If you’re wondering, “How should I sleep with back pain?” you’ve come to the right place!

Below, we’re going to take a deep dive into the various sleep positions, how each can help or harm your back, and how you can sleep better in a more comfortable position to ease your back pain.

It’s a tiny change to your life, but it can make a huge difference to your back pain levels—not only throughout the night, but for your entire day.

Read on to find out the answer to the question, “How should I sleep with back pain?”

How Should I Sleep With Back Pain?

Your sleeping position may not be a primary cause of your back pain, but it will certainly exacerbate an existing problem.

When you sleep in the right position, your back has good support, your spine and hips are aligned, and your mattress keeps your back comfortable all night long. But in the wrong position, you’ll twist your neck and/or hips, mis-align your spine, and increase the risk of back pain. This is doubly true if your mattress is old, sagging, or with pocket “dips” in it.

Finding the right sleeping position is important, but first you’ve got to make sure you have the right mattress. That means:

  • Firm, but not so hard that it is uncomfortable.

  • Good cushioning for your hips and sides.

  • Supportive without sagging in the middle.

  • And, of course, not too hot—overheating during the night can make it much harder to sleep, causing you to toss and turn to get comfortable, increasing the chance you’ll sleep in the wrong position.

Your pillows also matter a great deal. You need to make sure you’ve got good neck support, as that will help to keep your shoulders relaxed and support your cervical spine. However, choosing a pillow will depend largely on what position you sleep in.

Now we get to the part of answering the question, “How should I sleep with back pain?” We’re going to take a look at the various sleep positions to help you figure out the best ways to sleep to alleviate, reduce, and prevent back pain.

Let’s start with the one you want to avoid as much as possible: sleeping on your stomach.

Sleeping on your stomach is a position that forces your neck to twist to the side, which can put strain on your upper back and shoulders. Many people also contort their upper body to reduce the strain on their neck, which shifts the tension to their lower back. When they do the “Tiger Knee” position (bending the knee and bringing it up toward hip level), it exponentially increases spinal strain.

As you can imagine, this is likely not the best position for sleeping if you’re experiencing back pain. You should try to avoid sleeping on your stomach as much as possible. It just contorts your spine and neck unnaturally, leading to a higher risk of spinal pain—even if you don’t already have it, the position may actually lead to back pain!

Sleeping on your side is a much better choice, particularly if you make an effort to increase the support you give your spine. You’re going to need TWO pillows for this position: one for your head, and another to place between your knees.

Adding the pillow between your knees provides support for your legs, maintaining a normal pelvic position. With your pelvis properly aligned, there will be no pull on your lower back. However, make sure to roll over so you’re not always sleeping on the same side. This can lead to not only back strain, but also a higher risk of muscle imbalance.

If you have a herniated disc, sleeping on your side curled up in the fetal position may be another good option to help manage the pain. This curled-up position actually helps to open up the space between your vertebrae and stretch out your spine. It can aid in re-aligning and healing the damaged or herniated disc.

Sleeping on your back is ideal if you’re experiencing back pain. When lying on your back, the mattress provides full support for the entire length of your body. There is no twisting, pulling, or straining, just pure relaxation. Some people even find that placing a small rolled-up towel beneath their lower back can help with better lower back support for managing back pain.

For people with lower back pain, an extra pillow can make a world of difference. Placing the pillow beneath your knees will help to keep your spine neutral and maintain the natural curve of your lower back. Placing the pillow beneath your head will elevate your upper body, which can help people with back pain caused by problems like isthmic spondylolisthesis. 

How Should I Sleep With Back Pain? Learn More with Our Back on Track System

If you want to learn about how to manage your back pain—through good quality sleep, a healthier lifestyle, and daily routines that can alleviate discomfort—you need our Back on Track System. This system takes a whole-body approach to combatting back pain, helping you to learn everything about the source of your pain, ways your current life habits are contributing to back pain, and encouraging you to make small changes that can make a huge difference.

You’ll learn about a dangerous “sleeper syndrome” that is increasing your risk of back pain, and ways that you can combat it using simple daily activities like breathing, meditation, and exercise. Back on Track will help you regain control of your body, diminish your pain, and improve your life naturally. Give it a try—health and happiness are waiting for you on the other side of your back pain!