If anyone has ever told you that your sleeping position looks like the “dead man’s float,” then you are one of the small minority of people who can be described as a stomach sleeper.
Getting the right amount of support can be a challenge for stomach sleepers. As you may have experienced, sleeping on your belly can cause aches, pains, or stiffness in the back or neck. Without the right mattress, the risk of these issues only gets higher and higher with each passing night.
In this guide, we’ll cover all the key information you need to know ranging from basic facts about stomach sleeping to the most important things to look for when shopping for a new mattress. You can read through this guide to find all these details or click here to jump straight to our recommendations for the best mattresses for stomach sleepers.
About Stomach Sleeping
Sleep research has found that stomach sleeping is the least common of the main sleeping positions with fewer than 10% of people sleeping in this way. In this basic position, many stomach sleepers put their hands up under their head, turn their neck to one side, and/or bend a knee up toward their head.
Stomach sleeping is considered by the majority of experts to be the worst sleeping position with far greater downsides than benefits. The meager benefit from a health perspective is that it can help limit airway obstruction, which can mean a decrease in snoring. The downsides to stomach sleeping are that it can create undue pressure on the spine from the stomach sinking lower into the mattress and out of line with the rest of the body. In addition, ff you turn your neck to be able to breathe, this can cause stiffness in the neck from holding it in a twisted position for hours at a time.
What Are the Most Important Mattress Considerations For Stomach Sleepers?
While sleeping on your stomach is not generally recommended, for some people, it remains the most comfortable sleeping position, and this can be hard to change. For committed stomach sleepers, it makes sense to try to configure the sleeping surface — including the mattress and pillows — to reduce potential negative impacts from this position. In this section, we’ll review the most important factors for stomach sleepers to think through to optimize their bed.
The amount of support that a mattress provides is determined by how responsive it is to the body’s weight and pressure. A responsive mattress provides cushioning in proportion to the body’s position on the mattress. In doing so, it helps align the spine without excessive bending or curvature. Stomach sleepers need a mattress that is responsive enough to cushion the torso but without allowing the abdomen to sag so deeply as to warp the spine’s alignment.
While firmness can influence support, it refers more specifically to the softness and feel of the mattress from a comfort perspective. Stomach sleepers should be very wary of mattresses that are extremely plush because sinking into the mattress may make it harder to breathe while face-down and because it may cause the body to trend toward a “U” shape. At the same time, extremely firm mattresses may be too hard for a stomach sleeper to get positioned on comfortably. Most stomach sleepers do best with medium to medium-firm mattresses that fall between a 4-7 on the typical firmness scale. The higher the person’s weight, generally the higher they should go on that 4-7 firmness range.
Look for reviews from other stomach sleepers since their experience with a mattress is most likely to be meaningful for predicting how well a mattress will work for you. In addition, make sure to only give serious weight to reviews that are from verified purchases and/or from independent product evaluators.
Since a mattress is a product that you plan to use day-in and day-out for years, it’s important that it be able to stand up to regular use. If a mattress starts to break down soon after it’s purchased, the most likely consequence will be a weakening of the mattress in the center where the most pressure is normally applied. For stomach sleepers, this could be an enormous problem as this could cause an extreme amount of sagging of the abdomen into the mattress. To avoid this, we suggest looking for mattresses built with an emphasis on great materials and on products that have a history of durability.
What Mattress Features Should Stomach Sleepers Look For?
When shopping for a new mattress, you may be overwhemed by all the different features and mattress design elements. These are the features that are the most important to look for:
If you’re hoping to make a delicious dinner, it’s not just about having the right recipe — you also need to use great ingredients. The same is true for mattresses. While the design or layering of a mattress is important, the materials that go into building that design are absolutely crucial. A mattress that is built with shoddy components is going to be more likely to have defects, to break down with regular use, or to just simply not meet your expectations.
To examine the materials quality, start by looking up the detailed specifications of the mattress. These should be easy to find on the website of the company selling or manufacturing the mattress. If this information is buried online or not available at all, consider it a red flag.
Once you’ve found the specifications, look at the thickness of each layer and the materials used (including the density and/or ILD of any foams that are used). If you notice that any layer appears to have substandard components, take caution because even just one weak layer can drag down the overall strength of the mattress.
Well-Designed Comfort Layer
You should be skeptical of any mattress that has an extremely thin comfort layer. Even if it is built with top-quality foam, a comfort layer that is only an inch thick is not likely to be able to offer the support you need. Whenever you can, try to opt for a comfort layer (or combination of comfort layers) that is at least 3” thick.
You should be able to get a high quality mattress without breaking the bank. In order to get the best value that you can, do some comparison shopping after you’ve narrowed down to 1-2 top choices. If a mattress costs considerably more than comparably-designed mattresses, make sure that it has features — such as the materials quality — that truly set it apart. You can also often boost the value of your purchase by doing a thorough search for coupons or discounts before making a final purchase.
Keep in mind that any shipping costs need to be factored into your total purchase price. You’ll find that the vast majority of online mattress companies include shipping for no addition cost.
Easy, No-Risk Returns
A common feature offered by online mattress sellers is a no-risk return policy. As part of this policy, companies usually offer a sleep trial during which you can use the mattress in your own home for a set period of time. This time period can range from 30 to 365 nights, although most companies offer a sleep trial of around 100 days. During this trial period, you can return the mattress to get a refund, and frequently the company pays for any return shipping as well. However, there can be limiting terms to a sleep trial such as a minimum number of nights that you have to keep and try the mattress. Make sure to read the terms carefully, and if you can, choose a mattress that offers truly no-risk and simple returns.
