Are you tossing and turning each night, wondering how to sleep with lower back pain? You’re not alone, in fact one-half of all working Americans admit to having back pain symptoms each year. Experts estimate that as much as 80% of the population will experience a back problem at some time in their lives. And the Global Burden of Disease study named lower back pain the leading cause of disability across the globe.
The point is, your suffering is shared by many. The American Chiropractic Association states that Americans spend more than $50 billion per year dealing with lower back pain problems. Which leaves us wondering if there is an end in sight, because it sure would be nice to a full night’s rest for once.
Sleep is one of the most important gifts we can give our hard-working bodies. It’s where our tissue restores, our metabolism recharges and where we get emotional and immune system regulation. Plus, we get the benefit of dreams! Our daily lives depend on a good night of sleep, so if we’re unable to power down and rest because we can’t figure out how to sleep with our lower back pain, it can wreak havoc on our daily lives.
To remedy your lower back pain issues, it’s important to understand what causes it in the first place. The reality is that the majority of lower back pain stems from bad posture, stress and various lifestyle habits. So, it’s important to examine what you are doing on a daily basis and how you can change it to alleviate the problem at its root.
If you’re required to sit at a desk every day or if your occupation requires manual labor, you may feel defeated in your daily quest to restore your back health. But there are various ways to help you manage your posture such as, not slumping over a keyboard, keeping feet flat on the floor and holding your abs tight. It’s also recommended to do desk-space stretches for lower back pain.
But maybe you’re doing everything you can from an occupational standpoint to correct your posture and stretch your back, what? It’s time to try a few new sleeping positions so we can finally ease your back pain induced sleeping woes.
1. Turn on your side placing a pillow between your knees.
Many people must learn to sleep on their back, and even then, it may be uncomfortable so try moving to your side:
- Let your right or left shoulder to make contact with the mattress, along with the rest of that side of your body.
- Put a pillow between your knees.
- If there’s a space between your abdomen and the mattress, try using a small pillow there for added support.
Whether you use one pillow or two, you should resist the urge to always sleep on the same side. This can cause issues like muscle imbalance and even scoliosis.
How does this position help? Sleeping on your side alone won’t alleviate your back pain. The key is using the pillow between your knees. The pillow will keep your hips, pelvis, and spine in better alignment.
2. Sleep in the fetal position.
If you have a herniated disc, pick a side and lie curled in a fetal position:
- Lie on your back and then roll over gently onto your side.
- Bring your knees toward your chest and curl your torso inward to your knees.
- Remember to switch sides from time to time to prevent any imbalances.
How does this position help? Your discs are soft cushions between the vertebrae in your spine. Herniation happens when part of a disc pushes out of its normal space, causing nerve pain, weakness, and more. Curling your torso into a fetal position opens the space between vertebrae.
3. Sleep on your stomach with a pillow under your waist.
Many claim sleeping on your stomach is actually bad for back pain. This isn’t entirely untrue as it can lead to neck issues. But if you find yourself resting on your stomach, you don’t have to force another position. Instead:
- Place a pillow under your pelvis and lower abdomen to relieve some of the pressure off your back.
- You may or may not choose to use a pillow under your head.
How does this position help? People who have degenerative disc disease may benefit most from stomach sleeping with a pillow. It can relieve any stress that is placed on the space between your discs.
4. Sleep on your back with a pillow beneath your knees.
For many, sleeping on their back may be the best position to alleviate back pain:
- Lie flat on your back.
- Place a pillow underneath your knees, keeping your spine neutral. The pillow is crucial — it works to keep that curve in your lower back.
- You can also use a small, rolled up towel under the small of your back for more support.
How does this position help? When you sleep on your back, your weight is evenly distributed and spread across the widest area of your body. As a result, you place less strain on your pressure points. You’re also able to get better alignment of your spine and your internal organs.
5. Sleep on your back while in a reclined position.
Do you feel most comfortable sleeping in a recliner? Although snoozing in a chair may not be the best choice for back pain, this position can be beneficial if you have isthmic spondylolisthesis.
6. Get An Adjustable Bed
You could invest in an adjustable bed so you can sleep this way with the best alignment and support.
How does this position help? Isthmic spondylolisthesis is a condition where a vertebra slips over the one below it. Reclining may help your back because it creates an angle between your thighs and torso. This position helps to reduce the pressure on your spine.
- Aligning your spine is the key for how to sleep with lower back pain. When you have any gaps between your body and your mattress, just place a pillow there to support your spine.
- Investing in a good pillow can make a big difference. Pillows should take up the space between your neck and your bed. Memory foam is a good material that molds specifically to your own neck.
- Get a good mattress. A variety of studies say to choose a firm or medium-firm mattress made with good-quality innersprings or foam. Or, if you can’t afford a new mattress at the moment, try a memory foam mattress topper.
- Keep yourself on a sleep schedule! Your body relies on bedtimes and waketimes, so it knows what to do and when to do it. As we’ve always heard, eight hours is truly the ideal amount of sleep time.
- If you are having difficulty winding down at night, try some gentle yoga, or a soothing bath to get into relaxation mode.
- If you are experiencing pain, try applying an ice pack to the lower back for 15-20 minutes prior to sleep.
By testing these sleeping positions and following these tips, you will be on the road to recovery and sleeping without the nuisance of lower back pain.