We all need a good night’s sleep!
Especially if you suffer from lower back pain.
If you need to find the best sleeping position for lower back pain, then we’ve got you covered.
Sometimes, it seems that whatever position you choose, the cold or hot side of the pillow, duvet or no duvet, or even reverting to sleeping on the floor… you still can’t sleep.
You’re not alone, and there is a solution!
I’m guessing that you either had the worst night’s sleep and are feeling drained, groggy and achy today, or even worse, this is a late-night search to try and get at least a few hours of sleep before you have to be up again.
Don’t worry, we have solutions!
We have both temporary and permanent solutions to make sure you doze off quickly, pain-free, and waking up every morning feeling alert, refreshed and ready for the day ahead.
After all, a good night’s sleep will help prevent future back, neck, hip and shoulder pain, muscle cramping, impaired circulation, headaches, heartburn, acid reflux, poor digestion, and even help prevent premature wrinkles too.
Who knew a good night’s sleep could make you look 10 years younger?
So, in the rest of this article, we’ve separated out the different types of pain, issues and suggested different, and proven, sleeping positions to help you.
These may only provide a temporary fix, but should give you at least some relief until you can get a new mattress specifically tailored to your needs, one that fits your body type, as well as personal preferences for a comfortable position, so that you can get your 40 winks with no complaints.
It’s possible, even likely, that the main reason you can’t sleep without pain and discomfort is that your mattress isn’t right.
In what you’re about to read, we’ve also added extra tips for more specific conditions, issues, and common problems with sleep. These are split into sections, so that everything is nice and easy to find. Do have a scan through the whole article as well, and make sure you’re sleeping right for you. (After all, everyone is different!).
Before we get into specific sleep positions, I thought it might be worthwhile to check if there are other factors potentially causing pain. There may be changes you can make right now, or for the future, that can help you sleep a little better.
Let’s take a quick look at preparing your bedroom for sleep.
First of all, keep it clean.
This sounds simplistic, but a messy and cluttered room makes for a messy and cluttered mind. A cluttered mind can contribute to keeping you awake even longer.
If you notice most hotels you visit will often have a minimalist approach to their decor. Many hotels spend millions in the process of researching and testing different layouts, colors, objects, lighting, and designs to make sure you get the most peaceful night sleep possible. There’s a reason they often choose minimalism for their decor, and often it’s to help you get the best night’s sleep possible.
Sometimes, the temperature in a room can make you feel a bit like Goldilocks.
If it’s too hot, you’re going to wake up!
If it’s too cold, you’re also probably going to wake up.
So be sure to set the thermostat, or crack open the window slightly, so that the room gets to a temperature that you feel comfortable with.
As a child, I always had the door slightly open and a light outside of the room on, or even a little night light in the room. I think my parents did this so that if I needed to get up in the night, I could see where I was going.
Realistically though, having a light on can prevent you from getting to sleep. If you can make your room pitch black, then generally speaking you will get a much more restful night of sleep.
By turning off lights inside and outside of the room, unplugging any electronics so you don’t have any standby lights illuminating the room, you can remove sources of light that may prevent getting an excellent night of rest
Also, blackout blinds can really help.
Keep your bedding clean, especially if you have allergies, breathing challenges, or sinus issues.
Again, taking a look at the hotel industry, they use materials which have a low potential to cause allergic reactions, and they keep everything washed after every use.(Well, you’d like to think they do anyway.).
That may not be practical in your own home, but even simply the feel of nice clean sheets, pajamas, pillows, and duvet/duvet cover statistically helps most people get to sleep quicker too.
Adding a washable cover to your comforter (if you’re using a comforter/blanket) can make it much easier to keep the comforter clean as well.
Keep the clothing that you sleep in loose fitting, and light.
The last thing you want to be doing is wearing anything that’s going to catch or restrict your movement while you adjust your sleeping position throughout the night. If your clothing catches, even that could end up waking you.
Pillow types are a personal choice.
You can get all sorts of shapes, sizes, densities, and materials.
One of our favorites is a memory foam pillow, which often provides a significant level of comfort for a variety of sleeping types..
Realistically, if you like pillows, you can never have too many, as you will see from the rest of this article. Pillows can make perfect “barriers” and support items to help with positioning. However, if you don’t like extra pillows, it’s okay to sleep with just 1 or 2 as well.
