Back pain can make it tough to get a good night’s sleep. At the same time, how you sleep could make things worse — while certain sleep positions put strain on an already aching back, others may help you find relief.
Experts believe that people with sleep problems experience more problems with back pain. Sleep deprivation is known to affect mood and functional ability and can negatively impact your perception of pain. Pain in turn can affect the quality of your sleep, according to the National Sleep Foundation, leading to a lighter sleep state and more frequent waking throughout the night.
What’s more, there’s a relationship between the severity of pain, overall mood, and the ability to function —According to a study published in the November 2016 issue of the Annals of Behavioral Medicine: A good night of sleep can improve all these symptoms.
Worst Sleep Positions for Back Pain
Some sleep positions can put added pressure on your neck, shoulders, hips, lower back, knees, and even your heels, all of which can lead to pain. There’s no one-size-fits-all sleep position to kick back pain, but you can try a few tricks to get it under control so that you can sleep more soundly.
The most common offender? Sleeping on your stomach. Typically, sleeping on your stomach can flatten the natural curve of your spine, putting some additional strain on your back muscles.
Plus, stomach sleeping means that your neck is rotated, which can actually result in neck pain or back pain between your shoulders, says Paul Grous, a physical therapist and spine specialist with Penn Therapy & Fitness in Woodbury Heights, New Jersey.
Don’t worry about keeping your body in the same position all night. It’s normal for you to move around a bit while you sleep, and that’s a good thing because a little movement can help ease pressure on your back. “Any sleeping position has the potential to amplify back pain if you maintain it for too long,” Thomas says.
Sleep Positions That Help Relieve Back Pain
First, you’ve got to be comfortable to get a good night’s sleep. We suggest making a few simple modifications to your regular sleep position to help take a load off your back:
If you’re a back sleeper: Put a pillow under your knees to allow your spine to maintain its natural curve.
If you’re a stomach sleeper: Put a pillow under your lower abdomen and pelvis to ease back strain.
If you’re a side sleeper: Draw your legs up slightly toward your chest and sleep with a pillow (a full body pillow can be comfortable) between your knees.