How to Sleep with Lower Back Pain

Key Takeaways

  • Choose the Right Support: Invest in a firm mattress and a supportive pillow that aligns with your body’s natural curvature, reducing strain on your lower back and promoting better sleep.
  • Prioritize Sleep Position: Opt for sleeping on your side with a pillow between your knees or on your back with a pillow under your knees. These positions maintain spinal alignment, minimizing discomfort and enhancing sleep quality.
  • Incorporate Relaxation Techniques: Practice stress-reducing activities like meditation and deep breathing before bedtime to relax muscles and calm your mind, creating an optimal environment for restful sleep.
  • Consistency is Key: Establish a regular sleep schedule, maintain a comfortable sleep environment, and combine these habits with gentle exercises and pain management strategies. Over time, these consistent efforts can significantly improve your ability to sleep peacefully despite lower back pain.

Are you tired of tossing and turning at night, plagued by lower back pain that just won’t let you rest?

We understand how frustrating it can be to struggle with sleep when your back is aching.

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In this blog, we’ve gathered practical tips and tricks to help you sleep comfortably and peacefully, even with lower back pain.

1. Sleep Positions for Lower Back Pain

Choosing the right sleep position is crucial for managing lower back pain.

The way you sleep directly impacts the alignment of your spine.

A proper sleep position supports the natural curve of your lower back, reducing strain on the muscles and ligaments.

It also helps in maintaining good circulation and allowing the body to repair itself overnight.

Here are a few back positions that can help with lower back pain:

a. On Your Back with Knee Support:

Place a pillow under your knees to help maintain the natural curve of your lower back.

This position can evenly distribute weight and reduce pressure on the spine.

b. Fetal Position:

Curl up on your side with your knees drawn toward your chest.

This can help open up the joints in the spine and relieve pressure on the lower back.

c. On Your Side with a Pillow Between Knees:

Lie on your side and place a pillow between your knees.

This helps keep the spine in a neutral position and reduces strain on the lower back.

Bart Haex, in his book, Back and Bed: Ergonomic Aspects of Sleeping explained side sleeping is one of the common positions to be adopted for reducing lower back pain.

d. Supported Reclining:

Use a reclining chair or an adjustable bed to find a comfortable semi-upright position.

This can alleviate pressure on the lower back and provide support.

e. Prone (On Your Stomach) with Pillow Under Pelvis:

If you prefer sleeping on your stomach, place a thin pillow under your pelvis and lower abdomen.

This can help maintain the natural curve of the spine.

f. Back with Leg Elevation:

Lie on your back and elevate your legs by placing a pillow under your knees.

This position can reduce pressure on the lower back and improve circulation.

Optimizing your sleep position can significantly impact lower back pain,” says Dr. Jordan Burns.

“leeping on your back with a pillow under your knees can help maintain the spine’s natural curve, reducing stress on the lumbar region. For side sleepers, placing a pillow between the knees can keep the hips balanced, further alleviating pressure on the lower back.”

Tips on How to Adjust Your Sleep Posture:

1. Pillow Support:

Use the right pillow to support your head and neck. The goal is to keep your spine in a neutral position.

If you sleep on your back, choose a pillow that supports the natural curve of your neck.

If you sleep on your side, go for a thicker pillow to align your head with your spine.

Stomach sleepers should use a thin pillow or none at all to prevent neck strain.

2. Mattress Matters:

Ensure your mattress provides adequate support for your body. The right firmness depends on your personal preference and any existing back issues.

Replace your mattress if it’s old and no longer provides the necessary support.

“A supportive mattress is crucial for those suffering from lower back pain,” says Dr. Burns.

“A study in The Lancet Neurology found that medium mattresses often provide the best comfort and support for the lower back, facilitating better sleep quality and reducing discomfort. Select a mattress that evenly supports the body’s weight and conforms to the spine’s natural curves.”

3. Sleeping Positions:

Experiment with different sleeping positions to find the one that feels most comfortable for you.

If you’re a back sleeper, consider placing a pillow under your knees to support the natural curve of your lower back.

Side sleepers may benefit from placing a pillow between their knees to align their hips and spine.

