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The Correct Mattress for Stomach Sleepers


Sleeping on your stomach can be irritating to your neck and back due to the complete rotation of the neck to one side while in this position.  While it is not recommended that you sleep on your stomach, if you can't make the change to your side or back, keep the following in mind:  Pick a mattress that is soft enough on the surface to substitute for the lack of a pillow, as using a pillow while on your stomach will only push the neck further to a rotated and backward extended position.  This compression can be a source of irritation to the joints and soft tissue of the spine.  Don't be fooled by all those promotions which state that firm mattresses are necessary for good support.  Firm mattresses work better for back sleepers than they do for side or stomach sleepers.  This does not imply that a soft mattress will be more beneficial.  A mattress that gives too much or bends inwardly will not be supportive enough for the spine.  The best kind of mattress for a stomach sleeper will have a supportive density, but also have enough give to conform to the bumps and curves of the body, with a softer overlay to substitute for the lack of a pillow and provide more comfort for the muscles and joints.  A memory foam density will accomplish this the most effectively (see pictures below).  Memory foam is a visco-elastic, temperature sensitive polyurethane foam that has the ability to compress, but then slowly come back to its original shape.  Therefore memory foam does not place nearly the same resistance on the joints as spring, air, and other materials that bounce back more rapidly.  The more memory foam heats up, the more soft it becomes.  Memory foam mattresses are usually composed of 3 inches of the temperature sensitive visco-elastic foam, over 5 inches of regular polyurethane foam.  Memory foam is usually found in 3-5lb. densities.  5lb. memory foam is more temperature sensitive, heavier, usually stiffer and bounces back more slowly (see right side below for an actual example of 5lb. memory foam).  4lb. memory foam will therefore be less temperature sensitive and less dense, more soft, less expensive, but also a little less supportive.  There is a bed now that combines the two, so that the top layer is a 4lb. density and the next two inches are a 5lb. density.  This will give you that immediate soothing sensation, but still be a little firmer underneath for better support (see left side picture below for recommended 3-layer memory foam mattress).  If your current mattress is still solid enough, you may only need a memory foam topper (center picture below).  When lying on your stomach, always put a pillow wedge under one side of the pelvis and same side leg, thereby limiting the amount of rotation of upper spine.  While this will still not be a perfect position, these tips should combine to keep your spine in a more correct alignment while sleeping.  Leg spacers are recommended for side sleepers to help prevent torque on the spine from pelvic rotation.  Stomach sleepers that want to break the habit can use a wedge like the one below to help keep you on your side, while moving with your body if you roll on your back (see picture below). 

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orthopedic leg spacer and memory foam mattress
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   (3-layer Memory foam mattress)         (Memory foam topper)          (Memory Foam in action)

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