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How To Sleep If You Have Back Pain

Know When To Get Help

How to Sleep PAIN-FREE With Back Pain & Sciatica

If nothing seems to work, it may be time to see a sleep specialist who can offer personalized care or a therapist who can help with depression and anxiety.

The bottom line: Getting poor sleep can surely affect your daily life but keeping joint pain under control will help. If youre dealing with sleep disturbance because of your OA, speak with your health care provider about how to make quality sleep part of your overall health and disease management.

Body Reflex Hacking: The Best Way To Sleep For Lower Back Pain

The best way to sleep for lower back pain might now be as straight forward as you might think. When the body is designed to continue to move its important to understand how to move your body in a way throughout the night to keep it comfortable.

In this short live presentation we will go over 5 different strategies of the best ways to sleep for lower back pain.

If you have your favorite best position to sleep for lower back pain, please share those in the comments section below:

Take Slow Deep Breaths To Get To Sleep And Fall Back Asleep

Slow, rhythmic breathing has calming mind-body effects and may help alleviate pain and stress, promoting sleep. Research indicates that taking slow and deep breaths before bedtime can help you get to sleep faster and fall back asleep in case you wake up during the night.10

This type of breathing technique also helps synchronize your heart rate and breathing pattern, which may help promote deeper, restorative sleep.10

Also Check: Back Pain Cleveland Clinic

The 4 Major Causes Of Lower Back Pain

There are four major causes of back pain:

  • Too much sittingprolonged periods of sitting can cause back pain from poor posture or from being seated for too long, which will compress your spine and weaken your lower-back muscles.
  • Lack of exercisewhen you dont regularly exercise, your back muscles may become weak and start to ache.
  • Slouchingslouching decreases the space between vertebrae in your spine and can result in a lack of circulation and increased tension on the discs that lie between your vertebrae.
  • Stressstress triggers the release of hormones that increase muscle tension and decrease blood flow to certain areas of your body, including your lower back. This can lead to chronic tightness and pain.

The Ideal Sleep Position: On Your Back


The best position to avoid back pain is lying flat on your back. Even so, many people find it the hardest way to enjoy deep sleep. For optimal spine alignment, place one pillow underneath your head or neck and another underneath your knees. If youre pregnant, however, you should avoid this position because it decreases blood circulation to the heart and baby.

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What Causes Lower Back Pain While Sleeping

Your back isanchored by your spine, which is essentially a column of bones stacked atop oneanother. In between each bone is a jelly-like pad called a spinal disc. Whereyou sleep and the position you sleep in can affect your spinal alignment. Whileyou sleep, you can twist and place strain on your spinal column, which cancause discomfort and pain. If you are sleeping on a hard surface or surfacethat does not provide proper support, it can also place strain on your spinalcolumn and muscles.

Pain caninterfere with sleep and lack of sleep can exacerbate pain. The sooner you knowthe best way to sleep with lower back pain, you can change how you’re sleeping,reduce your pain and stop this stressful negative cycle.

Do You Have Neck Or Back Pain Your Sleep Style May Be Contributing

If youve ever woken up with a tingling arm or achy neck, youve experienced the negative effects of sleeping in the wrong position.

The key is alignment: When you sleep with your spine in a neutral position, it reduces the strain on your back and neck. It also helps to sleep on a firm surface.

So which sleep positions should you embrace and which should you avoid? Heres a rundown, from best to worst.

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How To Sleep With Back Pain: 5 Tips For Relief

Back pain is an acute medical condition that causes physical mobility limitations in everyday life. The sudden onset can last up to six weeks before an individual finds relief. Considered one of the leading causes of musculoskeletal disabilities worldwide, back pain is a common trigger for the problem. More specifically, about 80 percent of adults experience low back pain at some point. While its generally a short-term impairment, if the problem isnt resolved, it can lead to chronic issues. The limitations caused by back pain can affect the completion of everyday tasks and activities. The Mayo Clinic cited radiating and shooting pains, muscle stiffness and strains as well as the need to lay in a reclined position as common signs and symptoms of back pain. The days that you have to roll yourself out of the bed shouldnt be taken lightly. Its important to recognize when something is going on back there and how to troubleshoot the situation.

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Sleep In A Fetal Position

What is the best way to go to sleep if you have back pain

If you have a herniated disc, curl up in a fetal position. When you lie on your side with your knees tucked into your chest, you’ll be able to minimize the bending of your spine and open up your joints simultaneously. If you choose the fetal position, use a pillow to give your head and neck some support.