Stomach sleeping is generally discouraged, but if you prefer it, use a thin pillow under your pelvis to maintain spinal alignment.

4. Stretch Before Bed:

Engage in gentle stretching before bedtime to relax your muscles and improve flexibility.

Focus on stretches that target your back, neck, and hips.

5. Adjustable Beds or Pillows:

Consider using an adjustable bed or pillows to find a more customized sleeping position.

Some people find relief with beds that can be raised or lowered at the head or foot.

“Engaging in relaxation before bedtime can help ease lower back pain and improve sleep quality,” says Dr. Burns.

“According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, practices such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or gentle stretching can help relax the body and mind, making it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep despite lower back pain.”

6. Posture Awareness:

Be mindful of your daytime posture. Good posture during waking hours can contribute to better sleep posture.

Use ergonomic chairs and maintain a neutral spine position when sitting.

7. Consult a Professional:

If you have persistent sleep issues or discomfort, consider consulting with a healthcare professional or a sleep specialist.

They can provide personalized advice based on your specific needs and conditions.

Understanding Lower Back Pain

Lower back pain can stem from various factors, often affecting daily life and sleep quality significantly.

Understanding its causes and effects is crucial in finding effective solutions.

Common Causes of Lower Back Pain:

Lower back pain can result from muscle strains, ligament sprains, herniated discs, or degenerative conditions like osteoarthritis.

Poor posture, obesity, and sedentary lifestyles can exacerbate these issues.

Additionally, injuries, such as lifting heavy objects improperly, can strain the back muscles or ligaments, leading to acute pain.

Chronic conditions like sciatica, spinal stenosis, or fibromyalgia can also contribute to persistent lower back pain.

Understanding these causes helps in tailoring appropriate treatments and lifestyle adjustments.

The Impact of Lower Back Pain on Sleep Quality:

Lower back pain can significantly disrupt sleep quality.

When lying down, the pressure on the lower back increases, intensifying pain.

Sleep movements can also trigger pain, causing frequent awakenings.

Moreover, the discomfort often prevents deep sleep phases, leading to a restless night.

Research indicates that sleep and its role in pain generation could be a two-way relationship.

Lower back pain could lead to restless sleep, while restless sleep can enhance the pain in the body.

Poor sleep due to pain can create a cycle: inadequate rest exacerbates pain, and increased pain disrupts sleep further.

Consequently, this cycle can result in daytime fatigue, irritability, and reduced overall well-being.

Addressing lower back pain is essential not only for relieving discomfort but also for restoring restorative sleep.

Sleep Hygiene and Routine

Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule is like setting an internal clock for your body.

Aim to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends.

This regularity helps regulate your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle, making it easier to fall asleep and wake up feeling refreshed.

a. Create a Relaxing Bedtime Routine:

Establish a calming bedtime routine to signal to your body that it’s time to unwind.

Engage in relaxing activities such as reading a book, taking a warm bath, or practicing gentle yoga or meditation.

These activities help reduce stress and prepare your mind and body for sleep.

Avoid stimulating activities like watching TV or using electronic devices, as they can interfere with your ability to fall asleep.

b. The Role of a Comfortable Sleep Environment:

Your sleep environment plays a significant role in the quality of your rest.

Make sure your bedroom is conducive to sleep by keeping it cool, dark, and quiet.

Invest in a comfortable mattress and pillows that provide adequate support for your body.

Consider using blackout curtains, earplugs, or a white noise machine to block out any disturbances.

Creating a peaceful and comfortable sleep environment enhances your chances of getting a restful night’s sleep.

Pain Management Techniques:

These methods can help calm your mind and reduce muscle tension, making it easier to fall asleep despite the pain:

Stretching Exercises or Yoga Poses to Relieve Tension:

Incorporate gentle stretching exercises or yoga poses into your daily routine.

Focus on movements that target your lower back and promote flexibility.

Stretching helps alleviate muscle stiffness, improves blood circulation, and can reduce pain.

However, avoid intense workouts close to bedtime, as they might invigorate your body and make it harder to relax.

