Sleep should be a period of rest and rejuvenation. But for the 31 million Americans suffering from lower back pain, this is often far from the case.
Ongoing back pain can leave you awake and uncomfortable for much of the night. This is why individuals with chronic back pain get an average of 42 minutes less sleep per night than their peers.
Even when you do manage to drift off, your quality of sleep may not be adequate. Back pain can cause you to spend more time in lighter stages of sleep, and you may wake multiple times an hour without even realizing it. This reduces the quality of your sleep and it can leave you feeling unrested or uncomfortable in the morning.
Fortunately, these issues sometimes can be addressed with simple lifestyle changes. These three tips may help you sleep more deeply at night — and wake up with less back pain.
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1. Adjust your sleeping position
One way to relieve back pain at night is to make sure pressure is equally distributed along your spine. Sleeping on your back helps ensure your body weight is spread evenly. Placing a pillow under your knees also can help maintain the normal curve of your lower back as you sleep.
Side sleepers can adjust their position to evenly distribute pressure as well. Drawing your knees slightly toward your chest can help, as can placing a pillow between your legs. Alternating which side you sleep on is also a good idea.
Sleeping on your stomach places the most strain on your spine, so avoiding this if possible is recommended. However, if you find you cannot sleep any other way, try placing a pillow under your abdomen to relieve some of the tension in your neck and back.
2. Check your pillow
Maintaining the natural curve of the spine will help relieve tension during the night, and your pillow plays a big role in that process. Pillows that are too high or too stiff cause your neck to flex all night. This can lead to pain and stiffness in the morning.
To keep your spine in alignment, make sure your pillow is at a comfortable height. Place it beneath your head and neck, not your shoulders. A pillow that conforms to the contours of your head and neck — such as a feather pillow or one containing memory foam — can give you additional support.
3. Update your mattress
The age of your mattress can have an enormous impact on your spinal health. As a mattress wears out, it may start to sag or lose its springiness. Therefore, it may no longer keep your spine in alignment as well as it used to.
But when the time comes to replace your mattress, what type is best? More independent research is still needed to answer this question definitively. One study, however, suggests that medium-firm mattresses have the biggest impact on relieving back pain.
If your back pain is on the milder side, these tips may be enough to give you relief. On the other hand, if your symptoms need more direct treatment, we are here to help. The expert physicians at the USC Spine Center can evaluate your pain and offer appropriate spine care, in order to relieve pain and restore ease of mobility.
To make an appointment with a USC Spine Center physician, call (800) USC-CARE or visit https://spine.keckmedicine.org/request-an-appointment.