Lower back pain can seriously affect your sleep quality. After all, if you’re in pain constantly throughout the night, how can you get into a comfortable sleep position? There are pros and cons to each sleeping position, but the best sleeping position for lower back pain is on your back. It may sound counterintuitive, but it’s the best way to alleviate pressure on your back. Rather than lying flat, slightly elevate your neck and head with a soft pillow. To further adapt to the curve of your spine, place a small pillow or rolled towel underneath your knees.
Sleeping on your back allows your weight to be evenly distributed and minimizes pressure points. A firm mattress is also helpful in alleviating back pain. It better supports the spine versus a softer mattress that bends to the weight easily and doesn’t provide as even of a surface. The goal is to keep the spine in a neutral position without shifting pressure onto the back.
Couples often have different sleep preferences, and creating the best environment for you will improve your overall quality of rest. The Eight Sleep Pod is particularly perfect for helping couples sleep differently (and well) together.
The second best sleeping position for lower back pain is on the left side. Sleeping on your left side helps to alleviate acid reflux and heartburn. It also improves circulation and stimulates drainage of toxins. In this position, slightly bringing your knees to your chest in a fetal position allows the space to open between vertebrae, further relieving extra tension from the lower back. Use a pillow between your knees to keep the hips and spine better aligned.
The worst position to sleep in if you’re suffering from lower back pain is on your stomach. This flattens the natural curve of the spine and can cause tension in your neck and shoulders. Depending on your body shape and firmness of your mattress, it can also throw off your body’s balance and put additional strain on the lower back. To help with lower back problems, try alternating between sleeping on your back and side with and without a pillow as support for your legs.
Avoid Back Pain by Staying on the Move
One of the biggest causes of lower back pain is sitting. Many of us are sedentary throughout the day. This causes the lower back to feel stiff and out of alignment. Several studies recommend standing up every 30 minutes to help with back pain and get the blood flowing. Go for a walk, do a few stretches, or simply take a break and realign your posture once you sit down again.
In addition to standing up and stretching on a regular basis, adding physical activity to your routine is important as well. Core strengthening exercises that keep pressure off of your knees are optimal to prevent aggravation of pain in the lower back. Pilates and swimming are both lower-intensity workouts that help to strengthen the core, improve heart health, and increase flexibility.
Nighttime Exercises to Alleviate Back Pain
A few hours before you go to bed incorporate a back exercises to strengthen and stretch the back before you settle in for sleep. Each exercise is gentle on the spine and only takes a few minutes to do to experience the effects of working out before sleep. Choose the ones you enjoy most and see how they help you achieve better sleep.
Hug Your Knees
Place a blanket or yoga mat on the floor and lie on your back with knees slightly bent and feet on the floor. Pull one knee toward your chest (while the other one stays on the ground) and press your spine against the floor. Hold the position for several seconds and then do the same movement with the opposite leg.
Repeat with stretch on each leg two or three times, pulling only as far into the chest as is comfortable for your back. Before sitting up, hug both knees to the chest and rock slightly from side to side to give your back a gentle massage.
Make a Bridge
Lie on your back with your feet flat on the floor and hip-width apart. Place your hands by your sides or resting on your stomach and slowly lift your buttocks while keeping your shoulders on the floor. Create a straight line with your spine and hold the position for several seconds before lowering down. Repeat the bridge several times going at a slow pace.
Cat and Cow
This is a popular yoga stretch that you can easily do in your own home. Start by placing your hands and knees on the floor. Make sure your knees are under your hips and your hands underneath the shoulders to help align the spine. Once positioned comfortably, slowly round the back and pull your abdomen in for a “cat” pose. Then, allow your back and abdomen to sink beyond the straight alignment for “cow” pose.
Continue this slow flow of movement four or five times. Remember to keep your neck and head aligned at all times. As you arch your back, allow your neck to slightly curve downward too. As you let your back sag, lift your neck and head to look upward.
Gentle Spinal Twist
This stretch can be done sitting in a chair, on the floor, or lying down. If sitting, start with both legs out in front of you and then pull your left leg over your right knee with your right arm on your left knee and using the other arm for support. Twist gently to the left and hold for 10 seconds. Return to neutral position and then switch sides.
When lying down for this stretch, start with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart. Keep your knees together and roll them to one side while keeping your shoulders on the floor. Hold the stretch for 10 seconds before returning to neutral position. Then, move to the other side. Repeat this movement three or four times at a gentle pace.
With any of these exercises, you may feel heavy resistance at first as your muscles begin to stretch and become more flexible. Ease into the movements and go as far as is comfortable for your body. The more consistently you perform these exercises, the more it will help strengthen your trunk and feel good for your lower back.
Support Your Back for Better Sleep
Once you’ve found the best sleeping position for back pain and have incorporated exercises into your nighttime routine, you should start to notice a difference in your sleep health and overall health and well-being. However, you may also need to assess your mattress and pillows to ensure they’re giving you adequate support for your neck, spine, and lower back. A mattress that’s too firm or too soft may cause additional problems during the night and an overly firm pillow or one that’s lost its cushion can cause strain.
The conditions of your sleeping environment can also disrupt your sleep and cause you to toss and turn. Lower the temperature in the room by a few degrees and make sure there’s enough air movement. A dark, cool (60-67 degrees F), quiet room is best for a full night’s rest.
When you wake up in the morning, give yourself a few extra minutes to stretch. Do a full body stretch with your hands overhead and toes pointed. After you’ve been moving for a few minutes, try a few of your nighttime stretches or simply twist your spine gently from side to side.
es to find the right combination of pillows, positions, and exercises that work best for you. Once you find the regimen that gives you the best night’s sleep, commit to sticking with that routine. Taking a few extra moments to take care of your spine — and your space — will make a difference in how well you sleep.