Is it okay to sleep on your stomach?
Chiropractors get this question a lot. The short answer is yes. But there is a major caveat.
First, let me go back. For years I told people they shouldn’t sleep on their stomach because of the way you have to turn your head to one side. I explained that it was too hard on the spine and nerves and could cause damage.
And I was right. Patients were coming in all the time complaining they slept wrong and their neck hurt, or was stuck, or they couldn’t turn their head, etc. all from sleeping on their stomach. So I assumed I was giving them the right information – stop sleeping on your stomach!
But then, two years ago, I toured a daycare. I remember visiting at nap time, and we peeked into a room of sleeping toddlers – the cutest thing ever! They were all on little cots on the floor, butts up in the air, covered with blankets and – wait WHAT?
You know what I am referring to if you have kids – they sleep on their stomach! Babies? Same thing! Try to keep your kid on her back, trust me it just doesn’t work once she can roll.
All this info as a new parent got me thinking. And then researching.
Humans intuitively sleep on their bellies just like almost every other mammal – it is a way of defending ourselves and guarding our sensitive organs. It is also nature’s way of developing a proper curvature of the neck. In fact, babies and kids who don’t sleep on their stomach are likely to have problems with their neck.
So, back to that question.
You can sleep on your stomach if you already have a healthy, trauma-free spine and a fully functioning nervous system.
Kids haven’t experienced the wear and tear that adults have. At least, not most of them. The major problem I see as a chiropractor is that we are sedentary. Sitting alone puts stress on your neck because of seated posture. Add cell phones and computers to that and now you have a recipe for disaster. And then sleep on your stomach with your neck cranked to the side? You’re toast.
But here's the thing - you aren't going to correct your neck problems simply by changing your sleeping position. It is likely going to take adjustments, some specific exercises, and maybe even a few lifestyle changes to get your spine to a place where stomach sleeping is appropriate.
Bottom line: if your kid sleeps on their tum, let them. Encourage it, even. Make sure he is getting checked by his chiro on a regular basis to keep a healthy spine.
You, on the other hand? You need to work on getting your neck healthy before you can do the same. Put your phone down and go get adjusted.