If you're one of the nearly 31 million Americans who are experiencing back pain, you know just how frustrating it can be. Sleeping in the wrong position can lead to aches and pains and irritate your back and disrupt your sleep, which is why we spoke to Charla Fischer, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at NYU Langone's Spine Center, to find out if sleeping on your stomach is bad for your back health.
"It's not. There's no recommendation whether or not [sleeping on your stomach] is better or worse as far as back or neck pain," Dr. Fischer told POPSUGAR. If you are experiencing back pain in a particular position, Dr. Fischer said there are ways to alleviate it. "For example, if you sleep on your side, you can put a pillow between the legs and that should help. If you sleep on your back, you can put a pillow underneath [your back]." And if you're a stomach sleeper, Dr. Fischer said placing a pillow underneath your pelvis can take pressure off the lower back. If you do experience discomfort in any of these positions, Dr. Fischer's quick fix is simply changing the position you're lying in.
If you're wondering if there's an optimal position for better sleep, Dr. Fischer said, "It's more individual preference." Finding a position that's the most comfortable for you will allow you to get the most REM sleep (a deep stage of sleep that's important for your brain and overall health), will be the most restorative, and help decrease pain overall, she explained. Mattresses and pillows may enhance sleep quality, but Dr. Fischer said, "Again, it's very individual. People look at ideal alignment and things like that but it hasn't really borne out in studies that this is the best way to get the best sleep and prevent any injuries."
Your sleep position may not matter that much, but most experts recommend adults get seven to nine hours of sleep to function at their best throughout the day. Not drinking caffeine after 10 a.m., avoiding heavy and fatty foods before bed, not working on devices with screens in bed, and adjusting the temperature of your room to 68 or 69 degrees are proven ways to improve your quality of sleep.
If you are currently experiencing back pain, we recommend speaking to your primary care physician for more resources on how to manage and alleviate your pain.