Pain and sleep don’t mix. Pain makes it more difficult to sleep, and poor sleep makes it more likely you’ll focus on pain. So what can you do if you are getting back pain during the night?
Studies show that sleep impairments are likely to contribute to pain rather than pain contributing to sleep impairments – in other words, people with poor sleep tend to experience pain or feel that their pain is worsening. We don’t know why this is but potentially sleep deprivation may impair healing, affect mood in a way that heightens pain sensitivity, or disrupt chemicals in the brain that are involved in how we experience pain.
When you’re dealing with back pain, it’s important to get as much right about bedtime as possible. Good sleep hygiene is a must – no caffeine after lunchtime, little or no alcohol, a quiet dark environment with minimum disturbances, and using methods of relaxation such as quiet audio meditations – are all good for encouraging sleep. Everyone is different, of course, but establishing a bedtime routine is a proven help.
When you do fall asleep, you lose conscious control of your body, naturally changing position multiple times during the night. This can often aggravate pain, but staying locked in one position all night can also put pressure on your back. Being aware of your sleeping position constantly is of course impossible, but you can start the night as you mean to go on by choosing the best sleeping posture. And a few well-placed pillows can also help to support you through the night.
Read on for our tips on how to sleep better with back pain.
- Pillows – these need to be supportive of both head and neck. That means the ideal pillow will fill the space beneath your neck completely to support the neck curve but not raise your head on a high slope. Some pillows have a curve-dip-curve profile to provide just enough support in the right areas, and we sell these in the clinic. Everyone has different needs when it comes to pillows so it’s sensible to find out what works for you.
- Mattress – neither too soft nor too hard is the answer. Finding your just-right ‘Goldilocks’ mattress can be expensive but it will last you years. Here are our recommendations for the best mattresses. https://sundialclinics.co.uk/conditions/backpain/the-complete-guide-to-the-best-mattress-to-help-back-pain/
- Body pillows – placing a pillow between your knees when you sleep on your side will stabilise your hips.
- The foetal position (on your side with a partial bend at the knees) is a good way to relieve pressure on the spine, but don’t let yourself keel over onto your face and twist over. A pillow between the knees can help prevent this posture, which can cause problems for the neck, spine and hips.
- If you prefer to sleep on your back, align your body from head to toe, level out your hips and prop your knees up with a small pillow beneath them. This reduces pressure on the lower back.
- If you’re a stomach sleeper, make sure your head support is thin and place a more supportive pillow under your hips and abdomen. This will help to prevent your spine sinking into a U-bend.
And don’t forget to consult the experts on how to deal with the causes of back pain. Book in with us today for a check up – we’re always happy to see you.
The association of sleep and pain: an update and a path forward