Do you sleep on your stomach most of the time?
Do you sometimes wake up with back pain, a sore neck, acid reflux or assorted aches?
You’ve come to the right place.
What’s In This Guide
These days, I sleep mostly on my side. I used to sleep on my stomach until I realized it was causing lower back pain. On many days, I woke with a stiff neck and sore shoulders.
These complaints are common among stomach sleepers. That’s because stomach sleeping is generally regarded as the worst sleeping position. It has a few benefits but can cause a whole lot of problems – especially if you don't have the right pillow and mattress.
In this sleep guide, I discuss common complaints and issues stomach sleepers experience in bed and the best solutions for these problems. We cover a variety of solutions – from products you can buy to DIY remedies and just good advice.
After discussing issues and solutions, I review the best sleep products to help stomach sleepers sleep more peacefully and awake without pain.
Common Problems Stomach Sleepers Face (With Proven Solutions)
Back Pain That Worsens At Night
The reason I knew my sleeping posture was causing back pain is that the pain used to worsen at night and in the morning. It would then ebb away during the day.
Sleeping on your stomach places pressure and strain on your back, which results in back pain. It also strains many other joints and muscles. Stomach sleepers often wake up feeling sore and stiff all over.
A mattress that’s too soft or a pillow that’s too high will both negatively affect spinal alignment, increasing the risk of back pain.
To prevent back pain when you sleep on your stomach, make sure you are sleeping on a low-loft pillow that keeps your spine and neck in neutral alignment.
One of the best pillows for stomach sleepers is the popular and affordable Bluewave Bedding Ultra Slim Gel Memory Foam Pillow.
Placing a thin pillow under your stomach can also help relieve back pain. The Bluewave pillow is perfect for that.
You may also find that you are comfortable with no pillow at all.
Next, make sure you have a supportive mattress. A medium-firm to firm mattress is ideal for stomach sleepers.
We recommend the Saatva Classic Mattress for most stomach sleepers and the Big Fig mattress for heavier stomach sleepers. We’ve tested both and they are high-quality products with the right level of support for a stomach sleeper.
Alternatively, you can get a supportive mattress topper like the PlushBeds 100% Natural Latex Topper to firm up your mattress. This one is all-organic and the latex foam provides a lot more support than memory foam.
Neck & Shoulder Pain
Because you have to turn your head to one side, sleeping on your stomach also strains your neck and shoulder muscles. You might wake up with stiff and sore shoulders and neck.
Over time, the soreness can worsen into severe or chronic neck or upper back pain.
Again, your pillow is the likely culprit here. It’s probably too thick, which causes your neck to flex upwards.
Try replacing your pillow with a low-loft stomach-sleeping pillow like the Bluewave Bedding Ultra Slim Gel Memory Foam Pillow. If you prefer a softer pillow, we recommend the Continental Bedding goose down pillow.
If that doesn't work, try sleeping with no pillow and see if the pain goes away.
Sore/Aching Shoulders, Ribs And Hips
While stomach sleepers generally need a firmer mattress, your mattress can be too firm. Since it doesn't have much give, it puts pressure on the areas of your body in contact with the mattress. It’s like sleeping on a hard floor.
If your mattress is too firm, you’ll notice the effects mostly in your shoulders, ribs, and hips – the contact points that bear most of your body weight at night.
If you feel your bed it too firm, then a good solution is to buy a thin and soft mattress pad. It adds just enough softness to relieve pressure without making the mattress too compliant and thus screwing with your posture.
We recommend the COONP down alternative mattress pad to soften a too-firm mattress.
Higher Risk Of Long Term Health Problems
If you don't do something about the aches and pains you experience when you sleep on your stomach, you might eventually develop some serious health problems.
One of them is chronic pain. This is pain that persists for months or years. It can target your neck, back, shoulder and other areas.
The constant pressure and strain on joints, muscles and nerves eventually causes inflation and damage, leading to the persistent pain.
In what becomes a vicious cycle, chronic pain leads to insomnia which itself worsens chronic pain.
Another possible long term health problem from sleeping on your stomach is nerve damage.
When nerves are pinched or compressed for a long period, they eventually get damaged. Nerve damage typically starts out with mild symptoms like tingling in your feet and arms.
But it can eventually lead to severe pain in various parts of the body.
Another health risk for stomach sleepers is a herniated disk, usually in your neck. This is called a cervical herniated disk. It can cause pain and numbness in your neck and arms.
