The lower back is made up of a complex network of components. The lumbar spine consists of five vertebrae, each of which is supported by a shock-absorbing disc and held in place by ligaments. Tendons connect the spine to the muscles surrounding it. The spinal column serves as a distribution hub for the body’s nerves.
To perform any kind of action, you need to have a strong lower back that can handle the weight of your body. The lower back is an important part of movement and comfort, whether you’re standing, sitting, walking, or even sleeping down.
It’s no wonder that the lower back is a common source of pain, given its intricacy and how much we rely on it.
About eight out of ten people suffer from back pain at some point in their lives; it is the most common reason people seek medical attention.
Back pain can be slight or severe, and it can stay for a short time or last for a long time. Even sleep can be disrupted when the condition is severe enough to be debilitating.
Pain and sleep are linked in a complicated way. Discomfort disrupts sleep, and sleep deprivation increases the likelihood of pain. When it comes to lower back pain, sleeping positions and mattresses that don’t fully support the lower back may also be to blame.
New ways to treating lower back pain can be gleaned by studying the connections between sleep and back pain. How to sleep when you’re dealing with back pain might help alleviate the discomfort while also aiding in healing or recovery.
Types of Lower Back Pain
Acute and chronic lower back pain are the two most common forms of the ailment.
- Short-term, acute lower back pain is defined as lasting from a few days to a few weeks, depending on severity. In most cases, it can be traced back to a specific incident or injury. When acute back pain subsides, there is no long-term influence on one’s ability to move.
- Chronic lower back pain lasts for at least three months or more, on average. It can happen for a variety of reasons, and in many situations, there is no obvious cause.
Acute lower back discomfort might develop into a chronic condition. Acute low back pain can develop chronic in about 20% of instances, according to the National Institutes of Health.
How Are Sleep and Lower Back Pain Related?
Research shows a two-way interaction between lower back discomfort and sleep issues that may be mutually reinforcing, which has long been seen by researchers.
Sleep deprivation can be exacerbated by the presence of discomfort. Pain in the lower back can make it difficult to fall asleep, or it can cause nightly awakenings as the pain flares up.
People who have sleep issues are also more prone to developing pain or seeing their pain worsen. There are a number of theories as to why this occurs, but experts aren’t entirely sure. Chronic sleep deprivation has been linked to a variety of negative health effects, including decreased immune function, heightened sensitivity to pain, and changes in brain chemistry that influence how we perceive and respond to pain.
How Do Sleeping Positions Affect Lower Back Pain?
When you sleep, your spinal posture might change, which can lead to lower back pain. In addition to being important while sitting and standing, posture is also important while lying down.
If you sleep in a posture that puts pressure on the lumbar spine, you may have pain and stiffness. The discomfort is usually worse in the morning, but it can last throughout the day as well if it is persistent.
The Best Sleeping Positions for Lower Back Pain
On your side, with your knees slightly bent, is the greatest posture to sleep if you suffer from lower back pain. Balance is maintained by keeping the knees bent, which decreases pressure on one’s lower back. This position can be made more comfortable for many people by putting a small pillow in between the knees.
It’s unfortunate that so many people who sleep on their backs or stomachs have a hard time switching positions at night. Although they might take precautions to lessen the strain on their lower back, they can
- If you sleep on your back, you can reduce the pressure on your lower back by placing a pillow beneath your knees, thighs, or lower back.
- If you sleep on your stomach, use a thicker pillow under your hips and abdomen instead of a thin one under your head. As a result, the lower back does not slump into a U-shape, which would otherwise cause the spine to slip out of place.
Using an adjustable bed to raise or lower the mattress’ top or lower portion might relieve pressure on the low back for some persons who suffer from back discomfort.
Can Your Mattress Cause Lower Back Pain?
Lower back discomfort can be prevented or reduced in part by using a mattress, which is a primary support system for the body while sleeping.
A well-maintained mattress that does not sag excessively is necessary for proper spinal alignment. Lower back discomfort may be alleviated by sleeping on a medium-firm mattress, according to research, but the ideal firmness depends on a person’s weight, body type, sleeping position, and personal comfort preferences.
How to Sleep Better With Lower Back Pain
The following tips will help you get a good night’s sleep, even if you have lower back pain:
1. Sleep on your side to relieve pain from a pulled back muscle
If you’ve ever had discomfort in your lower back, you’ve probably experienced a pulled muscle, which occurs when a muscle in your lower back is overstretched and strained. Symptoms of a torn back muscle are usually gone after a few days, although the acute discomfort might make it difficult to sleep at night.. It’s also important to remember that the more time you spend lying in bed, the more fatigued you become and the more severe your symptoms may become.
