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Stomach Sleeping and Disease: What You Need to Know

Stomach sleeper? We have tips. Here's the connection between stomach sleeping and disease.

Learn whether sleeping on your stomach can cause disease and other health issues

We all have a favorite and comfortable sleeping position. However, not all sleeping positions are ideal for everyone and, in some cases, certain positions can actually be a little bit more helpful or harmful to our bodies. When it comes to sleeping on your stomach, there are a few conditions and problems that you should be aware of.

Sleep Apnea

There are several types of sleep apnea including obstructive sleep apnea, which is the most common form, and central sleep apnea. In general sleep apnea is a disorder that causes you to stop breathing during the night.

Causes: Central sleep apnea specifically is due to a malfunction within the brain when you sleep. Meanwhile, obstructive sleep apnea is caused when something physically obstructs your breathing at night. Obstructive sleep apnea can occur due to conditions including obesity, certain bedtime habits, some medications, and even anatomical anomalies.

Symptoms: The most common symptom of sleep apnea is temporary cessation or blockage in breathing during sleep. Snoring is also a common symptom. When we think of loud snoring, we are actually thinking of obstructive sleep apnea because the snore is really air trying to make its way through the obstructed passage.

Side Effects: Sleep apnea disrupts the sleep cycle due to air shortage. Because sleep apnea often comes with snoring, this can also spell trouble for your partner.

The Stomach Sleeping Connection: Sleeping on your stomach has been suggested as a potential way to decrease snoring and open up the airway. However, experts argue that this method, which forces you to turn your neck, isn’t as effective as sleeping on your side.

Floppy Eyelid Syndrome

Among the many functions of the eyelids is their ability to protect the eye. During sleep, having the eyes closed is normal because this protects the eyeball from coming into contact with your blanket or pillow. However, in some cases, the skin around the eyelids becomes slack, which makes it extremely easy to flip the lid completely or partially while you sleep.

Causes: Science is not exactly sure what causes floppy eyelid syndrome. The loss of elastin, the protein that keeps skin taut, is often implicated as the cause. The syndrome is more common in overweight men who also tend to suffer from sleep apnea.

Symptoms: When your lid flips, the inside of your lid, as well as your eye can come into contact with various objects as you sleep. This means that both the inside of your lid and various parts of your eye can be irritated. Ultimately, an optometrist should look at your eyes if you suspect floppy eyelid syndrome.

Side Effects: Floppy eyelid syndrome can cause irritation to your cornea, which is the clear front part of your eye in front of your pupil and may affect your vision. Even if you see well, the irritation caused by the syndrome can leave you with a red, angry eye during the day.

The Stomach Sleeping Connection: Along with sleep apnea, stomach sleeping has been connected to floppy eyelid syndrome. For people with loose lids, sleeping on the stomach is also a way for the lids and eye to end up rubbing against the pillow.

Back and Neck Strain

There are a number of causes for back and neck strain. In some cases, the strain is due to an acute injury or major strain such as lifting something heavy or moving abruptly. Other causes include chronic activities that eventually take their toll.

The Stomach Sleeping Connection: Stomach sleeping has been implicated in back and neck strain, which can involve several conditions including disc herniation. Over time, sleeping on the stomach places stress on the spine. Because this specific position puts a lot of weight onto your stomach area, it also forces you into a more strained spine position. In addition, stomach sleeping forces you to turn your neck away from the pillow which also adds stress.

Symptoms: Because the spine carries neurological impulses, you may wake up with tingling or numbing sensations in your arms or legs. You may also feel neck or back pain throughout your day.

Stomach Sleeping and Pregnancy

While pregnancy isn’t a disease, it is a demanding time both mentally and physically. Most moms want to do the best possible things for their future kiddos, which can also mean changing how you sleep.

When you sleep on your stomach as a mom to be, you are putting more pressure on your spine than the average stomach sleeper. You are also constricting the space that your baby would have to move at night. Opt instead for the best pillow you can find for pregnancy, so your body will be properly aligned while you sleep.

If you’re used to sleeping on your stomach, but find that it’s causing damage, there are plenty of ways to stop including body pillows and neck pillows to help you from keep rolling over even after you are in deep sleep. Investing in the best pillow you can find for stomach sleepers will help you sleep more comfortably and prevent long-term damage to your body.

Resources — Mayclinic, American International Medical University