Twisting your neck to one side when you sleep on your stomach increases the risk of a herniated disk.
I am glad I finally decided to switch to sleeping on the side.
Changing your sleep position can prevent or reduce these problems.
If you are like me, it may take a while to get used to another sleep position. I recommend using a body pillow like the Snuggle-Pedic full body pillow to train yourself to sleep on your side (hold it against your body to keep yourself from rolling onto your stomach).
Drooling In Your Sleep
This one is not as serious as the others, but it can be embarrassing and icky. Because of gravity, you are more likely to drool onto your pillow when you sleep on your stomach.
This gets your pillow wet, smelly, and stained. For certain pillows like memory foam and latex, exposure to fluids can reduce their lifespan.
If you drool in your sleep, get a waterproof pillow protector like the SureGuard Pillow Protector.
Sleeping On Your Stomach Can Age Your Face
It may not be so obvious because it happens slowly, but sleeping on your stomach can affect the quality and health of your skin over time.
When you sleep on your stomach, one side of your face will constantly be in contact with the pillow. This causes two problems.
The first is friction between your skin and the pillow case. Even a soft cotton pillowcase still applies a substantial amount of friction on your skin. Over time, this can lead to wrinkles and creases appearing prematurely on your skin.
For people with sensitive skin or those prone to acne, it can also trigger breakouts. In fact, there's a specific type of acne – acne mechanica – that's caused by friction on the skin.
The second issue is that the pillow case absorbs natural oils and moisture from your skin, leaving your face dry and vulnerable to damage and breakouts.
The best solution to both these issues is getting a silk or satin pillowcase. Our top pick is the Ravmix 100% Mulberry Silk Pillowcase.
Silk pillowcases are a bit pricey. Satin pillowcases like this set of two from Love's cabin are cheaper and are just as gentle on your skin and hair.
It’s Almost Impossible to Sleep On Your Stomach During Pregnancy
To be clear, sleeping on your stomach when pregnant is not dangerous (back sleeping during pregnancy actually carries more risks). No, you won’t squish the baby.
But it is very uncomfortable. You may be able to do it early on in the pregnancy, but it becomes virtually impossible as your belly gets bigger.
If you really want to keep sleeping on your stomach, you’ll need a special stomach sleeping maternity pillow. The best one we found is the Cozy Bump pregnancy pillow.
Top 10 Products For People Who Sleep On Their Stomach
The Saatva Classic is one of the mattresses we recommend often in our sleep guides. It has great support, a plush pillow top, and doesn't get hot at all.
It is an especially great mattress for stomach sleepers. That’s because it’s generally firmer and offers more support than most mattresses.
That’s down to its dual coil design.
The core of the mattress consists of two layers of springs. The first layer has pocket coils to support and contour to your body.
This layer is firmer in the middle section to provide more support to your hips and back. This eliminates a common problem for stomach sleepers where the mid section of their body sinks lower, resulting in back pain.
The other set of coils are in the base. These are heavy duty tempered steel coils that provide robust support and keep the mattress in form for years and years – no wonder the Saatva Classic has a lifetime warranty.
For pressure relief, the Saatva Classic mattress has a 3” pillow top, again with a zoned design that boosts support in the center third of the mattress.
An additional layer of memory foam provides extra cushioning.
The Saatva Classic also has a feature called Lumbar Zone Active Spinal Wire that improves spinal alignment.
Reading through customer reviews, Saatva Classic users say that all three Saatva mattress comfort options (soft, luxury firm, and firm) are generally firm. So they are all ideal for stomach sleepers.
We recommend the soft for those who weigh under 130lbs, the luxury firm for those who weigh between 130 and 230lbs, and the firm for heavier sleepers weighing over 230lbs.
But don't worry about picking the wrong firmness. If you don't like it, Saatva has a $99 return option. You can then order a different firmness.
You have a whole year to test the mattress at home. If you decide to keep it, you’ll be covered by a lifetime warranty.
By the way, shipping is free and Saatva will even set up the mattress for you and take away the old one if you want.
Issues & Limitations
Be careful which firmness level you choose. Many stomach sleepers who went with the luxury firm (which is supposed to be medium firm) found it a bit too firm.
The firm option is definitely too firm for most people. Go with our weight category recommendations above.
The Big Fig mattress is designed with big bodied sleepers in mind. It provides an extraordinary amount of support by combining heavy duty foam layers with coils.