There is no one-size-fits-all sleeping posture for people with a pulled back muscle, but trying sleeping on your side can be a good starting point. Try the following if you like to sleep on your side:
- Sleep with your body slightly extended rather than in a fetal position with your knees pulled in toward your torso.
- Support your spine’s natural curve by placing a thin pillow between your knees.
- Choose a pillow for your head so that it rests halfway between your shoulders. Having a pillow that’s either too thin or too thick might put strain on your neck.
If you have a pulled back muscle, you may find it helpful to sleep with it wrapped in a disposable heat wrap. Using these wraps can help you fall asleep faster and remain asleep longer since they give muscle-relaxing, low-level heat for several hours.
2. Listen to soothing audio
When the lights go out and your head hits the pillow, you tend to focus more on your back discomfort because the stimuli that kept your attention during the day have faded away. As you focus more on your back pain, you may find it more difficult to fall asleep as a result.
As your attention is drawn away from your discomfort, calming sounds can help alleviate your anxiety and ease your back pain. The following are some of the evening audio options you can try:
- Music of the classical genre.
- Audio novels geared toward young listeners
- Podcasts that help you unwind and unwind.
Playing a harsh sound or an intense plot line in your audio should be avoided at all costs.
3. Don’t skimp on your mattress
Sagging mattresses can be saved by scouring the internet, where you’ll find all kinds of tips and tricks. Methods such as slipping plywood under the mattress and getting rid of the box spring are among the most common. While these methods may work for some people, the most effective solution is to buy a new mattress to replace an old one.
Sagging mattresses can cause lower back pain in some people, so it’s crucial to keep an eye on your mattress and make sure it’s in good shape. As a result, it may be more difficult to get to sleep at night.
When it comes to sleeping with lower back discomfort, the most costly mattress isn’t always the best. In the end, the ideal mattress for you is the one that allows you to get the most restful sleep possible. Here are some mattress principles to get you started in your search with this in mind.
- Your spine’s natural curve should be supported by your mattress. A good posture is one in which you maintain a straight spine even while you’re lying down or sitting down.
- Try out a variety of mattresses at your local mattress store. You’ll be able to tell if a mattress is a good fit for you after just 15 minutes on it. Relax and enjoy the process.
- Consider a larger mattress if you sleep with a companion. You and your partner will be able to get a good night’s sleep without waking each other up in the middle of the night.
The Best Sleeping Positions for Lower Back Pain
If you suffer from lower back pain, these are the greatest sleeping positions to attempt, as well as some other suggestions for a better night’s sleep.
1. Sleep on your side with a pillow between your knees
Try changing to your side if resting on your back is making you feel nauseous:
- The remainder of your body and your right or left shoulder should lie on the mattress.
- Put a pillow in between your knees and get comfortable.
- Small pillows can be used to fill any gaps between your waist and the mattress.
There’s a tendency to want to sleep on the same side every night, no matter how many pillows you have. So many can lead to problems like muscular imbalance and even scoliosis if you do too many at once.
What is the value of this position? You won’t feel better if you sleep on your side. The secret is to place a pillow between your knees. Your spine, pelvis, and hips will all be in better alignment if you use a pillow.
2. Sleep on your side in the fetal position
A fetal position may be helpful if you have a herniated disc and can’t sleep on your back.
- Lay on your back, then gently roll over to your side, if you like.
- Gently curl your torso toward your knees by tucking your knees in towards your chest.
- Remember to alternate sides from time to time in order to avoid any imbalances in your body.
What is the value of this position? Between each of your spine’s vertebrae are discs, which act as a kind of cushion. It is possible for a disc to herniate, resulting in nerve discomfort, weakness, and other symptoms. In a fetal posture, your torso opens the space between your vertebrae.
3. Sleep on your stomach with a pillow under your abdomen
Although it sounds counterintuitive, many people believe that sleeping on one’s stomach causes back pain. In part, this is accurate, as it may place additional strain on your neck.
Because of this, it’s okay if you find yourself laying on your stomach. Instead:
- To reduce some of the pressure on your back, place a pillow beneath your pelvis and lower abdomen.
- You may or may not want to place a pillow under your head, depending on how comfortable you feel in this posture.
What is the value of this position? Stomach sleeping with a pillow may be especially beneficial for those with degenerative disc condition. Disc space can be relieved by using this.
4. Sleep on your back with a pillow under your knees
Sleeping on one’s back may be the ideal position to alleviate back discomfort for certain people.
- Lay on your back and relax.
- Lie on your back with your knees supported by a pillow. The cushion plays a crucial role in maintaining your lower back’s natural bend.
- Additionally, you can slip a small, rolled-up towel under the small of your back for additional support.
