Nivaan Clinic

Learn the right sleeping positions for back pain and sleep peacefully at night.

Are you waking up in the morning with back pain every other day? If so, rest assured that you’re not alone in this experience. Incorrect sleeping position leading to back pain is prevalent, affecting a significant portion of the population. Estimates suggest that up to 80% of individuals experience this at some stage in their lives.

The causes of back pain are diverse, but one of the most frequent culprits is poor sleeping posture. Adopting a sleeping position that places undue stress on your back can lead to uncomfortable sensations, stiffness, and inflammation.

From decreased productivity to a diminished quality of life, the consequences of chronic back pain can be utterly debilitating. But fear not! Many times the solution to this problem may usually lie in the way you sleep at night.

In this blog post, we will discuss ideal sleeping postures for back pain and offer some tips on the correct way to implement them.

Comprehensive Understanding of Chronic Back Pain

Chronic back pain is a long-lasting and continuous discomfort in the back that can range from a dull ache to sharp, piercing pain. Unlike temporary back aches or acute back pain that go away after a short time, chronic pain stays for 12 weeks or more and may go on for months or even years if not cared for properly.

Common Causes

The following are some of the most common causes of chronic back pain:

  • Injury: Back pain can be caused by a sudden injury, such as a fall or a car accident. It can also be caused by repetitive strain injuries, such as those that occur from sitting or standing for long periods of time.
  • Degenerative disc disease: This is a condition that occurs when the discs in the spine break down over time. This can lead to pain, stiffness, and inflammation.
  • Spinal stenosis: This is a narrowing of the spinal canal. This can put pressure on the nerves in the spine, making your pain worse.
  • Arthritis: This is a condition that causes inflammation of the joints. It can affect the joints in the spine, leading to pain and stiffness.
  • Muscle spasms: These are sudden, involuntary contractions of the muscles. They can occur in any part of the body, including the back.
  • Obesity: Excess weight puts extra strain on the back, which can lead to pain.
  • Poor posture: Poor posture can put stress on the back, leading to pain and stiffness.
  • Stress: Stress can contribute to pain in the back by causing muscle tension and inflammation.


The symptoms of chronic pain vary from person to person. Some common symptoms include:

  • Pain in the lower back, neck, or shoulders
  • Stiffness in the back
  • Numbness or tingling in the arms or legs
  • Weakness in the arms or legs
  • Difficulty standing or walking
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Difficulty sitting or standing for long periods of time

The Importance of Sleep for Back Pain Management

How Sleep and Chronic Low Back Pain is Interconnected?

According to the Sleep Foundation, lower back pain is the most prevalent form of musculoskeletal pain encountered by adults. The Sleep Foundation also says that approximately 84% of individuals will experience this type of pain at least once in their lifetime, and about 23% of people deal with it chronically.

When people suffer from back pain, their sleep gets affected significantly. This leads to poor sleep that worsens the perception of pain. The relationship between sleep and back pain is often cyclical, creating a challenging feedback loop.

Relationship between chronic back pain and sleep - the feedback loop - sleeping position back pain

Pain Disrupts Sleep: Chronic back pain can disrupt the ability to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night. Pain may intensify when lying flat, causing discomfort and preventing individuals from finding the best sleeping positions.

Sleep Deprivation: Insufficient sleep or poor sleep habits can lower the pain threshold, making the perception of pain more intense. Lack of sleep affects pain modulation and can lead to increased sensitivity to pain.

Reduced Healing and Recovery: Sleep is essential for the body’s healing and repair processes. Without adequate deep sleep, the body’s ability to recover from back injury or inflammation may be compromised, leading to prolonged pain symptoms.

Factors Influencing Good Sleep:

Several factors can influence the quality of sleep, especially for individuals experiencing back pain. Addressing these factors can significantly improve sleep and help manage pain more effectively.

