How To Sleep With Back Pain

6 min read

If you’ve ever suffered in pain, you will know how difficult it can be to get to sleep.

When you are in pain and can’t sleep well, the problem is you don’t fall into the healing phases of sleep.

Now sleep is important as we do it for a considerable amount of our lives. The healing phases of sleep are what allow your body to regenerate and recuperate so that you can build back a stronger body, then enabling you to carry out the tasks you enjoy doing in life.

When you are in pain, it’s similar to when a building is on fire. All the alarms are going off, it’s raging and really angry! So of course we must find the source of that problem. If it hasn’t already had the chance to calm down, then you really need to think about seeking professional advice.

Whilst you are waiting to get an appointment, or want to get comfortable before attending the appointment, there are few things you can do that may help the pain calm down and make you feel more comfortable.

  1. Find the most comfortable position for you. It’s difficultl to be specific about which position is best, until we have found the root cause of the problem, your body will tell you what aggravates the pain the least.
  2. Avoid lying on your front. No one lies flat on their front, which means that you will end up twisting your body and potentially making the problem worse, or give yourself a secondary problem.
  3. Avoid lying on your side. By lying on your side you end up putting too much pressure on one side than the other, causing further imbalance in your body.
  4. Sleep on your back. This is the easiest way to ensure you body is balanced and symmetrical. If it is a strain to your lower back, try placing some cushions under your knees to reduce the tension in your thighs.
Lying on your back (supine) is the best position to sleep in

You would never sit or stand for 6-10 hours a day in the type of position you would be in when lying on your front or your sides. So why do it when you sleep?

If you have an old mattress (8-10+ years) then chances are it is no longer supporting your body’s posture in a healthy way and may need changing.

Allow 60-90 minutes when shopping for a new mattress or bed. This is because most of the time when we go to these large stores and are looking for other large furniture items we have already been on a feet for a considerable amount of time.

The mistake a lot of people make when it comes to trying the beds and mattresses in the store is the lie down on it for a few minutes. This is far too tiny a fraction of time that you are actually looking to use it for at home, and because you have probably been on your feet for a long time, most mattress and beds would feel comfortable anyway. 

You want to pick your top 3 mattresses before you get to the store and lie on each one for at least 20 to 30 minutes. This is still a small fraction of the time when you sleep at home, but it’s long enough for your body to relax into, to know whether this is the one that will support your posture correctly. I often advise taking a good book or some music with you to enjoy whilst you do this. 

Oh and don’t worry about the sales people. If they come over, politely ask them to come back after 30 minutes, and if they happen to find you sleeping, chances are that’s the one you’re probably going to buy.

You also may consider getting a new pillow. Most pillows tend to need replacing every 6 months. Think about applying an 8-10 lbs bowling ball (approximately how much a human head weighs) on a new cushion for around 6-10 hours a day.

A good way to check if you have the right thickness of pillow for you is my super secret but highly effective “Vadi Pillow Test”. Find a clear wall and stand against it the way you would prefer to lie down (pretend the wall is your bed so if you like to lie on your side stand against the wall with your side, or if you lie on your back stand with your back against the wall).

Use your current pillow and see if it takes up the space between your head and/or neck. If it does – perfect! If you have too many or too few then your neck will be side bent and you need to get a new pillow that provides better support.

Top Tip: if it’s only a little difference then try using some thick towels to help make your pillow thicker and provide the correct amount of support.

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