Why are some adults and children naturally drawn to sleeping on their stomachs if it's not a good sleep position (according to many articles)? I understand it's not good for babies because of the increased SIDS risk, but I think I also recall hearing or reading that it would cause them to sleep deeper than on their back which, aside from SIDS risk, sounds like it has potential to be beneficial for people?

EDIT: Here are some example articles which speak negatively about stomach sleeping.

  • 1
    Hm....I know of know disadvantage to sleeping on the stomach in adults (actually would cure most sleep apnea if people could manage it consistently). Could you cite a source you read that was making that claim (“according to many articles”)?
    – Susan
    Commented May 26, 2015 at 6:45
  • @Susan I edited my post to include some links. Good point about sleep apnea - someone I know with apnea has had multiple sleep studies done and had the least occurrence of apnea events when on their stomach.
    – g491
    Commented May 26, 2015 at 15:44
  • Thanks for adding the references! One other thing: I think there are really two questions in here: 1) Is stomach-sleeping bad? and 2) Why are people drawn to something bad? The second seems to be either a teleological or evolutionary question that might be better on (in the first case) a philosophy or religion site or (in the second case) on biology.SE. The first question, on the other hand, is eminently on-topic and answerable. Could I convince you to narrow it accordingly?
    – Susan
    Commented May 29, 2015 at 11:32
  • @Susan I guess the reason I put both in the question is I'd like to see any answer to #1 account for the fact that people seem to be drawn to stomach sleeping, even from a very young age where societal influence if anything seems to steer towards the opposite (e.g. "back is best" SIDS campaign). I suppose I could just reply in the comments to any answer which didn't address that, but I figured might as well put it in the question itself.
    – g491
    Commented May 29, 2015 at 15:05

1 Answer 1


Sleeping in a prone position is not bad. However there are some complications of it that can be negative. A simple example is drooling. A more important problem with sleeping in a prone position is poor posture. Most people don't have a bed like a chiropractic table that allows them to breathe with their face straight down while maintaining a neutral spine. Due to this lack of beds designed for the prone sleeper they have to turn their head to the side. This extreme rotation held for 8 hours can cause neck pain. Most people who sleep that way also use a pillow under their head and/or upper body causing excessive and prolonged lumbar extension. This can lead to low back pain. J Amer Chiropr Assoc 2011 May-June;48(4):17-18

The textbooks and the research I've seen always say the best sleep position maintains a neutral spine. That means on your back with a pillow supporting your neck and one supporting your knees. Alternatively you can sleep on your side with a pillow supporting your neck, head, and the top arm as well as a pillow between the knees. This will keep the spine in a neutral position. I always tell my patients that the best way to sleep is the one that gives you a good, full nights sleep. You can probably improve your sleep with a few modifications, but if you are a side sleeper, you'll have a difficult time trying to force yourself to your back because, you're not conscious at the time. The Mayo Clinic has some excellent images that can help with modifications.

People tend to sleep in positions that are comfortable for them. If all day long they sit or work in a flexed posture then their body may crave the extension of their low back that comes from prone positions. In fact they may sleep prone because of back pain caused by excessive flexion. We've all seen this phenomenon before as we squirm in our chair or our legs ache to stretch when on a long flight or car ride. Motion and proper posture affects every aspect of our life. More research can be found here (No Affiliation).

  • Interesting comment you made about sleeping prone because the body craving extension of the low back. I sit for long periods during the day so that may be why I gravitate to sleeping prone.
    – g491
    Commented Aug 23, 2015 at 23:47
  • I once had to sleep on my stomach due to an injured tailbone. The pain was cringing for 3 whole weeks and I could not sleep on my back at all and sleeping on my side hurt as well. But sleeping on my stomach was comfortable. Ironically this lead to me waking up on my back, the most painful position for an injured tailbone. Even when the pain significantly decreased, I still slept on my stomach until my tailbone was fully healed and then I started sleeping on my side again.
    – Caters
    Commented May 21, 2017 at 1:28

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