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Best Sleeping Positions For Lower Back Pain

Researchers have long seen a link between sleeping problems and lower back pain. Being in pain makes it harder to fall asleep, let alone a really good, deep sleep. Lower back pain can rouse you from sleep everytime the pain surges. At the same time, those who have problems sleeping are more prone to having pain or have their current pain get worse. 

So how can you adjust your sleeping position in order to get the best night’s sleep possible? Knowing the best sleep positions is one of the steps one can work on to prevent or eliminate lower back pain. Remember that sleep-deprived people have compromised immune systems, which can impair healing.

How Sleeping Positions Affect Lower Back Pain

The effect of sleeping position on spinal alignment is another link between sleep and lower back pain. Posture is usually associated with standing and sitting, but it’s equally important when a person is lying down. When you assume a sleeping position in which you twist or contort puts pressure on your lumbar spine, which results not just in back pain and stiffness, but also shoulder pain and neck pain as well. You will feel the obvious effect when you wake up the next day, but it can stay throughout the day.  

The best sleeping position for lower back pain is on your side, with your knees partially bent. This sleep position of the knees helps balance your body and lessen the pressure on your lumbar spine. You can make this position even better by putting a small pillow between your knees, which encourages proper alignment and sleep posture, making sleep even more comfortable.

But those who have gotten used to sleep on their back and stomach may have a hard time changing their default slumber position. You need to try different things to see what works for you best. Still, if you’re one of these people, there are things you can do to reduce the strain and chronic pain on your lower back.

  • For back sleepers - place a pillow between your knees, legs, and/or lower back to provide support to your spine’s natural curve. A knee pillow will lessen lumbar pressure as you sleep in a reclined position.
  • For stomach sleepers - place a thin pillow under your head and then put a more supportive pillow under your abdomen and hips. This slim pillow will prevent your lower back from sinking into a U-shape which pulls your spine out of alignment when you engage in stomach sleeping. You have to prevent your spine and pelvis from sagging as you lie down in a neutral position. Even just a small support in the midsection will help a stomach sleeper like you tremendously. 
  • For side sleepers - if you’re a side sleeper or someone sleeping in a fetal position who is suffering from lower back pain, you will find that using a taller body pillow, not necessarily a thicker pillow can help immensely in your sleep quality. A taller, firm pillow for side sleepers can help maintain a neutral spine position and sleeping posture in the upper back and neck. 

An adjustable bed can work for some people with back pain, as this makes it easier to raise the upper or lower part of the mattress, which will help decrease the tension in their lower backs.

How to Sleep Better When Your Lower Back Hurts

Sleeping well seems like a difficult task when your lower back is giving you issues, but it’s an effort worth doing since quality sleep is instrumental in lower back pain recovery. Here are some practical tips for getting better sleep. 

  • Find a sleeping position that fully supports your posture - sleeping on your side is ideal, but each person has different preferences and all may not be comfortable with this position. Regardless of your sleeping position, make sure that your spine will be well aligned as you sleep. Have some extra pillows handy for better body support.
  • Reduce possible interruptions - waking up in the middle of the night can make it harder for anyone to go back to sleep, and this is especially true for those with back pain. So you need to do something about factors that may disrupt your slumber. This means eliminating excess light and noise in your room by blocking them out using sleep masks and earplugs. Temperature is also important. Find your comfortable cool and warm levels and adjust your air-conditioning or heater accordingly.
  • Watch your caffeine and alcohol intake - caffeine is an effective stimulant that can make it harder for you to wind down when you drink it in the afternoon or evening. This is why you should cut down on coffee in the afternoon and onwards. Same with alcohol, which can initially help you to sleep faster, but it will make your sleep quality inferior.
  • Mind your diet - diet might be a surprising factor, but what you eat can affect your sleep. Eating healthy definitely helps because a good diet allows your body to absorb proper nutrients and thus providing your brain with the chemical environment needed to produce the neurotransmitters necessary for adequate sleep. Conversely, poor sleep patterns can make you tend to eat more, which can lead to poor diet quality and higher obesity rates. While it’s true that psychological factors can contribute to such issues, metabolic processes also play a major role. It’s important to note that it’s not only what you eat, but the time you eat also matters. This is why it’s necessary to make better nutrient choices in order to optimize your circadian alignment.
  • Try relaxation methods - whether it’s reading a good book, drinking a glass of milk, or listening to a sleep app, doing techniques to help wind you down can do wonders in the quality of your sleep. 
  • Take sleep aids - melatonin is a popular supplement for improving sleep in various conditions. It can help you sleep longer in your usual slumber hours. It can also help adjust your sleep if you’re suffering from jet lag. Melatonin can also combat insomnia, although it may not be as effective for those with extreme cases. 

How Your Mattress Can Cause Lower Back Pain

Man sitting near mattress

A mattress definitely plays an important role in improving the quality of your sleep by preventing or reducing lower back pain. You need a mattress or memory foam in good condition and doesn’t sag so much in order to maintain proper spinal alignment while you sleep. 

According to research, medium-first mattresses are the best option to prevent lower back pain. However, the best mattress for you should also include other deciding factors, such as your sleeping position, weight, body shape, and your individual comfort preferences. There is a reason why people sleep wonderfully in hotel beds, since the quality of the firm mattress, especially in expensive hotels, is top-notch. 

You should also check your present mattress for wear and tear. According to the Better Sleep Council, you should evaluate your mattress every five to seven years, taking into consideration optimal comfort and support. According to a study in the Journal of Applied Ergonomics, nearly 63% of their respondents found their lower spine back pains significantly improved after they switch to a newer sleep system.

This naturally makes buying a mattress a serious business for those looking for better sleep. When you see a mattress in a store, lie down in your favorite sleeping position (take your shoes off, of course) and spend a few relaxing minutes on it. A good mattress is one that supports your spine in a good standing posture. 

But what if buying a new mattress is not in your budget at the moment? Temporary solutions include putting your mattress on the floor or adding plywood supports between the base of the bed and the mattress. 

Get In and Out of Bed Safely

Remember not to jerk yourself up from a lying position when getting in and out of bed. Get in your bed safely by sitting on the side of the bed first and then support your body with your hands, bend your knees, and lie down gently on your side. To get out of bed, roll into your side and bend both of your knees. Afterwards, push yourself off the bed with your hands as you swing your legs over the side of the bed. Try not to bend forward at the waist since this can strain your back.

How Medical Professionals Can Help You With Your Sleep Problem

A spine specialist is your best friend when it comes to solving back pain and long-term pain relief. In tandem with your primary care doctor (who can help check if your problem is indeed posture-related), they can find out exactly what’s wrong with your body and how you can adjust things to help you achieve better sleep.  

Sometimes your sleeping problem is caused by other factors, such as sleep apnea, stress, and depression. In this case, you definitely need more than melatonin to improve your sleep quality. 

Speaking of specialists, there’s no better facility to handle your pain and sleep issues than New York Pain Care. Aside from spine alignment, the clinic also offers other excellent services including physical therapy, chiropractic care, sports medicine, and medical massage. We handle all sorts of pain, such as isthmic spondylolisthesis, herniated disc, sciatica, spinal stenosis, and even degenerative disc disease.

You can rest easy knowing that you will be handled by top-rated back pain doctors and get to use the best technology for your treatments. Call now to book your appointment and work towards getting restful sleep and a pain-free life.

Learn more: How to Choose the Best Mattress for Lower Back Pain

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