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Other Sleep Hygiene Tips

Here are some other ideas for how you can get better rest at night and reduce your back pain:

Put yourself on a sleep schedule. It may be hard to resist sleeping in if you toss and turn all night. Still, setting regular bedtimes and wake times can help your body fall into a more natural sleeping pattern. Aim to get around eight hours of sleep per night.

Having trouble with a sleep schedule? Try following a nightly routine. Start this routine about 30 to 60 minutes before your set bedtime. Choose two soothing activities that help put your mind into a relaxing space.

Ideas include taking a bath, doing some gentle yoga, and engaging in quiet hobbies like reading or knitting.

Skip caffeinated drinks like coffee and other stimulants. If you just have to drink a cup, finish your last one before noon.

Save hard exercise for the morning or early afternoon hours. Doing anything too rigorous before bed may raise your adrenaline levels and even your body temperature. These two factors make it even harder to sleep.

If you dont already have a primary care doctor, the Healthline FindCare tool can help you find a physician in your area.

For pain relief

Use an ice or a cold gel pack before hopping into bed. It may help reduce inflammation in your back and relieve pain. Apply the cold pack to your back for 15 to 20 minutes before sleep.

Live A Sedentary Lifestyle

Though resting is important, too much rest can backfire for someone with OA. Being inactive can lead to pain, stiffness, and lack of mobility as well as weight gain, which can cause additional pain in your joints. Knee or hip pain can make staying active difficult but trying to get some movement into your day is certainly worth the health benefits. According to a study published in Arthritis Care & Research, increased activity can significantly reduce the risk of health conditions, such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.

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Other Tips And Tricks

Sleeping in an optimalposition and investing in a quality mattress and pillow can help to improveyour sleep if you suffer from lower back pain, however, there are additionalthings you can do to improve your sleep, including:

  • Get in and outof bed slowly and avoid jerky movements
  • Regularlyexercise
  • Strengthen yourcore
  • Try gentlestretching before bed
  • Improve yoursleep hygiene

Sleeping with lower back pain can be difficult, but finding the best position as well as choosing an appropriate mattress and pillow, and following the additional tips mentioned in this article can go a long way to improving your sleep quality and quantity, which in turn will help to improve your quality of life.

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Where Does It Come From

How Should You Sleep If You Have Lower Back Pain

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

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Can Pillows Help Train You To Be A Back Sleeper

Pillows can be a resourceful tool in training oneself to nap in a new way. A semi-flat and adjustable pillow under the neck should keep the head neutral without too much lift.

Make sure the pillow is not too flat, either. When a cushion is not high enough, it can put the neck at an awkward angle. Pillows under the arms can also offer support and make you feel cradled, and as mentioned earlier, placing a pillow under the knees should reduce pressure to help ensure a restful night.

View Our Guide:Best Pillows for Back Sleepers

Consume Foods That May Help Promote Sleep

Consuming certain foods in your evening meal may help increase the level of tryptophan in your body. Tryptophan is a type of protein that is essential for the production of the sleep-regulating hormone, serotonin. Increased tryptophan levels help reduce the time taken to fall asleep, promote more restful sleep, and improve alertness in the morning.3 Examples of such sleep-promoting foods are3:

  • Carbohydrates with a high glycemic index, such as rice.
  • Fruits, such as cherries and kiwis.
  • Whole foods, such as milk, pulses, fatty fish, and shellfish.

When you plan to make dietary changes, consult with your doctor to ensure that the new food or supplement that you try does not adversely affect any existing medical condition or medication that you may be taking. Also, consider abstaining from foods and drinks that may adversely affect your sleep, such as coffee, tea, and chocolates. These food contain caffeine and theobromine that may disrupt your sleep cycle.3

See Food for Thought: Diet and Nutrition for a Healthy Back

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The Basics Of Back Pain

From temporary, acute pain to debilitating chronic conditions, the term back pain can be quite broad. It can be attributed to many different causes and can vary in intensity, but the scope and effect of back pain can be quite significant when it strikes. Before we get into the specifics of sleep and pain, heres a look at where back pain comes from and how it can affect life for those who have it.

Why Your Mattress Matters For Back Pain

Best Sleeping Positions If You Have Lower Back Pain

If youre waking up with back pain, you may be sleeping on the wrong mattress. However, your bed is typically not the cause of back pain. In any case, a good mattress can help relieve issues that cause back pain.