A bit like with pillows, there are multiple different sizes, weights, material and thickness of duvet/comforter.
It all comes down to what you prefer.
The personal recommendation here would be to get a duvet/comforter that separates into two parts: a duvet cover (which is usually like a heavy sheet that snaps or zips over your comforter), and then a heavier part that goes in the cover. You can use the thinner part in summer and then mix and match between both for winter, or just the heavier part..
It all depends on how heavy your duvet/comforter is, how you like to sleep, and how cold or warm the room temperature is.
This part is a little more boring, can be kind of obvious to some, and it may feel a little like I’m a parent telling you what not to do. However, it is essential if you want to ensure you have the highest likelihood of getting a consistent good night’s sleep.
Keep your foods somewhat PH neutral (especially if you suffer from acid reflux). This means don’t eat food that is highly acidic, especially right before bed.
Eating cheese can actually be good for some people to help them sleep!
There is, in much of the world, a myth that you should have “no cheese before bed”.
It turns out that cheese can actually help you to have pleasant dreams and sleep better (when eaten in moderation, of course).
A study by “The British Cheese Board” (admittedly biased) proved that cheese actually helped people fall asleep more easily. There is science behind this, and it’s possibly due to the amino acid called tryptophan, which is found in cheese (and also in turkey).
Your body naturally uses tryptophan which can be converted into a molecule called 5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan).
5-HTP is used to make the feel-good hormone serotonin. Serotonin helps regulate mood, making you feel nice and calm before you sleep.
The University of Michigan Health System has done their own studies and reports that tryptophan can be highly effective for sleep in people with insomnia.
It may seem illogical to stop drinking alcohol in order to sleep better. After all, after a heavy night of drinking, you always seem to pass out or fall asleep very quickly.
However, the groggy head in the morning, potentially still being drunk, and feeling awful, isn’t a good result for your health or overall restful sleep..
Alcohol will actually dehydrate you and can often send your mind racing. For quality sleep, you need to be calm and relaxed.
If you are going to drink something other than water, make sure it’s low sugar and no fizz!
Ideally, just plain water is the best choice for a pre-night time drink.
In our modern day society, having a set routine is not always 100% possible.
Especially since the invention of the electric light, we’ve been throwing ourselves a bit out of whack compared to our previous million+ years of history as humans. Today though, technology is both enabling us with tools to have routines, and also so much more easily pulling us out of those routines. Add to the technology things like split shifts, night work, kids, pets, and just having a healthy social life, a routine can be a hard thing to establish., However, having a routine (just like when you were a child) does actually help you sleep better.
If you try to always go to bed at a particular time (within an hour or so) and wake up at a specific time, after a few weeks your body will naturally start to feel tired at your bedtime. Likewise, when the morning comes, you will typically begin to wake up even before your alarm clock goes off.
It’s not always going to be possible but try as best as possible to keep some sort of routine and timing.
This can be the most overlooked, and yet the most critical, part of getting a good night sleep.
If you’ve gone to a hotel, stayed at a friends house, or slept on the sofa and realized just how uncomfortable it was, then you know how important it is to have a good quality surface to sleep on.
A mattress should be good quality, not older than 10 years, and should be the right type for your body.
Some people like to sleep on hard surfaces, while others like to sleep on softer surfaces.
Regardless of your sleeping preference, there are sleeping positions which can help you to sleep better, which we will talk about. However, you’ll want to be sure you have the right mattress for you, in order to get the perfect night of sleep for you, as many nights as you can.
If you are pregnant, congratulations!
Don’t worry, it’s perfectly normal to have aches and pains.
After all, your body is going through changes every single day, and your old “norm” when it comes to sleeping positions will, more than likely, no longer be comfortable.
The best position for sleep while pregnant is the SOS position.
No, you don’t need rescuing.
It stands for Sleep on Side.
Tip: If you can, sleep on your left-hand side, as this can help the blood flow and nutrients to the placenta, and your new baby.
Keep your legs and knees bent and try placing a pillow (or a pregnancy noodle/pillow) between your legs. If that isn’t comfortable, you can add another pillow under your abdomen, that should help alleviate back pain.
Shortness of breath/breathing difficulties?
Well, prop your head and/or upper body up with some pillows.
This usually does the trick.
