How to Sleep with Lower Back Pain

Dr. Constantine Toumbis

11 October 2022


The causes of lower back pain can be wide-ranging, with symptoms caused by everything from the natural aging process to auto accidents. In many of these cases, the pain can be significant and constant enough to interfere with sleep. If you’re suffering from poor sleep caused by persistent back pain, here are some helpful tips for alleviating discomfort to achieve a full night of sleep

Sleep Positions to Help with Back Pain

One of the simplest ways to treat lower back pain during the night is to be aware of your sleep position. Different sleep positions affect your lower back in different ways, and while most people have a preferred sleep position, there are ways to alleviate the strain on your lower back no matter how you prefer to sleep.

Side Sleeping with Back Pain

Sleeping on your side is the most effective way to relieve lower back pain during the night. To properly position yourself in a side sleeping position, first ensure your pillow is high enough to promote proper cervical spine alignment. Next, bring your knees towards your chest to place your body in the fetal position. To promote better spinal alignment, consider placing a pillow or similar soft object between your legs. You can also use a full body pillow designed to contour around your body to encourage a proper side sleep position.

Stomach Sleeping with Back Pain

Sleeping on your stomach can make lower back pain worse if done incorrectly. However, there are ways to remedy this. If you’re a stomach sleeper who cannot sleep in a different position, you can reduce the stress on your lower back with a pillow or similar object placed under the midsection. To ensure proper cervical spine alignment, be sure to use a flatter pillow or no pillow under your head and neck.

Back Sleeping with Back Pain

Sleeping on your back can be an effective lower back pain treatment if done correctly. When sleeping on your back, it’s important to maintain normal curvature of the spine. This can be accomplished by placing a pillow or similar object under the knees. If possible, you can also sleep in a slightly elevated position. By creating a slight angle between your midsection and upper legs, you will be able to reduce stress on the lumbar spine.

Additional Ways to Improve Sleep with Back Pain

While changing your sleeping position is the most effective way to sleep better with lower back pain, you can also consider various lifestyle changes to promote better sleep. Here are some of the most effective changes you can make.

Diet and Exercise

Exercise is great for spine health. By staying active, you’ll strengthen the core muscles that support the spine. This can improve mobility and directly address some of the conditions that can cause back pain, such as excess body weight.

Another way to sleep better at night is to avoid alcoholic beverages and stimulants like caffeine. While neither will directly affect your back pain, both can have negative effects on the quality of your sleep and lead to increased restlessness during the night. During these moments, your back pain may be more noticeable, making it more difficult to fall back asleep.

Improved Sleep Conditions

External sleep disruptions can cause restlessness in much the same way as stimulants or alcohol. That’s why it’s important to practice good sleep hygiene to give yourself the best conditions in which to fall asleep and stay asleep. Remove light sources, block out external noises and take other steps to make your environment ideal for sleep.

Meditation and Relaxation

Meditation has been shown to reduce pain, making it worth considering as part of a comprehensive lower back pain treatment program. While some may choose to use specific meditation methods, simple mindfulness and breathing techniques can achieve similar results and do not require special training or knowledge.

When to Seek Expert Help for Your Back Pain

Although there are many ways to manage back pain on your own, you may eventually find it necessary to discuss more extensive treatment options with a doctor or specialist. This is particularly true after a traumatic injury or when symptoms suggest more severe underlying issues.

By consulting with an expert like those at Citrus Spine Institute, your doctor will be able to answer any questions you may have about your chronic pain. Additionally, your doctor can discuss further treatment options or surgical remedies. By addressing the causes of your back pain now, you’ll be able to sleep better at night–literally and figuratively–knowing that your spine is healthy going into the future.


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Dr. Constantine Toumbis

Dr. Toumbis is a board certified, fellowship trained orthopedic surgeon specializing in cervical, thoracic and lumbar surgery. He received his undergraduate degree in Biology from New York University in 1987, then continued on to receive his Masters in Natural Sciences as well as a PhD in Experimental Pathology from State University of New York at Buffalo. He completed his medical degree at Wayne State University School of Medicine with a distinction in Biomedical Research. After moving to Florida to complete his internship and residency in orthopedics at the University of Florida Shands Hospital, he went on to pursue a fellowship at Cleveland Clinic's Florida Spine Institute. He moved to Citrus County and has been in private practice since 2005.

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