This allows the Big Fig mattress to support up to 1,100lbs (550lbs per user) of weight for years without sagging.
The Big Fig mattress starts out with four layers of foam: a perforated and gel-infused latex foam layer followed by three layers of high-density polyfoam.
The foam layers provide pressure relief while keeping you from sinking too deep.
At the base of the mattress are pocketed coils that provide deep compression support and prevent sagging.
An edge system consisting of high-density foam ensures the edges of the mattress don't collapse when you sit or lie on them.
Plus sized sleepers tend to sleep hotter, so the Big Fig mattress uses a couple of cooling techniques to keep you comfortable.
The cover is treated with ThermoGel cooling technology that makes the cover feel cool to the touch.
Then there's the first layer of the mattress which is perforated latex foam instead of polyfoam. Latex has excellent breathability and cooling performance. By using it at the top and infusing it with gel, it keeps you cool all night long.
The Big Fig mattress ships free to continental US, comes with a 120-night trial period and has a 20-year warranty.
Issues & Limitations
As expected, the Big Fig mattress is really heavy. It’s tedious to carry it inside and set it up on your bed.
If you live alone, you may need to hire someone to help you set up the mattress. You can also pay $199 for Big Fig’s white glove delivery service. They’ll deliver the mattress and set it up for you.
Latex has an amazing ability to relieve pressure without compromising support, unlike many memory foam toppers that are often too soft for stomach sleepers.
The PlushBeds natural latex topper is the best way to make your mattress more comfortable for stomach sleeping.
It’s important that you choose the right firmness level from the five options available. Consider your weight and whether you want to firm up or soften your bed.
If your mattress is too hard, most stomach sleepers found the medium to be perfect. It relieves pressure while still offering good support and alignment.
If your mattress is too soft and you want to add more support, get the luxury firm or firm topper. The firm option is ideal for a very soft mattress and for heavier sleepers who need more support.
The PlushBeds latex topper is also a great solution if your bed gets too hot. Natural latex is naturally cool and breathable.
The PlushBeds natural latex topper ships free and comes with a 5 year warranty.
Issues & Limitations
Because it’s 100% natural latex, the PlushBeds topper is pricey compared to foam mattress toppers. If you are on a budget try the Amazon Basics firm alternative latex foam topper.
It has the firm support of natural latex but at a way lower price.
For stomach sleepers who find their mattress too firm, a thin mattress pad is usually better than a thicker topper. It adds just the right amount of pressure relief without affecting how supportive the mattress is.
The COONP down alternative mattress pad is plush enough to relieve pressure points but not too soft that it causes back pain.
The COONP mattress pad consists of a 400 thread count cotton cover with down alternative filling inside. It’s basically a thin pad that goes over your mattress.
Unlike a 2 or 3 inch mattress topper, the COONP mattress pad softens your mattress just a bit. So stomach sleepers can still enjoy the firm support from their mattress, but now with a soft pad to cushion their pressure points.
The COONP mattress pad secures to your mattress using an elastic deep pocket that fits under mattresses between 8 and 21 inches thick. It can fit even on a thick pillow top mattress or a mattress with a topper on it.
The COONP mattress pad is machine washable.
Issues & Limitations
COONP advertises this as a cooling mattress pad. It’s true that the breathable cotton cover can help cool a hot foam mattress.
But if you are a hot sleeper, it may still feel a bit too warm. That’s because the down alternative filling cannot match the cooling performance of natural materials like down and wool.
If you want a soft mattress pad that sleeps ultra-cool, try the ROSE Goose Down and Feather Mattress Pad or the Sleep & Beyond Organic Merino Wool Mattress pad.
They are pricier, though.
At 2.75 inches, the Bluewave Bedding Ultra Slim pillow is thinner than most pillows. It provides the perfect height for your neck.
By maintaining proper alignment, the Ultra Slim pillow can prevent neck and back pain.
The Bluewave Bedding pillow has a memory foam core, so it does provide some pressure relief for your head and neck.
The memory foam is ventilated for improved breathability. The bamboo and polyester pillowcase also helps with cooling and sweat-wicking. You can remove and machine wash the cover.
If the 2.75” pillow is not the right height for you, Bluewave Bedding has two other options. There’s a Hyper Slim option that’s 2.25 inches high. It’s ideal for stomach sleepers with a smaller body frame.
There’s also the Super Slim version that is 3.25 inches high. It’s ideal for larger stomach sleepers.
