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How To Ease Lower Back Pain While Sleeping

Dont Skimp On Your Mattress

How to relieve lower back pain while sleeping from sitting too much

If you scour the internet, you will discover all sorts of suggestions to extend the life of a sagging mattress. These include methods like sliding plywood under your mattress and ditching your box spring. While these tricks may work for some, the best approach is usually to replace a worn-out mattress.

It is important not to neglect your mattress because, for some people, a sagging mattress can exacerbate lower back pain by placing additional stress and strain on your spinal structures. In turn, this can make it harder to fall asleep at night.

When it comes to sleeping with lower back pain, the most expensive mattress is not always best. Instead, the best mattress for you is ultimately the one that provides the best nights sleep. With this in mind, here are a few mattress guidelines to help get you started in your search:

  • Your mattress needs to support the natural curvature of your spine. This means your spine should look similar when you are lying on your back or side as when youre standing with good posture.
  • Visit your local mattress store and try out various types of mattresses. After 15 minutes on a mattress, you will have a general idea if it is a good fit for you. Dont be afraid to take your time.
  • If you sleep with a partner, consider a larger-sized mattress. This will allow you both room to sleep without startling one another awake at night.

The Role Of Your Mattress

We spend one-third of each day in bed, meaning your mattress and how you sleep is just as important as focusing on posture in the daytime hours. Since sleep is a time for healing and renewal, it may arguably be even more important.

So, what is the best mattress for back pain?

Its an important, often-asked question. But, there is no single right answer. When it comes to picking a bed, there are no hard and fast rules that will apply for every person, every time. Essentially, the best mattress is the one that you feel gives you good, refreshing sleep with minimal pain and stiffness.

While we all have different preferences and needs that are important to consider, research and studies can shed some insight on different mattress traits and how they may interact with back pain.

The Two Basics of Beds

At their most basic, beds do two things: provide support and comfort.

Support comes from the core of the mattress, typically a sturdy foam layer or innersprings depending on the type of bed. A supportive mattress will have enough firmness to keep your spine aligned, meaning your heavier areas like hips and shoulders wont sink too far into the bed. On the other hand, it shouldnt be so firm that it forces hips and shoulders up at an awkward angle either.

Now, comfort is pretty easy to identify, but how do you know if a mattress is providing adequate support? Essentially, your spine should maintain an even, natural posture , with whichever sleep position you prefer.

Get The Right Amount Of Sleep

Letting your body restore itself is important in managing any type of pain. Schedule at least eight hours of rest every night. A consistent schedule with a sufficient amount of sleep will wipe out sleep debt and let your body restore itself to your full potential.

If you find yourself sleeping more on the weekends or have an extremely hard time getting up in the morning, schedule your bedtime earlier to allow yourself to find a comfortable position and get to sleep.

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Try It Before You Buy It When Looking At New Mattresses

Even if youve found what you think is the best mattress for lower back pain relief, you may want to spend on a few nights on it before swiping your credit card. This is especially true if youre making the switch to a significantly softer or harder mattress. If you can, ask to do a trial run on the new mattress. If thats not a possibility, has a few recommendations. From their expert, Santhosh Thomas, DO:

He suggests spending a night in a hotel that offers options for guests to purchase pillows and mattresses so that you can try before you buy. Or, see if your mattress store lets you try out a bed overnight or even longer. If that is not an option, perhaps sleeping on the floor in a sleeping bag may mimic a firm surface, and sleeping on a couch may mimic a softer surface.’

Dont Stay In One Position All Night

How to Relieve Lower Back Pain While Sleeping

You might be afraid of moving from one position to the other during the night, but its actually okay and desired to move some while sleeping. Any sleeping position, even if its a good one, can add up to too much pressure on your back if you stay there all night. Plus, theres a risk of additional pain or muscle imbalance from this.

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Roll Over The Right Way

It happens: Youve got yourself perfectly positioned and have just drifted off only to be awoken by a jolt of sharp pain in your back when you roll over. Changing positions quickly or with bad form can cause or exacerbate nighttime back pain, according to the University of Rochester Medical Center. They advise: When turning in bed, remember not to twist or bend at the waist but to move your entire body as one unit. Keep your belly pulled in and tightened, and bend your knees toward the chest when you roll.

Understand How Older Mattresses Might Affect Pain

Older mattresses, especially old spring mattresses, do not provide the proper amount of support and comfort that they used to. Mattresses can develop cavities over time that will throw your back out of shape no matter what position you try and get comfortable in. If your mattress is older than 10 years, it is probably time to upgrade.

Different mattress materials will interact with your body in unique ways. Popular mattresses such as memory foam mattresses are fantastic for contouring to your body and relieving pressure points.

The best mattresses for back pain will allow your body to maintain its normal spinal position by sinking in where it is needed while still providing support where you need it like in the lower back and neck areas.

