How to Sleep with Back Pain: A Helpful Guide

How to Sleep with Back Pain: A Helpful Guide

With back pain being the largest single cause of disability in the UK, it’s no wonder that people are losing sleep.

As experts in sleep, we’re eager to help the population with this problem. From finding the optimum sleeping position to ease discomfort, to the best type of pillow for back pain, we’ve gathered some tips on how to sleep with back pain from our years of experience in the industry

So, sit back, relax and read on...

Understanding the Different Types of Back Pain

Back pain is notorious for being hard to pinpoint a single cause and can present itself very differently from person to person. This makes one universal treatment difficult. However, it does help to understand the different types of back pain and their causes.

Chronic Back Pain

Chronic back pain is the term for general, recurring back pain that lasts for more than 12 weeks. This can cause lots of disruption to sleep long term. 

For sufferers of chronic back pain, an orthopaedic mattress could be the key to improved sleep hygiene and the answer to long term sleeping success.

Muscle Strain

This type of pain is usually caused by injury during sports or repetitive movements. It can cause painful muscle spasms and inflammation but should ease off within a few weeks.

Herniated Disk

Often referred to as a slipped disk, this is when the soft tissue between the bones in your spine pushes out, pressing on nerves. This can cause lower back pain, neck pain, and a tingling sensation.

Depending on the position of your herniated disk, your sleeping position could help relieve pain. Sleeping curled up in the fetal position can help relieve discomfort caused by a slipped disk in the mid-back as it helps to reduce the curve of the spine. Avoid sleeping on an extra firm mattress as it could cause additional pressure to your spine.


Sciatica is the irritation of the nerve that runs from the hips down and can cause pain in the lower back, buttocks and cause a tingling sensation.

When sciatica flares up, elevating the knees can be helpful during sleep as it reduces lumbar pressure on nerve roots. Choosing a firm mattress is also a good way to alleviate pain. Read our guide for more information on how to sleep with sciatica.

Possible Causes of Back Pain

The exact causes of back pain are copious and can be hard to pinpoint. However, here are a few common causes;

  • Bad posture
  • Sitting for long periods
  • Sleeping positions
  • Muscle injury
  • Slipped disk
  • Arthritis
  • Psychological factors such as depression or insomnia


Now we’ve looked at the causes, it’s time for some solutions;

Best Sleeping Position for Back Pain

The way we sleep has a big impact on our back health and sleeping in certain positions could even be the cause of some back pain!

That’s why it’s so important to find a comfortable sleeping position that doesn’t put unnecessary strain on your spine.

Here are some of the best sleeping positions to relieve back pain;

Sleeping on Your Back with Knee Support

Lying on your back with a pillow under your knees ensures your spine is properly aligned. In this position, your weight is evenly distributed, minimising discomfort on pressure points.

Sleeping on Your Side

Many people prefer to sleep on their side. If you are a side sleeper, put a pillow between your knees for optimum alignment of your spine and hips.

Sleeping in the Fetal Position

Sleeping curled up in the fetal position can provide welcome pain relief to those suffering from a slipped disk as it helps to reduce the natural curve of the spine.

Avoid Sleeping on Your Stomach

Sleeping on your stomach for long periods can place extra strain on the lower back, as well as forcing the neck to twist to one side, leading to neck and shoulder strain. 

However, if you find it difficult to fall asleep in any other position, placing a small pillow beneath your stomach and hips can help offer extra support and realign your spine. 

To protect your neck in this position, try placing a small, firm pillow or rolled-up towel underneath your forehead so you can sleep face down, without twisting your neck.

Perfecting Your Posture

With lots of us sitting in office chairs for hours on end, it’s no wonder our posture needs some work. Here are some things to avoid;

  • Slouching in your chair (adjust your office chair to help you sit up straight, with your computer screen at eye level)
  • Wearing high-heeled shoes daily
  • Leaning on one leg for extended periods of time
  • Hunching over your keyboard or phone

If you like to sit up in bed reading before lights out, our memory foam bed wedge allows you to sit comfortably, without suffering from any discomfort the next morning!


Mattress Toppers

Try Gentle Exercise

A great way to relieve back pain is by taking regular, gentle exercise such as swimming or yoga. Any exercise that strengthens the core, hips and back will help prevent any back pain in the future. There are also some great stretches designed specifically with back and spine alignment in mind.

Seek Professional Assistance

If your back pain is persistent and causing you to lose sleep on a regular basis, it’s worth seeking medical advice the professionals. Visiting a physiotherapist, chiropractor or osteopath could help you find a solution.

Pre-Bedtime Relaxation

Understandably, back pain can cause lots of tension and stress. To ease yourself to sleep when a flare-up strikes, there are a few relaxation tricks to create a stress-free bedroom. You could try;

  • Avoid screens an hour before bed
  • Avoid caffeine and sugar in the afternoon
  • Try to avoid drinking alcohol, although it might seem like it helps you sleep, the quality of your sleep will be affected
  • Use a hot compress on the affected area
  • Try a calming essential oil spray such as lavender to mist your pillow before bedtime

    Which Type of Pillow is Best?

    Your pillow should allow for the natural extension of your spine and neck. A pillow that elevates your head too much when you’re lying in bed can cause unnecessary strain.

    A memory foam pillow is perfect if you prefer a medium-firm pillow that doesn’t interfere with your natural alignment. Memory foam gently moulds to the shape of your head, neck and shoulders for individualised support.

    If you suffer from upper back and neck pain, a contour pillow features a central dip to support your neck. Ideal for back sleepers!

    Which is Better; Soft or Firm Mattresses?

    Suffering from regular pain and discomfort is tiring. Getting a good night’s sleep is essential for recovery and to wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take on the day.

    Knowing how to choose a mattress is key. Whether you prefer a soft or firm mattress, maintaining neutral spine alignment is vital. Too soft, and you don’t get the support you need, too firm and it’s uncomfortable on pressure points. 

    The solution? A memory foam mattress.

    Memory foam is designed to relieve pressure by distributing your body weight evenly. The foam moulds to your body, without interfering with your natural alignment. For back pain sufferers, we recommend choosing a mattress with a memory foam level of 7cm or above for maximum support.

    Our essential range of memory foam mattresses allows everyone to experience the great night’s sleep memory foam brings, whatever your budget. 

    Struggling to find the perfect mattress topper to enhance your sleep? Check our definitive guide to the best mattress toppers for back pain.

    What is an Orthopaedic Memory Foam Mattress?

    Orthopedic mattress

    An orthopaedic mattress is specially designed for sufferers of lower back pain. Strategically placed grooves in the foam provide targeted support.

    Our range of orthopaedic mattresses has been inspired by medical research (we even supply medical mattresses to the NHS!) helping to relieve pressure and encourage peaceful sleep.

    A Great Night’s Sleep with Memory Foam Warehouse

    To find the perfect mattress to ease your back pain and sleep peacefully throughout the night, our essential mattress buying guide could help.

    From affordable memory foam to orthopaedic and custom mattresses, we’ve got the solution to your sleeping troubles.

    Browse our wide range of quality mattresses here to discover the best sleep of your life.

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