How to Sleep with Back Pain

Sleep Tips to Reduce Lower Back Pain

The day may be over, but that doesn’t mean you should stop taking steps to improve your back health and reduce your lower back pain. Proper sleeping habits and routines (what your doctor may call “sleep hygiene”) are an important part of treating low back pain. Make sure you use the time you spend in bed to relax and revive your back—not put more stress on it.
Man sleeping in bedMake sure you use the time you spend in bed to relax and revive your back—not put more stress on it.Think of it this way: every hour you spend asleep in a tense, uncomfortable position can contribute to the pain you’ll feel when you wake up in the morning. Additionally, poor sleep habits can be both a cause and a consequence of low back pain; if the pain keeps you awake at night, it can interfere with your sleep, leaving you exhausted the next day.

Here are 3 sleep-related habits that may be hurting your lower back—and how to fix them.

#1) The Way You’re Sleeping
Whether you spend 8 solid hours fast asleep in one position, or you find that you (or your bed partner) constantly thrash around in bed, your back can suffer during the night.

Pillows can help you balance the pressure on your body while you lie down.

  • If you sleep on your side, place a pillow between your knees to help keep your hips level.
  • If you sleep on your back, a pillow underneath your knees can help remove pressure from your lower back.
  • Try to avoid sleeping on your stomach since this can cause hyperextension of your back without you noticing it.

The quality of your pillows is also important. Head and neck support is critical for back health. Pillows should be replaced regularly and fluffed to ensure that they have not become too flat over time. Many people sleep on collapsed pillows, which provide little or no neck support, or they double up on pillows, which can raise their heads too high. For optimal results, your nose should be parallel to the ground when you lay on your side.

neck alignment in side sleeping#2) The Way You Wake Up
You’ve woken up every day of your life, so you may feel pretty skilled at it. However, the way you wake up in the morning can be as important as the way you sleep. Sitting up too quickly and hopping out of bed can cause strain on your entire body, including your lower back.

Instead, start by rolling over to the side of your bed. Tighten your abdominal muscles and use an arm to lift yourself up as you drop your feet to the floor. Before you stand, do some neck rolls and light stretches to help get your muscles going after a night of rest.

#3) The Way You Mattress Shop
Make mattress shopping an integral part of buying a new bed. Most mattresses and box-springs should be replaced between 7 and 15 years after purchase. Ask a sales associate about a mattress that supports the curves in your back and is neither too hard nor too soft. Besides not providing enough support, mattresses that are too soft can make it difficult for you to get up in the morning since you may sink down into them.

Additionally, make sure you regularly flip your mattress over and around (from end to end) to help reduce sagging.

Small changes can help you make sure that your sleep habits work to your back’s advantage, not against it. A final tip for combating low back pain: try to make it to the bed each night. Though it may be tempting to fall asleep in front of the television, dozing off on your couch or recliner can also leave you in pain in the morning.

Learn more about sleeping well with back or neck pain, visit our Sleep Resource.

Updated on: 02/15/18
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