What Else Should Stomach Sleepers Take Into Account?
Other factors that stomach sleepers should be thinking through include:
Pillow selection is important for sleepers in any position, but it takes on added importance for stomach sleepers because many traditional bed pillows can exacerbate spinal misalignment. Most stomach sleepers do best by using no pillow at all, using only a very thin pillow, or keeping their pillow only under their forehead. Some stomach sleepers also use pillows to get extra support for other parts of the body, for example, by placing a thin pillow under the pelvis or abdomen to try to improve alignment.
If you’re a stomach sleeper who turns your neck to the side in order to breathe, be aware that this can lead to problems. Keeping the neck in any one position for an extended period can strain the muscles that support the neck, so you may want to consider a stretching routine before bed, after waking up, and/or during the day to help keep those muscles loose.
What Types of Mattresses Are Available?
Though there are hundreds of mattress brands and models on the market, virtually every one of these can be categorized into one of 5 types:
- Foam: these are made only of foam. There may be different types of foam, such as polyfoam and viscoelastic foam (memory foam), that are organized into distinct layers. The softness of the mattress and how much it compresses under weight and pressure depends on the thickness and type of foams used and how they are arranged inside the mattress.
- Latex: using either natural rubber or rubber that is synthetically-produced, mattresses built only with latex may also be labeled as “true latex” or “all-latex.” Historically, these were more expensive, but the price of many latex mattresses has come down in recent years. The most well-known characteristic of latex is its bounce, but this material can also provide responsive support to the body.
- Innerspring: this type of mattress has been the stalwart of the industry, and it uses a support core composed of metal coils that can compress and spring back as weight is applied and removed. Depending on the number and type of coils, an innerspring mattress can have different characteristics, but the most common is a bouncier support base. Most innerspring mattresses also have foam, latex, or fabric layered on top to offer some further cushioning.
- Hybrid: like an innerspring mattress, a hybrid uses a core of metal coils to serve as its base layer. In a hybrid, though, there is a more extensive use of other materials like latex, memory foam, or polyfoam. As a general rule, we count a mattress as a hybrid if these other materials are 3” or more in thickness above the innerspring support core. The design concept behind most hybrids is to benefit from the strong base from coils while adding greater contouring support from the complementary materials.
- Airbed: there are many fewer brands of airbeds, but these are a well-known mattress type. In an airbed, the feel of the mattress is determined by a remote or an app that can add or remove air from a chamber inside the mattress. This gives customers a great deal of control over the feel of their mattress and the ability to modify that feel in short order. Some airbed models may also have top layers of foam or latex designed to offer greater support.
Which Mattress Types Are Best For Stomach Sleepers?
Because there can be a wide range of mattress designs within the categories or types, it is difficult to say that one type is always better or worse for stomach sleepers. It’s important to look at the details of each individual mattress model. But as a general guide, here’s how we rank the best mattress types for stomach sleepers.
Responsive foam, especially medium-firm foam that won’t permit excessive sinking into the mattress, is a great option for most stomach sleepers. This could be memory foam or a similarly designed polyfoam. The responsiveness of these materials can accommodate the unique pressure points of stomach sleepers.
Honorable Mention: Hybrid, Latex
Most hybrids, depending on their design, and latex mattresses offer a high level of responsiveness. The enhanced bounce in a latex or hybrid may also be useful for permitting movement on top of the mattress, which is important since many stomach sleepers move more in the night than people who sleep in other positions.
Proceed With Caution: Innerspring, Airbed
For many stomach sleepers, an innerspring or an airbed can offer sufficient support, especially if they have a more responsive comfort layer added to the support core. However, in general, these mattresses are less responsive, so we suggest that stomach sleepers proceed with caution and look very closely at the comfort layer before moving forward in buying one.
What Are the Best Mattresses for Stomach Sleepers?
If you’re looking to simplify your mattress shopping by finding recommendations for top-quality options for stomach sleepers, look no further. Below you’ll find our best choices for several mattress types.
The Leesa mattress is an all-around well-made mattress that works well for most stomach sleepers.
- The comfort layer includes both memory foam and a latex-like foam, offering a unique combination of bounce and contouring.
- Leesa has accumulated many years worth of strong reviews from customers including from stomach sleepers.
- The top layer is not memory foam, so for people who want place the utmost priority on contouring may prefer an option with memory foam on top.
- Some customers, especially customers who weigh over 250 pounds, have reported concerns with the mattress sagging and not providing lasting support.
More information about the Leesa can be found in our full Leesa mattress review.
Our top choice for an innerspring mattress for stomach sleepers is the Saatva mattress.
- The Saatva uses a support core of larger coils with a smaller layer of micro-coils on top, and this combination provides both bounce and responsiveness.
- This mattress is available in three different firmness levels, including the most popular luxury-firm (medium-firm) option that works well for most stomach sleepers.
- Saatva deducts $99 from your refund as a return shipping fee if you decide to return the mattress during your sleep trial.
For an in-depth look at this mattress, check out our full Saatva mattress review.
If you’re looking for a latex mattress, the Sleep on Latex Pure Green Mattress is a top-quality choice at an affordable price point.
- The mattress is built with thick slabs of quality latex that contribute to both durability and performance.
- Customers can choose among different firmness options, which can help to identify a mattress that will offer sufficient bounce and support.
- The big slabs of latex that make up the mattress are heavy and can make moving the mattress a serious chore that requires at least two people.
- We don’t have detailed information from Sleep on Latex about the density or ILD of their latex, which we usually prefer to see shared publicly on a mattress manufacturer’s website.