How to sleep with lower back pain

Women struggling to sleep

Lower back pain can come in all shapes and sizes, from a short-lived twinge or a more serious, long-term issue. Whatever is causing your lower back pain, it is more than likely that it is affecting your sleep in some way. However, the relationship between your back pain and your sleep isn’t just one way. While back pain can stop you getting a good night’s sleep, a good night’s sleep is crucial for healing, and can help to ease the symptoms of your back pain. 

Sleeping with lower back pain is all about finding the right sleeping position and being tactical with your pillows, mattress, and environmental factors.

The lumbar spine

The portion of the lower back most susceptible to pain is called the lumbar spine. The lumbar spine is made up of five vertebrae, which are separated by shock-absorbing discs and held in place by ligaments. Surrounding muscles support these bones and ligaments and are connected to the spine by tendons. 

The lower back is under a lot of stress as it supports most of the body’s weight and is integral to lots of different movements. 

Types of lower back pain

The two main types of lower back pain are acute and chronic.

Acute back pain

Acute lower back pain is short-term, and can last for a few days up to a few weeks. Acute back pain can still be very painful, although symptoms will start to ease after a few days of rest. Usually, you are able to trace the beginning of the pain back to a specific moment, such as a sporting injury, or putting your back into an awkward position. When acute back pain fades, there are no long term consequences.

Chronic back pain

Chronic lower back pain is long term. It can last from three months to years and may never properly heal. Unlike acute back pain, it is likely that you are unable to identify a single moment that might have caused the onset of pain.

If not treated properly, acute back pain can become chronic. It’s estimated that around 20% of cases of acute lower back pain evolve into chronic back pain. Sleep, among other things, is integral to the healing process and helps ensure that your acute back pain doesn’t last any longer than it should.

Sleeping positions

Sleeping positions are an extremely important aspect of treating your back pain. A good sleeping position helps to align your spine through the night, whereas a bad sleeping position can pull and stretch your spine and draw out the healing process for longer. There are three main sleeping positions, and each can be ranked by how well they align your spine.

Sleeping on your back

Sleeping on your back is the recommended sleeping position for those suffering from lower back pain, and can also help to eliminate the onset of it in the first place. It might take some getting used to if you do not already sleep in this position, but once you get into the habit, it is likely that you will notice some of your symptoms start to ease. 

When sleeping on your back, place a pillow under your knees to help maintain your spine’s natural alignment. Also make sure that your neck is supported by a pillow.

Sleeping on your side

If you are struggling to get into the habit of sleeping on your back, the next best sleeping position for the easing of lower back pain is sleeping on your side. Sleeping on your side puts no extra strain on any part of your back as your body shape follows the spine’s natural curve.

When sleeping on your side, draw your legs up slightly toward your chest and put a pillow between your knees. Use a full-length body pillow if you prefer.

Sleeping on your stomach

Sleeping on your stomach is not recommended, especially if you are already suffering from lower back pain. It puts unnecessary strain on your lower back as it is pushed down into your mattress. To alleviate this, try putting a thin pillow underneath your pelvis and lower abdomen. Also try placing a thin pillow, such as this Mammoth Ultimate Thin Pillow, under your head. If this doesn’t help, try sleeping without the pillow under your head.

Can Your Mattress Cause Lower Back Pain?

Your mattress is a crucial part of your sleep. It supports your entire body and, even with the ideal sleeping position, can ruin a good night’s sleep. However, its importance goes two ways. While a bad mattress can make your lower back pain worse, a good one can ease it! Learn how many springs a mattress should have.

Choose a good, medium-firm mattress such as this Deep Sleeper Ortho Double Mattress, that offers support and doesn’t sag excessively. 

Environmental Factors

We all know how important sleep is for healing. It rejuvenates our brain, muscles, skin, and more. Your back pain needs all the help it can get and a good night’s sleep is extremely important. As well as making sure that you have the ideal pillows, mattress, and sleeping position, make sure that your pre-sleep habits and your bedroom are catered for a good night’s sleep! 

Make sure that your bedroom is dark and silent. Light, especially blue light from phones, laptops, and tablets, stops us getting to sleep. Try to avoid using screens at least an hour before bed.

Try to avoid drinking coffee after 4pm and avoid alcohol altogether. Coffee is a stimulant and will stop you getting to sleep if you drink it within 6 hours of your bedtime. Furthermore, while alcohol is a depressant, it puts you into poor-quality sleep that doesn’t help the healing process. Try to limit the amount you drink, or avoid it altogether if possible! 

The layout of your bedroom can also have a big impact on your sleep. Simple rules can aid a good night’s sleep. Do not have tall objects overlooking your bed as they can induce anxiety. Do not have a doorway directly across from your head while you sleep, as this can lead your mind to wander outside of the bedroom, distracting you from getting to sleep. These are simple changes that can make a big difference, so it’s always worth giving them a try!


To conclude, it is always worth experimenting with your sleeping habits, whatever the severity of your lower back pain. Try changing your sleeping position, swapping your mattress out for a firmer one, and avoiding screens before bed. Sleep is an integral part of the healing process and shouldn’t be overlooked. Do these things alongside your regular stretches and exercise, and it is likely that you will start to see positive results!

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