guest post: how to sleep better with back pain

Here is a post from my friend Cheryl Conklin. It includes tips and resources on how to sleep better if experiencing back pain. Thanks Cheryl!

How to Sleep Better with Back Pain

If you don’t have back pain, count yourself lucky. Back pain is the most common source of chronic pain in the US. Some people experience an accident or injury that leads to back pain, but for most of us, back pain arises from everyday tasks like sitting at a desk and repetitive movements. Chronic back pain is annoying at best and disabling at worst. Back pain can affect your job, your hobbies, your home life, and your sleep. And when your sleep suffers, everything suffers: Sleep loss negatively affects your moods, your memory, your immunity, and your risk of chronic disease. If that’s not bad enough, sleep deprivation also makes your pain worse.

In addition to finding ways to improve your sleep, it’s important to take steps to make your daily routine as easy as possible. On days when the pain is more tolerable, consider prepping your meals for the week; that way, you can easily grab what you need. Also, don’t hesitate to ask for help with tasks around the house, especially cleaning. If necessary, hire a service to do the work for you, but remember to fit this into your budget. For example, the average cost of a cleaning service in Bellingham, WA, is between $145 and $320, so plan accordingly.

That said, getting better sleep is the first step toward improving life with chronic back pain. If back pain is keeping you up, here’s what you need to know.

Best Mattresses for Back Pain

You spend a third of your life in bed, so your mattress should be comfortable. A bad mattress not only makes it hard to fall and stay asleep, but it also aggravates back pain. Instead of waking up refreshed, the morning brings new aches and pains to plague your day.

When you have back pain, you need a mattress that supports your spine and relieves pressure as you sleep. Keep a log to assess your pain levels before bed and after waking up. If your pain is worse in the morning, your mattress isn’t doing its job and it’s time for a new one.

Back pain sufferers tend to find the most support in memory foam mattresses, but memory foam isn’t one-size-fits-all. How thick and firm your mattress should depend on factors like your weight and sleep position. When shopping for a new mattress, spend time laying on each one, noticing how well it contours to your body and supports your spine. To make the most of your mattress shopping experience, research online to read reviews and check warranty details and purchase options before buying. A new mattress can be expensive, so you want to make an informed decision when you make your purchase.

Best Sleeping Positions for Back Pain

It’s not just what you sleep on — it’s how you sleep, too. In fact, certain sleep positions aggravate back pain while others relieve it.

Worst: Stomach Sleeping

Stomach sleeping is the worst position for back pain. Stomach sleeping strains your spine and the ligaments that support it, worsening back pain. Stomach sleeping also forces your neck to rotate to one side or the other, leading to neck pain. If you use a pillow that cranes your neck upwards, instead of a thin pillow that maintains the natural curve of the spine, your neck discomfort will be even worse as a result.

Stomach sleepers can improve comfort by using a thin pillow or no pillow under their head and placing a pillow under the stomach to support the spine. However, the best solution for stomach sleepers is to train themselves to sleep in a different position.

Better: Side Sleeping

Side sleeping is a good option for back pain sufferers, especially if your problem is a herniated disc. For maximum relief, side sleepers should rest with their knees pulled slightly toward their chest in the fetal position and a pillow between the knees to support the hips. Side sleepers should use lofty, supportive pillows so the neck doesn’t collapse downward or crane upward.

Best: Back Sleeping

Back sleeping is the gold standard for people with back pain. Sleeping on the back makes it easy to maintain the natural curve of the spine and distributes weight evenly so you don’t wake up from pressure point pain. Back sleepers who experience lower back pain should place a pillow under the knees for some relief. For the head, a back sleeping pillow (you can purchase one for $21.87) should be relatively thin to maintain neutral alignment.

Relief from chronic back pain starts in the bedroom. While it’s no fun spending a bunch of money on a new mattress and pillows, the cost of chronic sleep deprivation and ever-worsening back pain is much higher than what you’ll spend on a new bed. If back pain has been ruling your life, it’s time for a restful change!

Art Baner