Sleeping with back pain.


Sleeping with back pain.

As osteopaths it is very common for us to deal with patients struggling with back pain. Chronic back pain is often aggravated from strain caused by incorrect postures, awkward sleeping positions, stress and bad lifestyle habits such as poor nutrition excessive alcohol intake, and weight gain.

We often hear our patients complaining about not getting enough sleep due to their aching backs. Many have spent countless nights tossing and turning, trying every positions possible to get comfortable, and ease the pain and discomfort. This is often to no avail as the pain does not ease up or patients aren’t comfortable enough to fall asleep, leaving them exhausted the next day, negatively impact their daily routine.

If you are someone who struggles with getting a full night’s sleep due to back pain, here are a few tips that might help you:

  1. Getting into the right (and comfortable) sleeping position for you:

    Many people find that lying on their backs is the most comfortable position when dealing with back pain. If you are a person that finds this position comfortable, place a pillow under your knees, as this will maintain the corrective curve of the spine in the lower back as you sleep.

    If sleeping on your back is not a comfortable position, try sleeping on your side, and keep a pillow between your keens, as it will improve the aliment of the spine. Also try to avoid sleeping on the same side all the time as it may result in pain in the hips and shoulder.

  1. Use the right pillow:
    Your pillow should cradle your head and neck to support the upper portion of your spine. If you sleep on your back your pillow should completely fill the space between your neck and the mattress, from the base of your skull to the top of your shoulders. If your pillow tilts your head down (brings your chin close to the chest) then it is too high or too thick and if your head tilts backwards then your pillow is too flat or too thin.

    If you sleep on your side the pillow must come down to touch the top of your shoulders so your entire neck is supported. It is important that when sleeping on your side that your spine mimics a straight line from the base of your skull to your buttocks.

  2. Having the correct mattress:

    Many of us have probably heard that a firm mattress is best for bad backs, however recent studies that shown the very firm mattresses have resulted in a poor quality of sleep. And that a very soft mattress offer very little support and fosters a poor alignment of the spine.
    Ideally your mattress shouldn’t be more than 10 years old, so if you are choosing a new one try a medium or medium firm where possible.

    If you are unable to buy a new mattress you can try to firm up your existing one by placing an inexpensive plywood board under it. Or you can try to soften up a hard mattress by using a memory foam topper.

  3. Make the following habits:

    to improve the quality of your sleep, try to make the following a daily habit.
    Go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day, even on the weekends. This will condition your body to expect sleep at a set time, allowing your body to get into a rhythm where sleep comes more easily.

    Create a good sleep environment by ensuring that your make room is cool, dark and quiet. Earplugs or white noise can help drown out distractions or you could play some calming music or nature. Avoid falling asleep with the television on, even if the sound is off. The blue light from the tv will reduce the amount of melatonin your body makes, making it difficult for your brain to go into sleep mode.
    Power down your devices -just like the tv, computers and phone screens emit blue light. At night this kind of light can disrupt your body’s natural circadian rhythm and upset your sleep patterns. It is recommended to limit your exposure to these devices in the last 2 hours before bed.

  4. Ease the pain before bed:

    Before getting into bed do some gentle stretches to help relax your muscles.
    You may also use of an icepack or heat pad to help reduce pain prior to bedtime.
    Relaxation techniques, including deep breathing and body contract-relax techniques, may be helpful to settle you before going to sleep.


At OsteoVision, our practitioners are highly skilled in treating a wide range of musculoskeletal conditions including back pain. Please contact us if you would like to discuss your symptoms, book an appointment, or require more information about back pain and how to manage it.

Call:     03303 904 300


You can also book an appointment online at

Surrey Osteopathic Care. 2020. 5 Sleep Strategies for Back Pain Sufferers — Surrey Osteopathic Care. [online] Available at: [Accessed 28 December 2021].