Restful sleep with sciatica is an essential ingredient of its treatment recipe. However, throbbing pain is hard to accompany, especially when turning and tossing can cause sciatica flare-ups.
Lower back pain, aka sciatica, has become one of the most common diseases in the United States, affecting around 40% of the population.
Pinching your sciatic nerve has a restless impact on your daily activities, ranging from walking to running and sitting to sleeping.
Therefore, learning how to sleep with sciatica is extremely important otherwise you can develop anxiety disorders from experiencing another uncomfortable night.
In this article, I will be guiding you through the positions, do’s and don’ts, and additional tips that I share with my patients in premium sessions.
Before that, I would like to answer the most commonly asked question.
Why Is Sciatica Worse At Night?
That is because of sleeping postures that exert pressure on the sciatic nerve and mess up the spinal alignment. Another reason is the soft mattress that causes your body to sink into it.
Best Sleeping Positions for Sciatica Pain
There is an abundance of anecdotal information that suggests a variety of ways to sleep with lower back pain. Here are some positions that will help maintain the natural alignment of your spine.
1. Place a Pillow Between Your Legs
The pillow between your legs can help in maintaining a neutral position of your spine and pelvis.
- Place your shoulder on your mattress and rest your body against it.
- Slightly bend your knees and place a pillow between them.
1. Sleep On Your Side
With sciatica signs, sleeping on your side is the best sleeping position as it relieves pressure on your sciatic nerve by opening up space.
- Lie on your side with sciatica-side on top.
- You can place a pillow under the waist for support.
3. Fetal Position
- Lie on your side.
- Bring your knees closer to your chest, making a “C” form.
- You can further add a pillow between your legs.
The opening up of space between the vertebrae due to the fetal position can reduce sciatica pain.
NOTE: Feel free to try one of these other positions if you experience discomfort in the fetal position.
4. Pillow Under Your Knees
While laying on your back with a thick pillow under your knees, maintain the curvature of your spine to relax your hip flexors.
- Place a pillow under your head while laying on your back.
- Put a thick pillow under your knees.
- Rest your heels against the mattress.
5. Towel/ Pillow Under Your Lower Back
By reducing the gap between your back and mattress with a towel or thin pillow, you will keep your spine in a neutral position.
- Face up with a pillow behind your head.
- Put a thin towel or pillow under your lower back.
- With this technique and a pillow under your knees, you can sleep comfortably.
6. Raise your knees
Sleeping on your stomach is not recommended because it increases the pressure on your spine. Alternatively, if you prefer stomach sleeping, you can raise your knees slightly.
- Keep your heels and buttocks in contact with the bed as you lie flat on your back.
- Slightly bend your knees towards the ceiling.
- Slowly add additional pillows until you find a comfortable knee and lower back position.
7. Sleep on the Floor
As soft surfaces fail to maintain a proper spinal alignment, sleeping on the floor may help you do so.
- Put a thin mat on the floor before sleeping on it.
- Lie down in a preferred position that helps you sleep better.
Additional Tips for a Better Sleep With Sciatica
Sciatica is an individual-specific problem that is not like one-size-fits-all. So, it is really crucial to keep track of your progress by connecting with your doctor/ physiotherapist/ chiropractor. However, the following are some additional tips to enhance your sleep quality with this lower back pain.
1. Select your Mattress Wisely
Although a mattress can’t be the root cause of why your sciatica not going away? But, researches show that a medium-firm or orthopedic mattress (bed) may help keep your spine in alignment.
- The stomach sleepers should select a relatively firm mattress that keeps your body afloat.
- If you sleep on your side, you should pick a mattress that is soft and provides hip and shoulder support.
- Back sleepers should choose a medium-firm mattress that offers full-body support.
Remember, the main purpose of a mattress is to keep your spine aligned over the night.
2. Try a Body Pillow
Putting a pillow between your knees helps keep your spine, hips, and pelvis aligned.
Alternatively, if sleeping with a pillow is too bulky or uncomfortable, consider sleeping with no spine, since this will align your spine with your hips and pelvis.
3. Consider Certain Exercises
Try low-intensity exercises like walking, certain stretches, and yoga.
Walking with sciatica has unbelievable effects if done with proper guidance. Also, some mild stretches and yoga before going to bed may help.
Remember, you can’t opt for exercises that pinch the sciatica nerve including racing, gym workouts, bodybuilding, etc.
To better meet this situation consult with your physiotherapist.
4. Bathe in Warm Water
The release of pain-fighting endorphins around sciatic nerve roots is helped by warm (not too hot) water.
5. Don’t Compromise on your Medication
Taking pain medications as prescribed by your doctor is essential if your sciatica pain prevents you from sleeping.
Anti-inflammatory medications over-the-counter may also help reduce some of your sciatic pain if you don’t want to take prescription medications.
6. Avoid TV Just Before Bed
Develop a healthy and stress-free routine before going to bed:
- Don’t watch television or use a smartphone
- Sleep and awake at the same time (including weekends)
- Developing these habits in your life can protect you from a number of diseases.
7. Try Sciatica Massage at Home
Massage therapy has been found to help ease lower back pain symptoms and improve sleep patterns.
Learn some home massage techniques for sciatica so the pain doesn’t interfere with your sleep at night.
What is the Best Sleeping Position In Pregnancy for Sciatica?
Pregnant women with sciatica are typically recommended to sleep on their sides. Even so, sleeping on your left side improves blood flow via the inferior vena cava, but sleeping on your right side is equally beneficial.
Sleep on your healthy side; place a pillow between your knees – it can relieve sciatica symptoms.
Can you Sleep in a Recliner with Sciatica?
Sleeping in an ergonomic recliner provides proper alignment for your spine, neck, hips, and legs. Therefore, sleeping in a recliner or an adjustable bed with elevated head is recommended as it provides comfort and support during sciatica symptoms.
My Final Say,
I have always told my patients never to make a decision to live with this pain ever again.
What is the best way to do that?
Consult your physiotherapist right away if you find that sciatica is interfering with your sleep quality. He or she will be able to recommend the best sleep positions for sciatica based on your condition.