Are you waking up in the morning to back pain?
Or perhaps the back pain is serious enough that it’s waking you during the night?
In that case, you probably don’t need me to tell you that this is a serious problem. Not only is it very painful to continually wake with back pain but it can also damage the quality of your sleep, leaving you feeling exhausted, grumpy and generally under-rested.
Starting the day with pain whenever you move, a headache and a bad mood is not exactly the best way to ensure that you’re going to have a productive 24 hours!
But what is causing your back pain while you’re sleeping? And what can you do to combat it? Let’s take a look at some options that can help.
There are a number of causes of back pain while sleeping.
One of the most common issues is relating to the position that you sleep in. Everyone is different and all of us should adopt a different position that will best work with our natural physique.
But while there’s no ‘one size fits all’ approach to sleep that will be effective for everyone, we do know that certain sleeping positions are universally bad for us.
Among the worst offenders is sleeping on the front. If you sleep on your stomach then this presents a number of issues. The first is that it can flatten out the natural curvature of the spine – the small concave section of the lower back in particular. This can then cause you to experience discomfort as the muscles need to work to try and support the area and prevent it from completely collapsing in on itself.
Another issue with sleeping on your front is that it leaves you with nowhere to put your face! Either you will be face down – which will be somewhat suffocating and force your neck into a slightly upright position – or it will be twisted to one side. If you’ve ever seen a movie where a hero takes out a bad guy by twisting their neck violently to one side, then you can imagine why this isn’t a great way to sleep!
So, if you have sciatica or if you have pain in your neck and shoulders, consider the position of your sleep.
Of course, it’s not as easy as you might think to fix the position of your sleep, as… well… you’re asleep.
In fact, it can be hard even to know what position you are sleeping in in the first place!
For this reason, a good place to start is by asking a partner to watch you sleep and to let you know what position you’re sleeping in and whether it looks comfortable/healthy. If you don’t have someone to hand, then consider setting up a camera to record yourself sleeping.
Once you’ve identified the problem, there are a few things you can do to fix your sleep position. One option is to try using cushions or pillows to prop yourself up more, which will make it very hard to lie on your front. Failing that, you can try inserting a tennis ball inside your pajama top with it tucked in. Wherever you place the tennis ball, this will make it very difficult to lie on that side. For example, if the tennis ball is on your stomach and the t-shirt is tucked in, then you will find that it digs into your stomach every time you try lying on your front and you will quickly readjust in the night.
Another culprit when it comes to back pain while sleeping is the mattress. If you have the wrong mattress, then it may not provide you with enough support for your lower back. This way, even if you are lying on your back, you can still end up flattening out your spine and thereby feeling pain in the muscles that support the lower back.
The best long term solution is to look for a better mattress and to try getting one designed specifically to combat back pain while sleeping. Many people find that memory foam is preferable in this case because it will mold to the shape of their spines. Whatever type of mattress you have though, remember that it is advisable to replace it every ten years in order to get the best comfort and support.
Don’t have the money to replace your mattress right now? Then you can try looking for an additional layer to go on top of your mattress and add a little more support, or you can even consider placing a thin cushion under your lower back to offer that extra support.
There are many more causes of back pain while sleeping though that you should consider.
One thing to bear in mind is that sleep deprivation alters our perception of pain and makes minor discomforts feel a lot more severe. Thus, you might find that a minor discomfort in your lower back begins to feel like severe back pain while sleeping.
It may then not be so much your back that is the problem, so much as your lack of sleep. In this case, it is a good idea to do whatever you can to improve your sleep and good options include making your room darker, avoiding the computer or mobile phone for half an hour before bed and taking a warm back.
Likewise, this also means that the pain you feel during the night might have been caused during the day. A common culprit here is desk work, so you should consider the impact that this might be having on your sleep. Take a look at the desk chair you are sitting at and the height of your desk and monitor. Consider getting an orthopaedic seat and make sure you are taking regular breaks from work.