The Use of Heat or Cold Therapy:

Heat and cold therapy can provide relief from localized pain.

Applying a heating pad or warm towel to the affected area can relax muscles and alleviate discomfort.

Cold therapy, such as an ice pack wrapped in a cloth, can reduce inflammation and numb the area.

Experiment with both methods to determine which works best for your specific pain condition.

Always use a cloth or towel to avoid direct contact with the skin when applying heat or cold therapy.


Can Sleeping on a Firm Mattress Help Alleviate Lower Back Pain?

Yes, a firm mattress can provide better support for your lower back. It keeps your spine aligned and reduces discomfort during sleep.

Is It Better To Sleep on My Back or My Side if I Have Lower Back Pain?

Sleeping on your side with a pillow between your knees can help align your spine. If you prefer sleeping on your back, place a pillow under your knees for added support.

How Often Should I Replace My Mattress if I Have Lower Back Pain?

It's recommended to replace your mattress every 7-10 years. If your mattress sags or loses support before that, consider replacing it sooner to maintain good back health.

Can the Wrong Pillow Worsen Lower Back Pain?

Yes, using an unsupportive pillow can strain your neck and spine, exacerbating lower back pain. Choose a pillow that maintains the natural curve of your neck and spine.

Should I Exercise Before Bedtime To Reduce Lower Back Pain?

Engaging in gentle exercises, like stretching or yoga, earlier in the day can help reduce lower back pain. However, intense exercises right before bedtime might disrupt your sleep.

Will Over-the-Counter Pain Relievers Provide Long-Term Relief for My Lower Back Pain?

Over-the-counter pain relievers can offer temporary relief, but it's crucial to address the root cause of your pain. Consult a healthcare professional for a comprehensive approach to managing your lower back pain.

Can Sleeping in a Recliner Help With Lower Back Pain?

Sleeping in a reclined position can reduce pressure on your lower back. However, it's essential to maintain proper lumbar support to avoid additional discomfort.

Are Memory Foam Mattresses Good for Lower Back Pain?

Memory foam mattresses can be beneficial for individuals with lower back pain as they contour to the body, providing adequate support and reducing pressure points.

Can Stress and Anxiety Worsen Lower Back Pain at Night?

Yes, stress and anxiety can contribute to muscle tension and worsen lower back pain. Practicing relaxation techniques and managing stress can improve sleep quality.

Is It Okay To Sleep on My Stomach if I Have Lower Back Pain?

Sleeping on your stomach can strain your neck and spine, worsening lower back pain. It's generally not recommended. If you must, place a pillow under your pelvis to reduce pressure.

Can a Heating Pad or Ice Pack Help Alleviate Lower Back Pain Before Sleep?

Yes, both heating pads and ice packs can provide relief. Apply heat for 15-20 minutes to relax muscles, or use ice for 10-15 minutes to reduce inflammation. Experiment to see which works best for you.

How Long Will It Take To Notice Improvements in My Sleep Quality After Implementing These Tips?

Sleep quality improvements vary from person to person. Some may experience immediate relief, while others might need a few weeks of consistent changes. Be patient and persistent, and consult a healthcare provider if needed.


Sweet dreams are not out of reach, even if you suffer from lower back pain.

By incorporating these simple yet effective strategies into your bedtime routine, you can transform restless nights into a haven of relaxation and healing.

Remember, a good night’s sleep is essential for overall well-being, so don’t let back pain rob you of the rest you deserve.

Embrace these techniques, and soon enough, you’ll be waking up each morning feeling refreshed, revitalized, and ready to conquer the day.

Sleep well!

This article is for informational purposes and should not replace advice from your doctor or other medical professional.

Sarah Anderson, Certified Sleep Science Coach Sarah Anderson

Sarah Anderson is a sleep, health, and wellness writer and product reviewer. She has written articles on changing and improving your sleep schedule, choosing the right mattress for chronic pain conditions, and finding the best pillow for you. Sarah Anderson has her Bachelor of Arts degree from Arizona State University in Journalism and Mass Communications. Prior to working for Zoma, she wrote for a variety of news publications. Sarah's work has been featured on Bustle, PureWow, and other publications.

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