How should I sleep with lower back pain?

Is your lower back stiff, sore, and achy in the morning? Do your arms and legs fall asleep at night? 

Poor sleep can impact every aspect of daily life. Waking from a fitful night of sleep can lead to grogginess and grouchiness during the day, which can lead to more chronic pain and a lack of sleep at night.

It’s a vicious cycle, but there are a few steps to take, including evaluating your sleeping position and cleaning up your sleep routine.

If your mattress is brand-new and of proper firmness for your back but you still wake up with lower back pain, it’s time to look at your sleep position.

The best position to sleep in is one that keeps your spine in proper alignment, protecting the subtle inward curve of the lower back and not thrusting your chin forward.

Sleeping On Your Back

For most people with lower back pain, sleeping on your back is a mixed bag. For those with a soft mattress who like to sleep with multiple pillows, it’s one of the worst positions. The weight of the legs may cause the lumbar spine to curve excessively, compressing the vertebrae.

This may cause numbness and tingling in the feet and legs (and sometimes even up the arms). People with spinal stenosis will definitely feel more pain as their spinal column presses in even more.

If sleeping on your back is your preferred position, use a very skinny pillow under your head and a fluffier one behind your knees. A medium-firm to firm mattress is the best choice here.

Sleeping On Your Belly

We think most people understand that sleeping on your belly is pretty much the worst sleeping position for those who wake with lower back pain. This position flattens the curve of the lumbar spine and forces the neck to turn to one side for an extended period of time. Both things can cause strain on the muscles and tendons all the way up the spine.

Again, if you must sleep on your belly, placing a pillow under the hips can relieve the strain across your lower back a bit, but expect neck pain most mornings.

Sleeping On Your Side

Side sleeping may just be the best option for a host of lower back issues. It is possible in this position, more than the others, to preserve the natural curves of the spine.

Placing a pillow between the knees keeps the hips aligned comfortably. A pillow under the head supports the proper alignment of the head and neck (and be a little bit thicker than those for back and belly sleepers). Additionally, sleepers who suffer from heartburn or acid reflux may find relief in this position, too.

It may be a point of changing your habitual sleep patterns to overcome the discomfort you experience at night. After all, a good night’s sleep is what we all need in order to function at our optimum, given the daily pressures of life we face on an ongoing basis. It makes sense to make sure your sleep quality is sound.

In our next article, we will dive a bit into how a good mattress will make a noticeable difference – and how to go about choosing the best option for you.