Stomach Sleeping Guide: How to Choose a Mattress that Makes You Sleep Like a Baby

Woman lying down on her stomach

No one should have to wake up in pain, especially when it is caused by your mattress or pillow. With the right changes, this should be totally avoidable. To save ourselves pain and discomfort, we need to be more educated about how to select the best mattress to accommodate our sleeping position.

Is sleeping on your stomach good or bad for you?

Only 7 percent of adults sleep on their stomach, but why?

This position can put your back into an unnatural curve, causing hyperextended ligaments and strained muscles. Many people also twist their neck, laying their head sideways on a pillow. This can lead to even more strained muscles and possibly nerve damage.

Rather than straining your back and neck by sleeping this way, the National Sleep Foundation suggests switching positions. “While this is good for easing snoring, it’s bad for practically everything else...It’s best to try to choose another position, but if you must sleep on your stomach, try lying facedown to keep upper airways open — instead of with your head turned to one side — with your forehead propped up on a pillow to allow room to breathe.”

To mimic the feel of sleeping on your stomach, consider sleeping on your side with a pillow against your chest or abdomen.

Whether you want to change the way you sleep, you still need to find a way to sleep comfortably. You can see more information about the best options for side sleepers in our other article in this series.

“Without the right mattress and pillow,” Mattress Advisor explains, “this sleeping position can be really tough on your body. It puts a ton of pressure on your spine and chest, which may lead to back and neck pain, difficulty breathing, tingling nerves, pressure point pain, and general achiness.”

What mattress firmness is best for tummy sleepers?

Mattresses come in all different firmness levels, ranging from ultra soft to ultra firm. What comfort qualities should you seek when sleeping on your stomach is your preferred position?

Dr. Mark Mandell, a chiropractor, explains what to look for in an edition of Dynamic Chiropractic, “Sleeping on the stomach in a soft bed can stress the thoracolumbar spine. The weight of the belly and pelvis also compress the bedding. To provide support to the stomach, pelvis, and thoracolumbar areas, a firmer mattress is necessary.”

“Stomach sleepers tend to fall somewhere in the middle, according to Andy Bloom and Shane Carey from Home Mattress Center. They suggest stomach sleepers use a mattress that will conform to their bodies to relieve pressure on the stomach and chest.

"A high-quality mattress that is ideal for stomach sleepers will provide significant spine support, limit how far the pelvis can sink into the mattress, and rank as mildly firm,” according to Sleep Guide. Mattress Advisor explains, “The ideal mattress doesn’t allow you to sink in too deeply, but is still soft enough to provide relief at pressure points. If you find yourself sinking into the mattress, you’re likely to wake up with a sore back. Sometimes, a firm mattress with a softer top layer will also do the trick.”

Sleep advice site Tuck recommends different mattress support/comfort ratings, depending on your weight. If you are a stomach sleeper weighing less than 130 pounds, you should look for a medium soft or softer mattress. Those weighing 130 to 230 should shop for a medium to medium firm mattress, and people weighing more than 230 pounds should look for medium firm or firmer mattresses.

What kind of mattress is best for stomach sleepers?

Mattress Advisor advises, “Multi-layered memory foam mattresses are usually comfortable for stomach sleepers, as they provide support while still lending comfort to pressure points. A firm mattress, such as an innerspring, latex, or hybrid type, can still work, especially when it has a softer top layer.

This soft top layer is important for reducing pressure on your joints. Whatever you choose, you’ll want something that doesn’t break down too quickly, as a sagging mattress will not be comfortable for a stomach sleeper. Stomach sleepers will also want to stay away from waterbeds and other mattresses with extremely soft surfaces or lingering depressions.”

What kind of pillow is best for a stomach sleeper?

If you sleep on your stomach, “You could use the thinnest type of pillow — or even no pillow at all,” because of the potential stress this position can put on your back, according to The site also suggests using an additional pillow under your abdomen to keep your spine in a natural position and avoid back pain. Combining both of these pieces of advice can go a long way to getting you the restful sleep that you need.

How do I avoid being stuck with a mattress I hate?

Purchasing a mattress can feel like a gamble. To avoid this feeling, we suggest doing your research, considering your partner, and checking your retailer’s return policies.

Do as much research as you can. Even if you plan on purchasing your mattress online, go into at least two mattress stores, and lay down on as many mattresses as possible, for up to 10 minutes. Take note of the specific models that you found comfortable and not comfortable, so you will know what qualities to look for when you shop online.

Mattress Advisor points out that two rather incompatible sleeping positions are stomach and back. What if your partner is a stomach sleeper and you sleep on your back? Break up? Not so fast; you have options. “Stomach sleepers are a rare (err, special) breed. This position is the most different from others which means that some mattresses that are comfortable for stomach sleepers are not the best choice for side or back sleepers. This makes for a tricky conundrum when selecting a mattress for two. If you and your sleeping partner are not both stomach sleepers and have trouble agreeing on a mattress that’s comfortable for both, consider getting a split mattress so each person’s needs are met.” If you don’t want to get a split mattress, you can opt for magic adjustable air mattresses from brands like Sleep Number, ReST Bed, or Habitat Furnishings.

Last, choose a mattress company that offers a great return policy or an in-home trial. Mattress retailers often offer an in-home trial period, meaning that you buy the mattress and sleep on it at home. If you aren’t satisfied during the predetermined term, you can exchange or return the mattress. Remember to research or ask what fees are associated with your trial. Most stores will charge fees, so be as prepared as possible.

Stomach sleepers should be looking for a firmer mattress, most likely medium firm. The mattress can be of any construction type: innerspring, foam, or hybrid, but you need to have a supportive and contouring foam layer on top. Whether you decide to try transitioning to sleeping on your side, or continue to sleep on your tummy, we hope that this advice will make your shopping experience easier and your sleep more restful.

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