How can you sleep better with back pain?
- Stick to a supportive sleeping position
- Invest in a quality mattress and bedding
- Work on having a sleep-inducing bedroom
- Try gentle stretches before sleeping
Sleep is a period of rejuvenation and rest. But for the 25 million people living in the UK with lower back pain, getting quality and restful sleep can seem elusive. When left untreated, it can lead to a number of physical, mental, and emotional problems such as:
- Inability to do basic tasks
- Sleep & exercise disruption
- Feelings of isolation and fear due to worsening health.
In this guide, we delve deeper into how this condition affects sleep and how to sleep better with back pain.
Back pain can range from mild, dull throbbing aches to severe sharp shooting aches, and it can be short-term or chronic. Studies have long suggested that sleep and back pain have a bi-directional relationship. Back pain can make it hard to fall asleep and cause sleep fragmentation throughout the night. In the same way, a lack of quality sleep can exacerbate back pain because it intensifies the sensitivity of the central nervous system to pain signals.
Approximately 80% of the worldwide population will experience back pain throughout their lives, affecting people of all ages. Fortunately, there are science-backed methods on how to sleep better with back pain to help you.
Stick To A Supportive Sleeping Position
Many people don’t know that back pain is not typically caused by serious medical conditions. Instead, it’s often brought on by a strained muscle and/or tendon from bad sleeping positions.
While asleep, you can end up sticking to a sleeping position that involves twisting your spine or tucking your pelvis in. This puts excessive pressure on the spine and can cause pain. The pain can worsen throughout the day and result in impaired performance.
Certain sleeping positions can support your back and reduce the pain. The best one for back pain is to sleep on your side with a partial knee bend. This is supportive because it reduces pressure on the spine. Try putting a pillow between your knees as you sleep, to keep your pelvis, hips, and spine in proper alignment.
Unfortunately, not everyone will have similar sleeping positions, as some like to sleep on their stomach or back. But no matter what position, ensuring the spine is supported and aligned is the most important factor.
You — like us— may have already heard that sleeping on your stomach is an unhealthy sleeping position. If you sleep on your back, consider placing a pillow under your knees or use a small towel and place it under your back. Given that most people’s weight is in the middle of the body, sleeping on the stomach adds pressure to the neck and back. Placing a pillow near the lower stomach and the pelvis helps ease this pressure.
Invest In A Quality Mattress And Bedding
Your choice of mattress bedding can also reduce back pain and spine stiffness. To achieve proper spinal alignment, you will need to invest in a medium-firm mattress and bedding that does not sag excessively. Recent research suggests that medium-firm mattresses are the most beneficial for minimal pain and better sleep.
An excessively soft mattress can cause your back to sag and your spine to misalign. Similarly, a mattress that is too firm will force your spine in an unnatural position, putting pressure on your back especially if you are a side or a back sleeper.
Work On Having A Sleep-Inducing Bedroom
If you suffer from sleep fragmentation, you can experience a vicious cycle wherein back pain makes it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night. A sleep-inducing bedroom can mean the difference between restful sleep and a restless night. Make sure your bedroom cultivates peace and relaxation. It should be cool, dark, and quiet.
For bedroom temperature, aim for a cool temperature like 18°C. While the definition of a cool temperature may vary by a few degrees from one person to another, experts recommend keeping the temperature between 15°C to 19°C for staying comfortable throughout the night.
You should also try to eliminate excess light exposure because it plays a central role in regulating your circadian rhythm. Light signals the body’s natural body clock when to rest and when to be alert. Light also suppresses melatonin production in the body, which is a hormone that promotes sleep. Additionally, work on eliminating noise, even if you have to drown noises by buying a white noise machine or by wearing earplugs.
Try Gentle Stretches Before Sleeping
Doing gentle stretches just before sleeping is known to be one of the best ways for back pain relief during sleep. This is because gentle stretches loosen tight muscles and increase blood flow. It also promotes the release of endorphins, providing a sense of tranquility and pleasure while reducing pain and discomfort.
When stretching, remember to talk to your doctor about which routines are safe for you and which ones can potentially worsen back pain. In general, however, yoga is a safe physical activity. A study shows that over 55% of people who did yoga found that it helps in getting better sleep. For back pain, yoga can be particularly beneficial as it involves holding gentle poses that reduce muscle tension.
Back pain can be debilitating and have negative impacts on all aspects of life, including getting a good night’s rest. The tips above on how to sleep better with back pain do not have to be difficult to achieve. Small adjustments such as doing yoga before bed or making sure your bedroom is cool can have major benefits for you in the long run.