Most of us enjoy our snooze time. Sleep after all, is essential to healthy living. Experts say that we should sleep ⅓ of our lives, or 8 hours a day. But a lot of us don’t get to sleep that long. Some have sleep disorders like insomnia, others have aches and pains, particularly in the lower back. And even if we get to sleep about 8 hours a day, why do we still wake up with some discomfort or stiffness? According to Dr. Andrew Gitkin, medical director of the Montefiore Spine Center, it is because we may be sleeping the 8 hours in one position.
So, it is important to note that we should sleep in a position that won’t worsen aches and pains, most especially lower back pain. People who struggle with back pain should know that there are positions of sleeping that will minimize the bothersome discomfort, according to Dr. Jennifer L. Solomon, a board certified physiatrist in physical medicine and rehabilitation at the Hospital for Special Surgery. For those who have been lucky so far and have not experienced a sore back from sleeping, the National Institutes of Health say that about 80% of adults will experience back pain in their lifetime. So it is best to be informed.
How to sleep with back pain
Given that you are already experiencing some discomfort or pain in your lower back, there are basically two ways to alleviate the pain and sleep well. The goal is to keep your spine in a neutral position. Dr. Gitkin explains that this includes your back in relation to your hips and pelvis. One is to sleep on your side, with a pillow between your knees to keep your spine straight. If you prefer to sleep on your back, the same thing goes…a pillow underneath your knees. Dr. Solomon explains, “ The ideal positions are on your back with a pillow underneath your knees or on your side with a pillow in between your knees.” There are supportive pillows made specially for back or side sleepers. Now that you know the best positions to sleep with back pain, note also the worst ones.
The worst position to sleep with back pain
Unfortunately for those who enjoy sleeping on their belly, this is the worst position for back pain…and could lead to back pain if you have not yet experienced it. Dr. Gitkin emphasizes that this position puts a lot of stress on your cervical spine, or the area at the base of the neck. It will also mess up the alignment of the rest of your spine as well. But if you sleep this way most of the time, there is a remedy you can do, according to Dr. Solomon. It may be bizarre and sound ridiculous, but she says you should tape tennis balls to your chest. “It will be so uncomfortable, that you’ll be forced to flip over,” she explains. But really, it’s all mind over matter…if you set your mind to sleep properly, you will soon enough get used to it.
Still, at times you are sleeping in the proper position, yet you experience discomfort and soreness. Most likely, it’s time to change your mattress. A high quality mattress should last around 10 years, but if you are not sleeping well, don’t wait for 10 years. Michael Grandner, PhD, director of the Sleep and health Research Program at the University of Arizona College of Medicine said, “Firmer mattresses tend to be better for chronic pain because they provide adequate support.” He also adds that it may take a week or two to know if the bed is right for you, so purchase one with a generous return policy. They have so many different types of mattresses nowadays, surely there will be one that suits you. Best to ask an expert or doctor to be sure.
Sleep is supposed to relax you, it is a major part of rejuvenating your body, as well as your mind (and soul). So proper sleeping positions are not to be taken lightly, that is, if you want to avoid aches and pains. It’s all up to you really.