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What To Do If Youre Waking Up With Back Pain

Back pain is a common complaint for adults. About 80 percent of adults will experience lower back pain at some point in their life. More than a quarter of adults report experiencing low back pain within the last three months. Low back pain is the most common cause of job-related disability and a major contributor to missed workdays.

If youre waking up with back pain, chances are youre not getting the restorative sleep you need at night. Common causes of back pain include getting into an accident and lifting something heavy. Sometimes back pain can develop over time with age. A sedentary lifestyle can lead to low back pain, especially if you have a burst of activity your body isnt prepared for.

Most low back pain is short-term, lasting just a few days to a few weeks. Often, it resolves on its own or with a treatment of the underlying cause. However, chronic back pain persists for 12 weeks or longer. Sometimes, a medical or surgical procedure can relieve the pain, but sometimes, pain persists despite treatment.

Here Are A Few Other Tips That Might Make It Easier For You To Get Through The Day:

Best Sleeping Positions for Lower Back Pain Recovery
  • Morning Stretching: Wake up your muscles and joints by gently stretching before you get out of bed. Bring your knees to your chest to get a lower-back stretch. Also, stretch your arms above your head and reach your feet in the opposite direction. Pay attention to the tight areas of your body, then talk to a physical therapist or doctor about the stretches that could help your situation.
  • Core Strength: Building the muscles in your core can improve your overall body structure, helping to reduce the back pain you are experiencing. No, were not talking about hundreds of crunches each day because certain ab exercises can exacerbate the problem. A physical therapist can provide personalized recommendations, which might include planks, stretching, gentle cardio, and other tips to support the overall structure of your body.
  • Medications: When the pain is intense, then medication can provide immediate relief to dull the discomfort. Talk to your doctor about over-the-counter medications such as NSAIDs or acetaminophen. For severe back pain, prescription medications can sometimes be used. But you need to be careful to avoid dependence on these pain relievers. Medication should be used as a short-term strategy until you can address the root problem.

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Pregnancy And Sleeping Positions

Lower back pain in pregnancy is very common and its no surprise why! As your baby grows, your body expands, your centre of gravity changes and your hormones are working on your ligaments, relaxing them and your pelvic floor, getting ready for your babys arrival.

There are a few things you can try to ease lower back pain in pregnancy including your posture, your sleep position and your overall approach to lifting and carrying.

Side sleeping is encouraged when youre pregnant, with most experts recommending sleeping on your right side, although the left side is also acceptable.

Avoid sleeping on your back, especially during the second and third trimester.

Remember: Alignment Is Key

No matter what position you choose, keeping proper alignment of your spine is the most important part of the equation. Focus specifically on aligning your ears, shoulders, and hips.

You may notice gaps between your body and the bed that strain your muscles and spine. You can reduce this stress by using pillows to fill the gaps.

Be careful while turning in bed. You can get out of alignment during twisting and turning motions as well. Always move your entire body together, keeping your core tight and pulled in. You may even find it helpful to bring your knees toward your chest as you roll over.

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Sleeping And Lower Back Pain

Regular low back pain can cause a person to sleep more lightly than they normally would and wake up more frequently during the night, according to the National Sleep Foundation.


Thankfully, by learning the best sleeping positions for your back, you can feel immediate relief.

To make things simple, lets start with the biggest dos of how to sleep with lower back pain

Get The Right Pillow Under Your Head

Soft Memory Foam Sleeping Pillow for Lower Back Pain ...

Sleeping on the wrong pillow is a common culprit of nighttime back pain, Tatta says. Make sure your pillow has enough support and allows your neck and spine to be in neutral alignment, which means that your head isnt craning backward nor is your chin pushed too far forward, he explains. Many arthritis patients find the most comfort in a thin, firm pillow. Ditch the giant, fluffy decorative pillows on your bed when it comes time to sleep.

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Pillows For Back Sleepers

The most recommended position for back pain relief is sleeping on your back. When you sleep in this position, your weight is evenly distributed and places less strain on pressure points.

If youre a back sleeper, a standard pillow should be placed under your knees.This helps your spine keep its natural curve. You should also try these helpful pillows.

A soft pillow roll provides lumbar support to relieve back pain. The ties keep it in place if you move around while sleeping.

The memory foam in this pillow shapes to your head and neck. The foams custom fit and the pillows contoured design keep your head, neck, and spine aligned.

If youre looking for a more economical option for cervical support, try this pillow. The pillows lobes firmly support your neck while sleeping.

Side Sleeping: A Solid Runner

Side sleeping with your legs straight is the second-best position for avoiding back and neck pain. Its also a good position for snorers or anyone with sleep apnea because it keeps your airways open. If you can, stretch your legs out straight and tuck a pillow between your knees to keep your spine in a neutral alignment.