Now, let’s take a look at the best sleeping position for lower back and hip pain.
If you’re a side sleeper, try the more obvious position and sleep on the side that doesn’t hurt, or shift to lying on your back to equalize the pressure on both sides.
Put a pillow between your knees too. That way your hips will stay aligned.
Try one pillow underneath your legs, or create a wedge-shaped pillow, with a folded blanket, to help.
It could well be that your mattress is either too soft or too hard for your hip(s), so a new mattress tailored to your sleeping preferences could be a permanent fix.
One of the best sleeping positions for a lower back herniated disc, or in fact a herniated disc at any point in your spine, is either on your side or flat on your back.
Whatever you do, try not to sleep on your stomach. This may cause more damage and pain as it is the position which puts the most pressure on the natural curvature of the spine.
If you sleep on your side and place a pillow between your knees, this can help to reduce tension while allowing your muscles to relax, which can improve the alignment of your hips and spine.
While lying on your back, you can place a pillow under your knees and lower back. This may be more comfortable for you.
Although obviously separate pain points, these 3 areas for sleeping can be grouped together with the same problem-solving sleeping positions.
Try using 2 pillows for your head, one slightly higher up than the other, so that your head and shoulders are more supported as you sleep.
Lying on your side or your back may help too.
Yep! Hugging your pillow can actually help with your neck and shoulder positioning, allow more relaxation for the muscles in the area of your upper back.
If you’re lying on your back, try putting a pillow behind your thighs.
If you’re on your side, it can be a good idea to try putting a pillow between your legs.
This can help take the pressure off of your spine which may be triggering your upper back, neck and/or shoulder pain.
The trick here is to elevate those knees.
This will minimize the pressure that your lumbar discs place on your nerve roots and can help you sleep more comfortably.
Lie flat on your back and keep your buttocks flat to the bed too. Slowly raise up your knees and bring your feet back towards you.
As you do this, place pillows below your knees until you find that spot where it feels closer to just right.
The pillows are there to keep your knees in that comfortable position, so that you can be more comfortable throughout the night.
Extra Tip: Try taking a hot bath just before bed. This generally helps relax muscles and can massively help with sciatica back pain.
For a longer term solution, a firmer mattress can often minimize sciatica pain that flares up while sleeping.
Some people find that the firmer the mattress is, the less sciatica pain they have.
Try sleeping on your side with a pillow under your upper arm and a contoured cervical pillow (or rolled blanket) under your neck to keep your spine aligned.
Knee pillows will also help, as these can help to keep you aligned while you sleep.
Try not to sleep on your stomach if you have mid back pain. This may be comfortable for a short time, but when you’re on your stomach, you’re actually compressing your back and spine. This can make issues worse in the long term.
Trust me on this! I always sleep on my stomach (I know, I know, take my own medicine), and I often wake up with back, neck, and shoulder pain in the morning.
If you have mid back pain, you may want to consider a more supportive, softer mattress. Having a mattress that is supportive, while soft, can help to allow your spine to stay supported and aligned, which can help to alleviate mid back pain.
All of these are based on your breathing and the compression of your windpipe as you sleep.
To help alleviate that pressure, you need a sleeping position that opens up and stretches your windpipe as much as possible, while obviously still being comfortable and practical too.
The best position is called the “lateral sleeping position” or “relaxed fetal position”.
Here’s how it works.
While lying on your side, place one arm underneath the pillow and the other arm on top. You may also find it helpful to place a pillow between your knees if you have any back or hip pain while in this position.
If you’re sleeping next to your partner, then ideally face the other way (in case you snore), and they are a light sleeper. The last thing you need is to be woken up by them and told to sleep on the sofa.
Try not to sleep flat on your back or likewise on your stomach. Both of these actually compress your airways because of gravity. On your belly, you also need to move your head awkwardly to the side, which constricts your airway passage.
If you experience vertigo, it may actually be linked to sleep apnea. There has never been anything concrete to suggest they are connected, but there is some anecdotal evidence for it, and it may just be worth keeping that in mind as a symptom.
Give sleeping on your back a try.
Use some pillows around your head and neck so that you are less likely to change positions while sleeping.
Elevate your head with pillows. A travel pillow or even a folded blanket will work. Use whichever is most comfortable for you.
On your left flank squadron!