Issues & Limitations
Despite being a memory foam pillow, some stomach sleepers found the Bluewave Bedding Ultra Slim pillow to be a bit too firm for their liking.
It doesn't allow your head to sink into the pillow and can cause some pressure if you are already suffering from neck pain.
If you’d like a softer pillow, try the Continental Bedding Goose Down Pillow, which we review next.
The Continental Bedding goose down pillow may seem too thick for stomach sleeping. But when you lay your head on it, it flattens to a thinner size that supports your neck at the perfect height.
It feels really soft and is especially comfortable if you have neck or shoulder pain.
The filling is soft and natural goose down. It doesn't have feathers mixed in so you don't need to worry about feathers poking out of the pillow.
One advantage of a natural down pillow is that it sleeps cool. If you get hot easily or you experience night sweats, the Continental Bedding pillow is a great choice.
The 400 thread count Egyptian cotton cover also helps keep you cool.
The entire pillow is machine washable, but you need to be delicate with it. Check the cleaning instructions before you put it in the washer.
Issues & Limitations
The Continental Bedding Goose Down Pillow is pricey compared to a down alternative pillow. If you are on a budget, try a fiberfill pillow instead.
It may feel a bit warm and it won’t last as long as a natural down pillow, but it’ll feel just as soft and comfortable
The SureGuard Pillow Protector is not just good for protecting your pillow from drool. It’s also great if you sweat a lot.
The pillow protector has a waterproof lining on the inside that keeps fluids from passing through. That means no stains or funky smells on your pillow.
The pillow protector itself is washable, so it’s easy to keep it fresh.
The surface of the pillow protector is made with a cotton terry fabric. It feels soft against your skin.
This pack includes two zippered pillow protectors. You can choose a standard, queen or king size. There’s also a large pillow protector for body pillows.
Issues & Limitations
An unintended effect of using the SureGuard Pillow Protector is that it keeps your pillow from going down when you lie on it.
That’s because the waterproof lining prevents air from escaping. So your pillow remains puffy, which can lead to a poor sleeping posture.
Users recommend not zipping the protector all the way. Leave a small gap where air can escape.
Unlike cotton, polyester and other fabrics, silk is super soft and smooth. When you sleep on the Ravmix Mulberry silk pillowcase, it’s very gentle on your skin and hair.
You won’t get wrinkles and creases from constantly rubbing your face against the pillow. The silk pillowcase also doesn't pull on or tangle your hair.
Another advantage of using the Ravmix Mulberry silk pillowcase is that your skin stays moisturized through the night. The silk fabric doesn't absorb natural oils from your skin or the moisturizing cream you applied before bed.
A bonus advantage is that silk pillowcases feel cool to the touch. If you are a hot sleeper, you’ll love the soothing feel of sleeping on the Ravmix silk pillowcase.
The Ravmix pillowcase is available in standard, queen and king sizes. You can also choose from over two dozen colors.
Issues & Limitations
The main drawback of the Ravmix Mulberry silk pillowcase is the price. Because it’s a natural material, it’ll cost you more than other pillowcases.
A satin pillowcase is a cheaper alternative that’s also good for your skin and hair. It’s cheaper because it’s synthetic.
The Snuggle-Pedic body pillow is designed to help side sleepers sleep more comfortably. It extends the entire length of the body and provides support for the neck, shoulders, arms, hips, back and knees.
It's also an effective sleep training pillow for anyone who wants to change from stomach sleeping to side sleeping.
To use it, hug it against your body while you are sleeping on your side. Because the pillow is filled with shredded memory foam, you can bend and twist it to support you where you want.
The pillow keeps you from rolling over onto your stomach in your sleep. With time, you'll get used to sleeping on your side.
Tip: You'll need a new thicker pillow when you switch to sleeping on your side. We recommend the Coop Home Goods Original Loft Pillow.
The Snuggle-Pedic body pillow has a breathable bamboo cover that keeps you cool. The entire pillow is machine washable.
Issues & Limitations
The Snuggle-Pedic body pillow is big and heavy. This is a problem when you need to roll over onto the other side.
You either have to climb over it or roll over with it – either is a tedious task.
The Cozy Bump pillow is quite different from other maternity pillows. For one, it’s inflatable, not foam or fiber filled.
Two, you lie on it instead of placing it against your body.
The Cozy Bump extends the length of your body. It has a hole for your belly. Using air valves, you can adjust how big the hole is depending on the size of your belly.
This lets you keep using the pillow even in the third trimester.