  • Mattress and Pillow Quality: A supportive and comfortable mattress and pillow that align with the individual’s sleeping position are crucial for reducing pressure on the back and promoting quality sleep.
  • Sleep Environment: The sleep environment should be conducive to restful sleep. A dark, quiet, and cool room can promote a better sleeping experience.
  • Stress and Anxiety: Stress and anxiety can exacerbate back pain and sleep disturbances. Relaxation techniques, such as mindfulness, meditation, or deep breathing exercises, can help manage stress and improve sleep.
  • Physical Activity: Regular physical activity, within the limits of one’s back pain, can promote better sleep. Engaging in low-impact exercises or stretching can be beneficial.
  • Caffeine and Stimulant Consumption: Limiting caffeine and stimulant intake, especially in the afternoon and evening, can prevent sleep disruptions.
  • Screen Time: Excessive exposure to screens (e.g., phones, computers, and TVs) before bedtime can interfere with the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle. Establishing a screen-free bedtime routine can be helpful.

Ergonomics – The Impact of Sleeping Position

the ergonomics of sleep - right sleeping positions to alleviate chronic back pain

Ergonomics and sleep position can significantly influence back pain and sleep quality.

  • Proper Spinal Alignment: Maintaining proper spinal posture during sleep is essential. The ideal position varies from person to person, but generally, sleeping on the back or side with proper support for the spine is recommended.
  • Pillows: The use of pillows is crucial to support the neck and maintain spine alignment. It helps the back to maintain its natural curve. Back sleepers may benefit from a small pillow under the knees to reduce stress on the lower back, while side sleepers may need a thicker pillow to keep the neck aligned with the spine.
  • Mattress Firmness: The firmness of the mattress should be chosen based on individual preferences and requirements. A medium-firm mattress is often recommended as it provides adequate support while allowing for some contouring to the body’s shape.
  • Avoid Stomach Sleeping: Sleeping on the stomach can strain the neck and back, leading to increased pain and discomfort. It is generally best to avoid this sleeping posture, especially for individuals with back issues.

Identifying Ideal Sleeping Positions for Back Pain Relief

Back Sleepers: Recommendations and Benefits

Sleeping position in back pain can be alleviated by adopting better postures and using supportive mattresses and pillows. If you prefer sleeping on your back, you’re in luck! Back sleeping can be one of the best positions to relieve pain, as it promotes proper spine alignment. To maximize the benefits:

Pillow Support: Place a thin pillow or a rolled-up towel under your knees to maintain the natural curvature of your lower back. This relieves pressure on the lumbar region and reduces strain.

Mattress Firmness: Opt for a medium-firm mattress that provides adequate support for your spine while allowing some contouring to your body shape.

Neck Support: Use a supportive pillow that keeps your head and neck aligned with your spine, preventing unnecessary stress on these areas.

Side Sleepers: Optimal Positions and Benefits

For those who find comfort in sleeping on their side, choosing the right fetal position can significantly reduce pain and improve sleep quality:

Pillow Height: Keep a thicker pillow underneath to support your head and neck, aligning them with your spine. This helps you get in a fetal position and prevents strain on your neck and upper back.

Knee Support: Place a pillow between your knees to keep your hips, pelvis, and spine in proper alignment. This eases pressure on your lower back and reduces pain.

Mattress Choice: A medium-firm mattress is ideal for side sleepers to ensure adequate support and proper alignment.

Stomach Sleepers: Challenges and Adjustments

Sleeping on your stomach can pose challenges for back pain sufferers, as it tends to strain the neck and lower back. However, if you find it hard to change your supportive sleeping position, consider these adjustments:

Thin Pillow or No Pillow: Sleeping without a pillow or using a thin one can prevent excessive arching of the neck and reduces pressure on the spine.

Mattress Firmness: Opt for a firm mattress that supports your body and prevents excessive sinking, which can worsen the pain.

Additional Tips for Improved Sleep

Regardless of your preferred sleeping posture, here are some additional tips to enhance your sleep and manage back pain:

Consistent Sleep Schedule: Maintain a regular sleep schedule to regulate your body’s internal clock and promote better sleep patterns.

Relaxation Techniques: Practice relaxation techniques like deep breathing, meditation, or gentle stretching before bedtime to ease tension and promote relaxation.

Sleep Environment: Create a comfortable sleep environment by keeping your bedroom cool, dark, and free from distractions.

Physical Activity: Engage in low-impact exercises or stretching during the day to improve flexibility and reduce back pain.

FAQ – Quick Tips from Nivaan

Get in touch with our care team and consult our pain specialists.