June 11, 2023

Is Sleeping On Your Stomach Bad?

Spending the night on your belly can cause pain in your back, neck and shoulders

man sleeping on his stomach

Falling face-first can lead to aches and pains — especially if that describes how you hit the sheets at night to go to sleep.


Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

Sleeping face down on your stomach can put extra stress on your back, neck and shoulders. That little bit of tension can add up over seven or eight hours, leaving you feeling a little worse for wear by the time the sun rises.

So, how can lying still and doing nothing make your muscles hurt? Chiropractor Andrew Bang, DC, has your answer and some tips to help you rest a bit easier.

Should you sleep on your stomach?

Let’s get right to the point: The answer to this question is usually NO, especially when it comes to treating your spine right.

Studies show that your choice of sleeping position can increase or decrease spinal pain, notes Dr. Bang. That’s a big deal, given the massive spike in neck and back pain reported in recent years.

Sleeping on your side or back is considered the best for your back and neck. (Learn more about these positions and variations.)

“You spend about one-third of your life sleeping,” says Dr. Bang. “How you position yourself during that time matters. Your goal should be to take as much pressure as possible off your joints and muscles.”

Sleeping prone on your stomach is generally not recommended. Here’s why:

Back pain

Sleeping comfortably is all about body mechanics. “You have to keep your spine in alignment, just like your car,” explains Dr. Bang. “If you hit a bump with your car, you can still drive — but you feel a shudder and know it’s not good.”


In the same way, bad postural habits when you sleep aren’t good for your body. Sleeping on your stomach throws your alignment off by flattening and abnormally twisting your spine’s ideal curve.

“It puts added stress on your lower back — and that’s a part of the body that most of us are already taxing in our day-to-day activities,” says Dr. Bang. “Stomach sleeping doesn’t give those muscles a chance to rest and recover.”

Neck pain

Sleeping with your belly against your bed requires a turn of your head one way or the other to avoid suffocating in your pillow. That twist of your noggin pulls your body out of its natural alignment for a looong period of time.

Imagine locking your neck into that position for hours at a time during the day. It would eventually start to hurt, right? The same principle applies when you’re snoozing.

“Stretching your neck muscle for that long creates soreness,” says Dr. Bang.

Sleeping on your stomach also extends your neck backward, compressing your spine. This can lead to a tingling sensation as your arm “falls asleep” from constricted blood flow and compressed nerves.

Shoulder pain

What do you do with your arms if you sleep on your stomach? Most people naturally raise them up, maybe even tucking one arm (or both) under the pillow. That positioning keeps tension on your shoulder joint.

“You’re creating a situation that can eventually lead to rotator cuff problems or other shoulder issues,” states Dr. Bang.


Facial wrinkles

Sleeping face down on your stomach basically mushes your facial skin, which brings consequences. Researchers found that a prone sleeping position brings wrinkle-forming compression and stress.

Babies and sleep position

While stomach sleeping can lead to aches and pains for adults, it can be deadly for infants.

Safe Sleep” recommendations by the American Academy of Pediatrics emphasize that babies should always be placed on their backs to sleep. Sleeping on their belly carries an elevated risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

How to stop stomach sleeping

If you’re a regular stomach sleeper and want to change your overnight position, it can be done, says Dr. Bang. His advice to help with the transition? Use pillows.

A few well-placed pillows can basically serve as bumpers that keep you from turning onto your stomach during the night. Over time, you can train your body to remain in the side or back position.

“It takes a little practice,” he says, “but if you’re sleeping on your stomach and make the change, odds are you’re going to wake up in the morning feeling better.”

Related Articles

person sitting on bed stretching
January 22, 2024
How To Become a Morning Person

Break up with your snooze button by shifting your bedtime and establishing a consistent nighttime routine

person in wheelchair lifting weights in gym
December 26, 2023
7 New Year’s Resolutions To Improve Your Heart Health

Resolve to move a little more, drink a little less, eat a little healthier, sleep a little better and destress a lot

Top view of person sitting in bathtub with cold water and lots of ice.
November 26, 2023
Brrr! What To Know About Cold Plunges

An ice bath can ease sore muscles and decrease inflammation after a workout

woman sleeping
November 1, 2023
Is It Bad To Sleep in a Bra?

Head to bed in a bra to reduce breast pain, nipple irritation and stretch marks

Person relaxes in bed reading before going to sleep at night.
September 24, 2023
Sleep Hygiene: 7 Tips for a Better Bedtime Routine

Winding down before bed is key to better sleep

Person sleeping with dog in bed on starry night background.
August 3, 2023
Should You Be Sleeping With Your Pet in Bed?

If they affect the quality of your sleep, keep your pets out of your sheets

A couple lie on a matress at the store to test firmness.
May 23, 2023
A Good Night’s Sleep Starts With a Good Mattress

Look for a firmer mattress and then make adjustments as needed

woman lying in bed with thought bubble above her head
May 11, 2023
4 Benefits of Sleep Meditation and How To Do It

This bedtime exercise can help you fall asleep faster (and stay asleep)

Trending Topics

glass of cherry juice with cherries on table
Sleepy Girl Mocktail: What’s in It and Does It Really Make You Sleep Better?

This social media sleep hack with tart cherry juice and magnesium could be worth a try

Exercise and diet over three months is hard to accomplish.
Everything You Need To Know About the 75 Hard Challenge

Following five critical rules daily for 75 days may not be sustainable

Person in foreground standing in front of many presents with person in background holding gift bags.
What Is Love Bombing?

This form of psychological and emotional abuse is often disguised as excessive flattery