If You Sleep On Your Stomach, This Is What Happens To Your Body

When you lie down to sleep, you probably have a preferred position, but is there any advantage to one over another when it comes to getting good sleep? And is sleeping on your stomach actually harmful?

Sleeping on your stomach may provide some comfortable pressure on your chest and stomach, but over time it can cause back and neck pain. This is because the weight from the torso pulls down on the back, causing misalignment of the spine during the night, according to Healthline. Because the spine is at the center of our body's network of nerves, this kind of misalignment can also cause referred pain throughout the body.

Stomach sleeping — also known as the prone position, according to Sleep.org – can make breathing difficult, as well. This is because of the effect of gravity, which naturally pulls the body into the bed. More energy is required to fill the lungs and move the torso while breathing.

If you can only sleep on your stomach, try this

Sleeping on your stomach does reduce the likelihood of snoring and sleep apnea, according to Amerisleep, but the tradeoffs are risky. Over time, the need to turn your neck to the side on the pillow can cause problems with alignment and lead to pain.

Chiropractor Andrew Bang told the Cleveland Clinic to think of sleep positions the way you would if you were awake. "Imagine standing and looking one way for two or three hours at a time. Stretching your neck muscle for that long creates soreness," he said.

If you absolutely can't break the habit of stomach sleeping, consider placing a soft, flat pillow underneath the stomach to better align the spine. Sleeping without a pillow under your head will also keep your neck from curving unnaturally.

Remember that the recommendation for infants is always to sleep on their backs, which has been found to stabilize heart rate, and lower rates of sudden infant death (via American Academy of Pediatrics).