12 How to sleep better for back pain

How to sleep better for back pain

Find tips for managing back pain at night

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S.A.C. Dip (Diet, Exercise & Fitness), Advanced Human Anatomy & Physiology Level 3
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03 December 2019

Why is my back pain worse at night?

Whether it is the result of an injury or a condition like arthritis, back pain is a common occurrence, particularly as we get older. Unfortunately, this problem can disrupt sleep and, the more sleep deprived we are, the worse pain feels - it is a vicious cycle.

So, when back pain occurs at night, it can be connected to sleep deprivation, as well as a variety of other factors including a poor mattress, your posture/sleeping position and even unsupportive pillows!

To help manage this particular problem going forward, this blog offers advice on:

  • The best sleeping positions for back pain
  • How to deal with back pain.

The best sleeping positions for back pain

Although we tend to toss and turn through the night, when you settle in bed initially, there are a few sleeping positions that may help reduce the severity of your back pain.

Sleep position 1

Sleep on your side with your legs pulled up into a foetal position and pop a pillow between your knees. This opens up the spine and can relieve any strain on the back and pelvis.

Sleep position 2

If you prefer to sleep on your back, place a couple of pillows under your knees to raise the legs. This provides extra support for the back and has the same effect as curling up on your side.

Sleep position 3

If you like to sleep on your front, I'd recommend you try to change to a different sleeping position. Lying on your front 'chokes' the spine and causes the neck to twist unnaturally. This could, in turn, contribute to neck or upper back strain.

However, everyone has a favourite sleeping position and, if you have to sleep on your front, place a pillow under your tummy and pelvis to raise the lower abdomen and open the spine up a little.

How to deal with back pain

Before you head to bed, there are a few simple steps you can take to manage back pain and prevent it from disrupting your sleep. With improved sleep, your body will have more healing time, too!

  • Take a hot bath. Not only is this very relaxing (which should promote better sleep), the heat also helps to calm the muscles, boost circulation and can even ease swelling and inflammation.
  • Invest in a good mattress. This will provide your back with a little extra support and comfort.
  • Apply some Atrogel arnica gel. This can help to ease pain when you go to bed, making it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep. Keep some Atrogel on your bedside table so that you can re-apply when necessary.

My Top Tip:

Atrogel can be used for muscle stiffness, aches and pains, as well as sporting injuries such as sprains and strains. Apply 2-4 cm at a time, 3-4 times daily.

"As usual, this product gave the desired results."

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  • Apply a warm/cold pack. This can help ease pain and reduce swelling. You can do this for as little as twenty minutes at a time, approximately 30 minutes before bed. Check out my blog 'Heat or ice: which is best for our pain or injury' for more information.
  • Stay active during the day. Our bodies weren't designed to stay sedentary for long periods at a time and doing so can contribute to back pain. So, if you're committed to working on a desk chair, a car seat or the couch, try to get up and move more to improve the extent of your back pain. If you can, take the time to perform some daily back strengthening exercises, stretches or simply take a short stroll.
  • Look at when you're taking medication. Some pain-relieving medications will wear off in the night, so speak to your doctor about when is the best time to take your medication to help you sleep better.
  • Manage weight. Being overweight or obese puts more strain on the muscles and joints, as well as other aspects of our health. Therefore, reducing weight can help ease discomfort.

Finally, if you would like more advice on dealing with sleep problems, take a look at our blog pages on the topic. Sleep is healing and so, if you are suffering from back pain, getting enough of it can go a long way to improving symptoms.


Originally published on 5 February 2015 (updated on 3 December 2019)


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As the A. Vogel Muscles and Joints advisor, I recommend Atrogel® for the effective relief from aches and pains.

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Did you know?

Back pain is one of the most common complaints of the UK workforce, resulting in approximately 15 million missed days at work per year!

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