People should be aware of a very common and potentially very detrimental sleeping habit that leads to harmful side effects on the entire body — from head to toe. This common habit with major adverse consequences refers to sleeping on your stomach.
For young children who sleep on their stomachs, this may lead to various bodily disorders and deformities, such as a flat face, crooked nose, thoracic dysplasia, and pigeon toes — to name a few.
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Another more dangerous effect of babies lying on their stomachs is that it may lead to cot death due to suffocation, particularly if they vomit and their little heads are lying in it.
Eight dangers adults face when sleeping on their stomachs
1. Insufficient oxygen intake due to poor breathing
Sleeping on your stomach will compress the internal organs of your chest and abdomen, which will hinder the body’s normal breathing mechanism, thus leading to poor breathing and an insufficient oxygen intake.
2. Eye damage
Sleeping on your stomach will not only cause body fluids to flow to the eyes, but also easily compress the eyeballs, thus causing excessive intraocular pressure. Upon awakening, your body may experience temporary blurred vision. Over time, it may also cause eye problems, such as eye swelling and astigmatism to increase.
3. Nasal congestion and dizziness
When you fall asleep, the body’s metabolic level is lower than when you are awake, and the body temperature regulation function is also slowed down. Consequently, sleeping on your stomach makes it difficult for the body to keep warm, causing it to easily catch a cold, and experience nasal congestion and dizziness.
4. Aging of the facial skin
Sleeping on your stomach causes your weight to bear on your face and thus restrict blood circulation, making it more likely for the facial skin to age.
5. A stiff, painful neck
The habit of sleeping on your stomach causes your spine to remain in a twisted position. This creates tension in some of the neck muscles resulting in a stiff and painful neck.
6. Experiencing nightmares
Sleeping on your stomach leads to chest compression, creating a feeling of the heart being obstructed and leading to difficulty in breathing. These external stimuli are transmitted to the cerebral cortex causing adverse reactions and inducing nightmares.
7. More sleep leads to more tiredness
Another problem with sleeping on your stomach is that your body can’t freely adjust its position during deep sleep. This rigid position prevents your body from completely relaxing while asleep. Because your muscles, sweat glands, skin, and other body parts are in a prolonged and fixed state of tension, you may feel more tired upon awakening. So this becomes the norm — the more you sleep, the more tired you get.
8. Women’s breast development and health may be compromised
Young adolescent girls need to be aware that constant squeezing of their chest in the stomach sleeping position could affect normal breast development. Excessive compression of the chest, by adult women who sleep on their stomachs, may lead to changes in their breast shapes, such as external surface expansion and sagging.
Prolonged sleeping on the stomach and fertility
It is important to note that prolonged sleeping on the stomach causes the blood circulation rate to slow down, the blood flow is not smooth, and fluid and lymphatic drainage is blocked leading to harmful substances in the body accumulating, eventually resulting in breast disease.
Women with this sleeping habit, along with sleep deprivation, can greatly increase their chances of infertility and miscarriage. It is important to note that males who have developed a long-term habit of sleeping on their stomachs can impact the blood circulation of their sexual organs, which in turn hinders the proper development and function of their reproductive systems, leading to fertility issues.
The safest and healthiest position for sleeping
Research suggests that laying on the right side of your body may be the best and safest position in promoting healthy sleep. This right side decubitus position is more suited for adult women. Since everyone differs physically and has specific circumstances, this position may not be suitable for everyone.
Advantages of sleeping on your back
1. Infant growth
The bones of infants are not fully developed and their heads are large so the best sleeping position, currently recommended, is to lay them on their backs without a pillow. This sleeping position tends to relax the muscles of the whole body and minimizes the pressure of the internal organs such as the heart, gastrointestinal tract, and bladder. These greatly benefit the infants’ development.
It is also important to note when feeding an infant that its stomach is in the horizontal position. After being fed, the baby is generally placed in an upright position so that any excess milk may be brought up and expelled. In severe cases, excess milk can be sucked into the trachea and could cause suffocation. It is therefore recommended to lay a newborn infant on its right side after feeding and then lay supine for half an hour to one hour.
2. Children’s development
Studies show that it takes children’s skulls to develop into full adult size from birth to six years of age and it is basically completed by the age of 10 to 12 years of age. In contrast, the speed of growth and development of the face is relatively slow. The growth and development of the face accelerate after the permanent teeth have fully grown.
If during this time children are placed to sleep on their sides, it will hinder the normal growth of their teeth, jaws, and faces causing asymmetry in facial development. Therefore, children should mainly sleep on their backs.
3. Male fertility
Regardless of what laying position of left or right one chooses during sleep, the temperature of the male’s lower body will increase. This temperature increase is not good for the proliferation and growth of the sperm and may lead to testicular torsion.
Therefore, it is wise for men to lie on their backs with legs naturally spread apart. If you have a preference for lying on your side, rest your upper leg on a large pillow creating space for natural airflow.
Recommended sleeping positions for the elderly
Some elderly people, especially those who are obese, are likely to snore when sleeping on their backs. Severe snoring can affect the exchange of air in the lungs and cause hypoxemia. Sleeping in the left decubitus will not only cause compression of the left limbs and slow down the emptying of the stomach, but also increase the pressure on the heart in the chest cavity, which is not conducive to the proper blood flow in the heart.
The best recommendation for the elderly is to choose either the supine or the right side positions during sleep. The right side decubitus is especially recommended for those who are elderly prone to snoring, gastritis, indigestion, or gastroptosis.
For medical and health concerns, consulting your trusted health care professional is, of course, recommended.
Translator: Patty Zhang