There’s also a slit that’s designed to support your breasts and keep them from getting squashed. However, women with larger breasts say it’s too small.
The lower section of the pillow where your legs rest is sloped to improve alignment and take pressure off your back.
The Cozy Bump pillow comes with an inflatable head section that acts as a pillow. But you can also use your regular pillow.
You can adjust how much air is in the pillow, which changes its firmness to your liking.
One of the advantages of the Cozy Bump pregnancy pillow is that it greatly relieves pressure from your back. It can help with back pain caused by pregnancy.
By sleeping on your stomach, gravity pulls the weight of the baby downwards and away from your back. For even more relief, place the included sheet over the belly hole. It acts as a hammock to hold your belly.
Tip: If you are a side sleeper, you can use the Cozy Bump pregnancy pillow for occasional back relief. Place it close to the bed and switch to it when the pain and pressure on your back and pelvis become too much.
Issues & Limitations
Other than the adjustable belly hole, the Cozy Bump pregnancy pillow is a one size fits all pillow. It doesn't account for different heights of women.
So you might find that your breasts don't align with the breast support section, or that your legs don't fit well on the sloped section.
Another issue is that it takes time to get used to the Cozy Bump pillow. You have to fiddle with the hole size and firmness level to make it comfortable.
Products For People Who Sleep On Their Stomach: FAQs
Is it okay to sleep on your stomach?
According to many doctors and sleep specialists, sleeping on your stomach is the worst sleeping position.
That's because it places a lot of strain on your back, spine, neck and other joints and muscles.
The only thing stomach sleeping is good for is relieving symptoms of sleep apnea, snoring, and acid reflux. But you can enjoy the same benefits by sleeping on your side, a much healthier sleeping position.
What mattress firmness is best for stomach sleepers?
Because stomach sleepers need even support to maintain spinal alignment, a firm mattress is ideal. Depending on your body weight, this can be a medium-firm, firm or extra-firm mattress.
Should stomach sleepers use a pillow?
It depends on your physique. Some stomach sleepers, particularly those with a slim build, find that sleeping without a pillow is more comfortable and doesn't cause any aches.
If you need a pillow, look for a thin pillow that will keep your neck aligned with your spine.
How do I stop sleeping on my stomach?
If you want to stop sleeping on your stomach, make sure your mattress is comfortable for the new sleeping position.
If you want to sleep on your back, you’ll need a medium-firm mattress. For side sleeping, a medium or soft mattress is ideal.
You can use a mattress topper or pad to adjust mattress firmness instead of buying a new mattress.
If you find yourself rolling back onto your stomach in the middle of the night, get a long body pillow and hug it in front of you or place it next to your body. It'll keep you from rolling over.
Are memory foam mattresses good for stomach sleepers?
Yes, there are many good memory foam mattresses for stomach sleepers. The most important thing is to get a firm memory foam mattress that offers adequate support.
The best memory foam mattresses have other materials like high-density poly foam or coils to provide additional support.
Are body pillows good for stomach sleepers?
Other than the doughnut-shaped stomach sleeping pregnancy pillows, we've yet to find a regular body pillow for stomach sleepers.
Most body pillows are designed for side sleepers.
A regular head pillow is enough for stomach sleepers. For additional support, place another thin pillow under your stomach or pelvis to reduce pressure on your back.
How can I sleep on my stomach without hurting my neck?
Use a low pillow that keeps your head and neck in alignment with your body. In some cases, sleeping with no pillow at all can also help prevent neck pain.
How do I prevent back pain when sleeping on my stomach?
Check that your mattress is firm enough to provide adequate lumbar support. If your midsection sinks into the mattress, you'll need a firmer mattress or a firm mattress topper.
If your mattress feels okay, try placing a thin pillow under your pelvis or stomach.
The Best (and Worst) Positions for Sleeping – Dallas Wellness Center
Stomach Sleeper? Tips to Laying on Belly without Pain | Layla Sleep
Stomach Sleeper Essentials – Coop Home Goods
Stomach Sleeper: The Habit That May Be Hurting You | Casper Blog
As a degreed engineer, I love new technology as much as you do (perhaps more). I also understand how to sort the best products from the rest. My team and I spend dozens of hours each week reviewing the best & latest products for your bedroom. Many are tested in-house, and others we break down based on our technical understanding. Whether you need a bed-cooling system, an adjustable bed, or a new CPAP machine – we've got you covered.