Sleeping on your left-hand side is the best sleeping position if you deal with digestion issues that cause pain while sleeping.
Sleeping on the left-hand side helps to have less pull from gravity squishing down on the vital organs that process your food
Place a pillow between your legs, as well as between your upper arm and your neck (hugging it), if you get any other discomfort.
Sleeping on your stomach can work, especially for haemorrhoids; although a hot bath, ice before bed, and side sleeping are better overall.
Extra Tip: Side sleeping (on either side) can turn you into Einstein! That’s not completely factual, but there has been some evidence to say that sleeping on your side can boost brain power by helping your brain get rid of something called “interstitial waste”. Less interstitial waste can also help to reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other neurological diseases.
This is, unfortunately, the hardest one to give a definitive answer to, as each spine is different and, as such, each sleeping position is unique to each person.
Fortunately, though, a bad sleeping position won’t make scoliosis any worse, although sleeping in the wrong position can make the symptoms stronger.
The only position you shouldn’t be sleeping in if you have scoliosis is flat on your stomach.
This is the most unnatural spine position. Especially with your head facing sideways, it will put even more pressure on your spine and neck and send it entirely out of alignment.
Use lots of pillows, and experiment with sleeping on each side, raising your head slightly and building a pillow fortress around you once you find that most comfortable position.
Realistically, if you suffer from scoliosis, then you need to be sleeping on a mattress that suits, supports, and gives you a great night sleep without having to spend 20 minutes fighting with temporary pillow positions (which will probably not hold up once you move in your sleep anyway.
A bit like with constipation and digestion (although obviously not linked), sleeping on your left-hand side is the best sleeping position here too, alleviating pressure on the primary blood vessels.
There is some research that shows that sleeping on your stomach can actually reduce your blood pressure by more than 15 points (vs. lying on your back). [Yasuharu Tabara – Ehime University School of Medicine – Ehime, Japan]
Which position you choose depends on you, but whether you sleep on your left side or on your stomach, either position has the potential to help your heart pump blood around your body easier at night, which can lower your blood pressure and help you to wake up healthier and happier each day.
It’s all about elevation for this one!
Experts recommend you keep your head and neck elevated between 6 to 8 inches.You can do this with pillows or by folding a blanket.
If this is something you suffer from regularly however, and diet, medication,and lifestyle changes aren’t making a difference for you, then an adjustable bed has good potential to be a long term solution for you.
You can also get specific sleep wedges which are designed to help elevate your upper body. Elevating your upper body can keep that acid in your stomach, where it belongs.
Sleeping on either your back or your left-hand side is the best sleeping position for acid reflux. The left-hand side allows the oesophagus to stay as open as possible and gravity helps keep everything down.
Head elevation is the solution here, too!
Grab some pillows, or a folded up blanket, and prop your head up a little higher than your body. This will help reduce the pooling of mucus. As long as you aren’t using 20 pillows and almost touching the ceiling, this will keep your airways clear too.
Allergies may be at play here, so look into a mattress that is hypo-allergenic type. You could also look into a mattress encasement, but whatever you get, you want something that won’t store the dirt and other allergens that are making your sinuses go crazy while you sleep.
Likewise, no alcohol before bed. If you live in a drier climate, try a steam shower or use a dehumidifier in the bedroom to keep moisture levels up. Especially in drier climates, this can stop your sinuses from drying out and becoming irritated.
Finally, stay hydrated!
We do hope these positions, tricks, and hacks help you get a better night of sleep either tonight, right now, or over the next few weeks.
However, please do remember that these are only temporary, and you shouldn’t have to sleep in a specific way to be able to get a good night of sleep.
After all, most people, without even realizing it, will move in their sleep. Even if you get the right position when going to sleep, you may still end up waking up in pain, and not having the perfect night’s sleep you were hoping for.
The real answer to solving pain or sleeping issues is a combination of the right position(s), the right mattress, and if necessary, a visit to the doctor.
You can find a range of different mattresses on our website or speak to us. One of our mattress experts will help guide you to find an excellent option tailored to your sleeping preferences, so that you can get a great night of sleep, 365 days of the year.
While you’re here, don’t forget to leave a comment, or share this post if you found it helpful.
We would love to hear if we helped you sleep better, or if you have found a perfect sleeping position combination that we didn’t specifically mention above.