What is the value of this position? On your back, you distribute your weight across the widest possible region of your body, allowing you to sleep comfortably. Your pressure points aren’t put under as much strain as they would be otherwise. The spine and internal organs can also be more aligned.
5. Sleep on your back in a reclined position
Do you prefer to sleep in a reclining position? If you suffer from isthmic spondylolisthesis, a chair-sleeping position may help alleviate your back pain.
To get the finest alignment and support when sleeping this position, consider an adjustable bed.
What is the value of this position? It is a condition where a vertebra slides over the one below it. Isthmic spondylolisthesis Because it creates an angle between your thighs and trunk, reclining may be good for your back. This position alleviates the strain on your spine.
When Should You See a Doctor About Lower Back Pain
If you’re experiencing back discomfort that doesn’t go away within a few days, you should see a doctor.
- A specific injury was the catalyst for the agony.
- For more than a few days, the pain persists or intensifies.
- Suffering may be crippling.
- Legs or other regions of the body are affected by the pain.
- You get a tingling sensation in your lower extremities.
- Redness, warmth, swelling and fever are all indications that you may be infected.
- You’ve had cancer in the past.
- You’ve noticed additional health changes, such as weight loss or urinary issues, that aren’t explained.
Your symptoms can be evaluated by a doctor, who can then decide on the best course of action for further testing, diagnosis, and treatment.
What to look for in a pillow
With the right pillow, you should be able to sleep comfortably with your head resting on top of your neck and upper back.
You should choose a pillow that entirely fills the gap between your neck and the mattress while you sleep on your back. Using a thicker cushion will help keep your head aligned with the rest of your body if you like to sleep on your side.
Don’t put your pillow under your shoulders at all costs.
It is recommended that those who prefer to sleep on their backs use pillows that are thinner and have additional cushioning at the bottom to help support their necks.
Using memory foam as a neck pillow is a wonderful idea because it adapts to your individual neck shape.
Another option that provides strong, all-over support is a water cushion.
The smallest possible pillow or no pillow at all should be used by stomach sleepers. You could even try sleeping on your side with a body pillow in your arms. Your stomach will feel supported when sleeping with a body pillow, and the alignment of the rest of your body will be improved.
For those who sleep on their side, a firm pillow might be a good option. A gusset that’s especially broad can aid with the distance between your ear and shoulder. Place a firm pillow between your knees to ensure proper alignment. Even a rolled towel can be used as a substitute.
Remember to change your pillow every 18 months or so while you’re at it. Pillows still contain allergens, such as mold and dust mites, despite the best efforts of pillow protectors.
What to look for in a mattress
Your mattress is important, too.
Lower back discomfort sufferers used to be prescribed orthopedic mattresses that were extra firm. However, don’t rush out and get one just yet. In recent studies, it has been found that persons who sleep on particularly firm mattresses may not get the best night’s rest.
However, a soft mattress won’t do anything to help with alignment.
If you have the money to buy a new mattress, consider a hard or medium-firm innerspring or foam mattress. A memory foam mattress topper can be used to improve an existing innerspring mattress.
A few minutes of evaluating a mattress in a store may not be enough time to discern if it is truly comfy. To ensure you have a good night’s sleep, several companies allow you to test out a mattress before making a final decision.
Isn’t this the time to buy? Put plywood under your mattress to discover whether it’s better for you. In order to evaluate if placing your mattress on the floor may assist alleviate your pain, you may want to try sleeping on it.
In our sleep store, you’ll find all of the Healthline-approved mattresses for those with back problems.
Other sleep hygiene tips
To help you sleep better at night and alleviate your back pain, here are some additional tips:
Set a bedtime and stick to it.
If you toss and turn in your sleep, it may be difficult to resist the temptation to sleep in. Regular sleep schedules can assist your body in returning to a more regular sleep cycle. To achieve the best night’s rest, aim for at least eight hours of sleep.
Problems keeping to a regular sleep schedule? Make a bedtime regimen that you stick to every night. Begin this regimen 30 to 60 minutes before your scheduled bedtime. Choose two activities that will help you rest and unwind your mind.
Taking a bath, doing moderate yoga, or participating in calm hobbies like knitting or reading are all good ideas.
Avoid stimulants like coffee and other caffeinated beverages.
If you’re only going to have one cup, make sure you finish it by 12 p.m.
Hard workouts should be done in the morning or in the first half of the day.
Before going to bed, avoid doing anything strenuous that could cause an increase in your cortisol levels and, possibly, your core temperature. Both of these things make it even more difficult to fall asleep.
For those who have no primary care physician, Healthline’s FindCare service will help you locate one in your area.