A good mattress that is well suited to your needs will help to align your spine. This alignment can alleviate aches and pains. People who suffer from lower back pain should look for a mattress that doesnt put pressure on pain points, particularly the shoulders and sacrum. These beds are typically firm enough that your shoulders dont sink, but soft enough to feel comfortable. Look for a 5-7 rating on the mattress firmness scale .

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Choose Sleep Positions That Support Pain Relief

How you sleep plays an important role in managing back pain, as certain positions place more strain on the back than others. Generally, back sleeping and supported side sleeping are regarded as most ergonomic, while stomach sleeping tends to be most associated with pain. Whichever position you prefer, here are tips for staying comfortable.

Side Sleepers

Side sleeping is the most common position, especially among women. While it can place some strain on the body, ensuring your hips and shoulders are supported can make it comfortable.

Ideally, side sleepers should bend both knees in slightly and place a small pillow between their legs to prevent hips from twisting and placing stress on the back. If your legs are too straight, this can exaggerate the curve of your lower back, but if your legs are drawn in too tightly, your back may round and both can cause pain. Getting the best mattress for side sleepers is also important to consider for comfort and support.

Your neck pillow should be the right height to keep your neck and spine straight and even, generally higher than pillows needed for back sleepers. Your chin shouldnt be drawn in to your chest or leaned too far back. Think natural standing position.

Conditions that may see more relief from proper side sleeping include osteoarthritis, spinal stenosis and foraminal herniated disc, as the position can reduce pressure on spinal joints.

Back Sleepers

Stomach Sleepers

And Then Theres The Neck

Unless youve somehow figured out how to breathe through your pillow, you need to turn your head to the side when you sleep on your stomach. That puts your head and spine out of alignment, twisting your neck. You might not notice the damage this causes after one episode of stomach sleeping, but over time neck problems can develop.

The neck problem you really dont want is a herniated disk. Thats when theres a rupture of the gelatinous disk between your vertebrae. When this gel bulges out from the disk, it can irritate the nerves.

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The Best Sleeping Positions For Lower Back Pain

The best sleeping position for lower back pain is on your side with a partial bend in the knees. Keeping the knees bent helps balance the body and reduces pressure on the lumbar spine. Many people find it helpful to put a small pillow between their knees to make this position more comfortable.

Unfortunately, many back and stomach sleepers have a hard time changing their sleeping position. Even so, they can take steps to reduce strain on their lower back:

  • Back sleepers can put a pillow under their knees, legs, and/or lower back to support the natural curve of the spine and minimize lumbar pressure.
  • Stomach sleepers should opt for only a thin pillow under their head and place a more supportive pillow under their hips and abdomen. This works to prevent the lower back from sinking into a U-shape that pulls the spine out of alignment.

Some people with back pain use an adjustable bed that makes it easy to raise the upper or lower part of the mattress in a way that decreases tension in the lower back.

On The Side With A Pillow Between The Knees

How to sleep on a bad mattress if you have back pain

Lying on the side can be comfortable, but it can pull the spine out of alignment, straining the lower back.

It can be easy to correct this issue by placing a firm pillow between the knees. This raises the upper leg, restoring the natural alignment of the hips, pelvis, and spine.

To get comfortable in this position:

  • Get into bed and carefully roll to one side.
  • Use one pillow to support the head and neck.
  • Pull the knees up slightly, and place another pillow between them.
  • For extra support, fill any gaps between the body and mattress with more pillows, especially at the waist.
  • Anyone who usually moves from their side to their front may also want to try hugging a large pillow against their chest and stomach to help keep their back aligned.

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    Pain Management For Scoliosis

    Certain therapies can aid in managing scoliosis pain, though they wont help to correct the curvature itself.

    Some techniques need more research but may be recommended by your doctor, such as hydrotherapy, massage, electrical stimulation, and back braces.

    These methods are most likely to aid in reducing pain and discomfort:

    How Are Sleep And Lower Back Pain Related

    Researchers have long seen an association between lower back pain and sleeping problems, and growing evidence points a two-way relationship in which they can be mutually reinforcing.

    Discomfort from pain can be a major barrier to sleep. Lower back pain makes it hard to get comfortable enough to fall asleep or may provoke nighttime awakenings when pain surges.

    At the same time, people with sleep problems are more likely to start having pain or to have pain get worse. Experts arent certain why this happens, but there are several potential explanations. Sleep deprivation may impair healing, affect mood in a way that heightens pain sensitivity, or disrupt chemicals in the brain that are involved in how we experience pain.

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