Another type of side sleeping with your legs bent upwards is less ideal for your back. Known as the fetal position, it may be the most popular sleep style, but it promotes an uneven distribution of weight that can cause back pain and sore joints. Try straightening your body into a relaxed position by untucking your chin and adjusting your knees. If youre pregnant, its a comfortable way to take the weight from your back.

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Sleep On The Side With A Pillow Between The Knees

If sleeping flat on the back is too painful for you, try turning to the side.

Allow your left or right shoulder to touch the mattress. It would be best to place a cushion between the knees.

You can also add a small pillow between the mattress and your waist for more support.

Whether you use one or two pillows, avoid the tendency to lie on the same side every night. Overdoing it can lead to muscular imbalance and scoliosis.

You wont feel any better if you rest on the side. The secret is to place a cushion between the knees. Thanks to the pillow, your spine, hips, and pelvis will be more aligned.

2. Cushions under the knees are good for side sleepers

Side Sleeping With Knee Support

How to Fix Lower Back Pain While Sleeping (PILLOWS)

While side sleeping is the most common sleep position, it can misalign your spine on an unsupportive mattress. Add a pillow between your knees while side sleeping to promote spinal alignment and relieve lower back pain. Side sleeping is also safe and comfortable for pregnant women, who often suffer from lower back pain.

Rather than using two separate pillows, try side sleeping with a body pillow. Simply rest your head on the top part of the pillow and place the bottom part between your knees.

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Where Does It Come From

Back pain, of course, originates in the back. There are a wide variety of potential causes from temporary muscle strain to spinal abnormalities. Medical News Today explains causes of back pain can stem from different types of strain, structural problems, internal infections and cancer, as well as sleep and mattress issues. The more common causes of back pain are:

  • Strain: Strained muscles or ligaments due to improper or too heavy lifting, awkward movements
  • Skeletal problems: Ruptured or bulging discs, sciatica, scoliosis, arthritis, osteoporosis
  • Infections: of the spine, pelvis, or nerves
  • Sleep disorders: people with sleep disorders are more likely to have back pain
  • Bad mattress: poor support can cause or worsen pain
  • Lifestyle: poor posture, standing, hunching and bending for long periods and extended driving


Strain is the most common reason for back pain, affecting muscles and ligaments. Improperly lifting or pulling things and lifting or carrying heavy objects are common ways muscles become strained. Sudden movements, such as getting out of bed or cars awkwardly or falling, can trigger pain. Bending, standing, hunching over a desk or driving for extended periods of time also causes muscle tension and strain.

Structural Problems

Other Causes

Sleeping Positions What To Aim For And What To Avoid

It is widely documented that your sleep position affects your body and your health. Getting your body into a neutral position is key, essentially ensuring your spine remains straight and well supported.

The best position is a difficult one to answer in that they all have pros and cons. One should aim for the position that gives you the best quality sleep with the smallest reaction in the morning. Typically we all tend to move through the night anyway.

That said, a sleeping position to try first for mechanical support would be to lie flat on your back on a firm, but comfortable mattress. Using a suitable pillow under your head and placing a second under your knees will encourage healthy spine alignment whilst sleeping.

Although sleeping on your back is our recommended position, we cant deny that it is a position that most struggle with. If lying on your back feels unnatural then try sleeping on your side, a firm second favourite. Putting a cushion or pillow between your legs would prevent excessive rotation through your spine that may generate pain.

Sleeping sideways with your legs straight is a close second and helps with snoring and sleep apnea.

Legs bent whilst on your side may restrict movement of your diaphragm and affect your breathing.

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When You Experience Low Back Pain And Sciatica Getting A Good Nights Sleep Can Be Elusive

How to sleep with sciatica pain in lower back. To do this, lay on your back and slide one or more pillows under your knees. Sciatica is a symptom of sciatic nerve irritation, causing pain that typically radiates from the lower back .many times, sciatica is related to an underlying problem and may require a visit to your. Sciatica pain is often worsened when the nerves in your lower back are irritated or compressed.

How to sleep with lower back pain and sciatica. But learning the best sleeping positions for sciatica may be your answer to a good nights sleep. Back sleepers may need extra support to ensure the best alignment while sleeping on your back, make sure your pillow is supporting the curve of your neck to reduce stress on your lower back.

Yet, sciatica is a rather misunderstood pain. Theres not evidence yet that one causes the other, but one thing is clear: Sleeping with the aid of neck and body pillows is also a good option.

Sleep apnea, coupled with back or sciatica pain, can spell disaster for sleep and even sleep quality. Try placing a pillow between your knees to help keep your spine properly aligned and to reduce stress on your hips and lower back. Lie on your back with your hips and heels touch down.

Understanding sciatica and how it affects sleep. For some people, sleeping on their back may be the best position to relieve back pain: As the sciatic nerve controls the lower leg muscles, sciatica almost always starts at the lower back.

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