then all the way left. Whichever is the side that you sleep on (the side where your face touches the pillow), will be the side you’re able to extend more.
Your head will reach around way further on that side.
Now, for the other side…
The side where your face doesn’t touch the pillow is more than likely to be where you’re restricted in your movement, because you’ve been shortening your muscles all these years.
It’s hard to imagine sitting in a chair for the day while continuously twisting your head one way, so why are you happy to do it at night?
Stop sleeping on your stomach in 4 steps
It feels comfortable, it’s what you’re used to, we don’t blame you for not being too eager to switch up the way you sleep.
However, what we can promise you is that your spine and neck will thank you.
The easiest transition for front sleepers is towards side sleeping.
Many front sleepers partially sleep on their sides already. Just have a look at the photo below.
The ‘before’ picture is the most popular position we’ve come accross (we call it ‘Heavy Lifter’ and it’s the chosen sleeping position of 20% of the UK) – it is a hybrid between side and front sleeping.
To transition from stomach to front sleeping, take these steps.
Do it as slowly or quickly as you like – we know that it’s not going to be easy, especially when it’s the opposite of what you’ve been used to for as long as you remember.
- Start alternating the sides you sleep on. Whether you become a full-blown side sleeper, or still too attached to stomach sleeping to let go, alternate either the side you lie on or the side of your face that touches the pillow.
- If you cross one of your legs across the other, try putting a pillow between your knees and ankles to ‘force’ your hips into alignment. This will help your future side sleeper ambitions.
- Find a pillow that properly supports your head and lifts it off the mattress. Mind that this won’t be an one-size-fits-all pillow that advertises as ‘perfect for side sleepers’. Pick a pillow that comes in different sizes, suited to the size of your body and your sleeping position. You’re trying to fit in the space between your head and the mattress. After all, it makes sense – you’re not the same shape and height as every other human in the world (nor do you wear the same shoe size or have the same glasses prescription), so why would we all be on the same pillow?
- If you are still struggling, grab another pillow and hug it in front of you. This will stop you rolling to your front at night.
Make sure you persist! Changing your lifelong habits is never easy. Only persistence and patience can help you transition to a different way of sleeping.
Do remember, though… Your spine and neck will thank you.
If you are still struggling, why not book a consultation with our posture expert