5 Most Comfortable Sleeping Positions for Reducing Lower Back Pain
Having a comfortable sleeping position can give you better, higher-quality sleep. But, as sufferers of lower back know, lousy sleep can result in pain that stops you from accomplishing what you want each day. Managing lower back pain is one of the most common medical problems globally. It can range from severe pain to sudden and everything in between. Back pain frequently results without a cause that your doctor can determine with a test or an imaging study, making it even more frustrating.
Some quick background: Your upper back is called the thoracic area, while the lower back is known as the lumbar region of the spine. Both have a lot of heavy lifting to do, but we'll mainly focus on lower back (or lumbar) pain in this article, due to its widespread prevalence.
With this in mind, it's necessary to understand what causes lower back pain and how to deal with it, especially when finding the proper position for sleeping. It may eventually lead to sleep deprivation or (worse) a sleeping disorder. A sleep disorder can affect your work performance, thinking, and mental health. The flip side is also true: getting a full night's sleep has a lot of health benefits in our day-to-day living.
In this article, you'll learn the five best sleeping positions for lower back pain, how to deal with lumbar pain issues, and more help for your back pain and sleeping situation. No matter what causes your back pain, these five sleeping positions can help you boost the quality of your sleep (some might say...overnight).
5 Best Sleeping Positions for Lower Back Pain
It is crucial to visit a doctor for lower back pain (AKA, lumbar back pain). A doctor can conduct an exam on your back and evaluate your ability to perform everyday tasks, like sitting, standing, walking, and raising your legs. They may also ask you a few questions about your lower back pain, such as rating your pain on a scale and talking to you about how well you can work with your pain.
All of this helps your doctor to determine where the pain comes from, as well if there are any reasons to believe that a particular health condition is resulting in your back pain. In some cases, your doctor might order one or more tests: X-ray, MRI or CT scans, blood tests, and bone scan and nerve studies.
That being said, there are three primary categories of lumbar or lower back pain: Acute, Subacute, and Chronic. Let's take a look at each one in turn.
Acute back pain, which is the most diagnosed, is mostly from stress, demanding exercise, clumsy movement, or lifting. Lifting something heavy without proper form can lead to acute back pain, which by definition typically lasts up to about 4 weeks (~1 month).
Subacute lower back pain is commonly known as back pain lasting between 4 and 12 weeks. Effective treatment for subacute lumbar pain is essential to prevent the transition to chronic low back pain.
Chronic pain is severe because the symptoms are strong enough to impact your health, mobility, and quality of life for an extended period (beginning at about 6 weeks). A new injury commonly triggers this level of back pain. While it might go away at times, chronic back pain frequently strikes again without proper treatment.
With all of this info at top of mind, here are 5 sleeping positions that may help you sleep through the night (and give you energy all day!). Of course, each person is unique, and your doctor may suggest one of these sleeping positions for your specific type of pain. We recommend being open to trying out more than one to get a sense of which works best for you to get the most (and best) sleep each night.
Sleeping Position #1: On Your Back with a Pillow Under Your Knees
This position helps the back keep its standard curve, while allocating body weight more smoothly, as well as lowering stress on the lumbar spine with the pillow's support.
Sleeping Position #2: On Your Side in the "Fetal Position"
The "Fetal Position" sleeping posture helps your body open the space within your spinal vertebrae, easing the tension in your spinal discs, and preventing the spine from curving backward and causing discomfort or pain.
Sleeping Position #3: On Your Side with a Pillow Between Your Knees
This position, with a pillow between your knees, can help to reduce lower back pain and may help keep a more suitable spinal alignment during the night.
Sleeping Position #4: On Your Back with a Back Support Pillow
A back support pillow can help to reduce pressure on your spine, as well as support your back by virtue of creating an angle within your trunk (another word for your chest, abdomen, pelvis, and back) and thighs.
Sleeping Position #5: On Your Stomach with a Support Pillow Positioned at Waist Level
Patients having pain from degenerative disc disease may have the most advantage in this sleeping position. It can help reduce the stress on the space between the discs and help you get to sleep at night.
Extra Sleeping Tips for Back Pain
Knowing all the best sleeping positions is a great start. But we want to provide a few more helpful tips for getting sleep with back pain.
The Sleep Foundation recommends swapping out your mattress about every six or eight years. This change may be required for ideal relaxation, support, and simply due to wear and tear. Switching to a new sleep system can significantly impact your sleeping routine.
Because of that, the first and arguably most important step to getting great sleep while suffering from lumbar pain is to have a great mattress that's built for your body. Add to that soft and cozy sheets, and a supportive pillow. Few things will help you get better sleep more than being comfortable in your bed from head to toe.
Getting out of bed is equally important: as we age, it's vital to move carefully when getting out of bed to avoid sudden movement, as this may worsen any pre-existing back pain. Additionally, getting regular physical activity by means of exercise is a great way to mitigate lower back pain. Even gentle yoga or stretching before bed can be immensely beneficial, both for your back pain and for any daily stress or anxiety you may be experiencing as well.
A quick refresher before we let you go. The best five sleeping positions for lower back pain that can help you fall asleep faster and sleep better through the night are the following:
2. On Your Side in the "Fetal Position"
3. On Your Side with Pillow Between Knees
4. On Your Back with Back Support Pillow
5. On Your Stomach with Support Pillow at Waist Level
Why do we need a night of proper sleep, and why is it so essential? Sleep quality is not the same as sleep quantity. Sleep quantity is simply about the amount of sleep you get each night, while sleep quality measures the efficacy of your sleep.
Getting a full and great night of sleep every day allows your body and brain to recharge from each day's activity. Rest gives you a fresh and an alert mind when you wake up, leading to a healthy and active life. But waking in the middle of the night, taking 30 minutes to fall asleep after you get into bed, or not feeling rested after sleep are signs of poor sleep quality that sometimes lead to stress, anxiety, or even a sleep disorder.
For most adults, the recommended hours of sleep are at about 7-9 hours each night, depending on your body's needs. Getting fewer than seven hours of sleep each night is usually considered insufficient and can lead to health issues over time, including weight gain.
Some studies have shown that sleep deprivation leaves people vulnerable to attention lapses, reduced thinking, delayed reactions, fatigue, and mood changes. Because of this, we recommend doing a check on your entire sleep system at home to make sure it's the right fit for you and where you are in life right now. This includes the mattress, of course, but also your pillow, sheets, mattress topper, and everything else in between.
If you live in the Bay Area of San Francisco, California, or in the Scottsdale area of Phoenix, Arizona, we have SLEEP365® and Naturepedic showrooms filled with the latest organic mattresses and bedding. Our helpful sleep specialists look forward to helping you find the perfect sleep system to get great sleep every single night.