Realigning Your Rest: Tackling Back Pain from Sleeping

Realigning Your Rest: Tackling Back Pain from Sleeping

Back pain can often disrupt our daily routines, bringing a new level of discomfort that, unfortunately, extends to our sleeping habits. This pain not only affects the quality of our rest but also influences our overall well-being. This blog post aims to delve into the issue of back pain from sleeping. We will uncover its underlying causes, practical solutions, and preventative measures that can help alleviate this discomfort and ensure a more restful, rejuvenating night’s sleep.

Why Does My Back Hurt After Sleeping?

Back pain after sleeping can be attributed to various factors, including:

Poor Sleeping Positions

Poor Sleeping PositionsThe way we sleep can greatly impact our spinal health. When we sleep, the aim is to keep the spine in a neutral alignment, not twisting or bending it unnaturally. Different sleeping positions can have different effects:

  1. Stomach sleeping is generally considered bad for the back. In this position, your middle section can sink into the mattress, causing your spine to bend, which may lead to pain over time. Additionally, you must turn your neck to the side to breathe, which can cause neck pain.
  2. Back sleeping is usually the best position for your spine, as it allows for good alignment of the neck, head, and spine. However, it can sometimes exacerbate snoring and problems with conditions like sleep apnea.
  3. Side sleeping can be good for those who snore but can sometimes lead to back and shoulder pain if not properly supported. Placing a pillow between your knees can help maintain hip alignment and reduce strain on the lower back.

Inadequate Mattress or Pillow

The right mattress and pillow can play a pivotal role in preventing back pain.

  1. Mattress: A good mattress supports your body’s natural curves and keeps your spine aligned. Mattresses that are too soft can allow your body to sink into a position that might twist and strain your back. On the other hand, mattresses that are too firm might not support the natural curvature of your spine, putting extra pressure on certain points. The “best” mattress can vary greatly depending on personal comfort. But generally, a medium-firm mattress has been shown to be beneficial for those with low back pain.
  2. Pillow: The right pillow is equally important. The goal is to maintain the neutral alignment of your neck with the rest of your spine. For side sleepers, a thicker pillow can help keep your neck straight. Back sleepers might benefit from a thinner pillow to prevent their head from being thrown too far forward. Stomach sleepers (although this position is not recommended) might find the most comfort from either a very thin pillow or none at all to prevent unnatural neck rotation.

Prolonged Bed Rest

Long ago, doctors would prescribe bed rest for back pain. However, recent studies show that lying down for extended periods can actually make back pain worse. Muscles and joints are designed for movement. Without regular activity, they can become stiff and weak. This could lead to muscular atrophy (decrease in muscle mass), which could exacerbate back pain. It’s important to note that while a small amount of rest immediately following a back injury may be helpful, prolonged bed rest is typically not recommended.

Underlying Medical Conditions

Back pain during sleep can be a symptom of several different medical conditions, including:

  1. Spinal Stenosis: This is a condition in which the spaces within your spine narrow, which can put pressure on the nerves that travel through the spine. It often causes pain, numbness, or muscle weakness. In severe cases, it can cause problems with balance and disrupt normal daily activities.
  2. Osteoarthritis: This condition affects your joints, causing pain and stiffness, and it often gets worse with age. If osteoarthritis affects the spine, it can lead to back pain during the night.
  3. Degenerative Disc Disease: This condition isn’t actually a disease but a term used to describe the normal changes in your spinal discs as you age. Over time, the discs in your spine may dehydrate and lose flexibility, elasticity, and shock-absorbing characteristics, leading to pain.

Stress and Tension

Stress not only affects our mental well-being but also has physical impacts. Especially on our musculoskeletal system.

  1. Muscle Tension: Under stress, the body’s response often involves tensing the muscles. If you’re constantly stressed and your muscles are frequently tense, it can lead to back pain, as the muscles become tired and begin to ache.
  2. Sleep Disruptions: High-stress levels can lead to sleep disruptions, such as difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. This lack of quality sleep can prevent the body from adequately healing and resting, contributing to back pain.
  3. Stress Posture: When stressed, people often adopt poor postures, such as hunching over a computer or clenching the jaw. That can lead to back and neck pain over time.

If you’ve been experiencing back pain after sleeping for a while, it’s essential to seek professional help. A healthcare professional can provide a thorough assessment and suggest treatments tailored to your specific needs.

How To Know If My Back Pain Is From Sleeping?

How To Know If My Back Pain Is From Sleeping?Determining if your back pain is related to your sleeping habits can be a bit challenging. As the pain could also be due to various other factors like posture, underlying medical conditions, physical strain, etc. However, certain indicators might suggest your back pain is sleep-related:

  • Timing of Pain

If your back pain occurs predominantly in the morning after waking up but tends to ease as the day goes on and you move around. Then, it may be a sign that your sleeping position, mattress, or pillow is causing or contributing to your pain.

  • Consistency of Pain

If you notice that your back pain regularly occurs after sleeping in certain positions or on specific surfaces (like a couch, or an old mattress). Then, this could suggest that your sleeping conditions are contributing to your back pain.

  • Ease of Pain with Changes

If you find relief from your back pain after making changes to your sleep environment. Such as using a different pillow, investing in a new mattress, or altering your sleeping position – it’s likely that your previous sleeping habits were a significant cause of your back pain.

  • Pain after Long Sleep or Inactivity

If you experience back pain after a long sleep or periods of inactivity, this may indicate that prolonged rest without sufficient movement is causing your discomfort.

  • Absence of Other Causes

If you’ve had no recent injuries, don’t have a physically demanding job, maintain good posture during the day, and are generally active. But still experiencing back pain, it’s possible that the issue could be linked to your sleeping habits or conditions.

Remember, it’s always essential to consult with a healthcare provider if you’re experiencing regular back pain. Regardless of whether you believe it’s caused by your sleep habits. They can provide a more accurate diagnosis and suggest treatments tailored to your specific situation.

How Do You Fix Back Pain From Sleeping?

How Do You Fix Back Pain From Sleeping?Fixing back pain from sleeping involves a combination of changes to your sleeping habits, daily routine adjustments, and possible medical interventions. Here are some strategies you can apply:

Improve Your Sleep Position

Try to adopt a sleep position that helps maintain the alignment of your spine. Back sleepers may place a pillow under their knees to maintain the spine’s natural curve. Side sleepers can try placing a pillow between the knees to avoid twisting the pelvis, which can strain the lower back.

Upgrade Your Mattress and Pillow

Choose a mattress and pillow that provide good support. The right firmness varies from person to person but generally, a medium-firm mattress tends to be good for those with back pain. The pillow should keep your head and neck in alignment with your spine.

Maintain Regular Physical Activity

Regular exercise, particularly activities that strengthen your core, can help reduce or prevent back pain. Stretching exercises also improve flexibility and may decrease the risk of back pain recurring.

Stay Hydrated

Dehydration can lead to muscle stiffness or spasms, contributing to back pain. Make sure you drink an adequate amount of water each day.

Practice Good Posture during the Day

Poor posture during your waking hours can contribute to back pain while you sleep. Try to maintain good posture if you sit for long periods, and take frequent breaks to walk and stretch.

Regular Stretching Routine Before Bed

Gentle stretching before bed can relax your muscles and increase your comfort while sleeping. Some beneficial stretches include the knee-to-chest stretch, spinal twist, and the child’s pose.

Maintain a Healthy Weight

Excess weight can put additional strain on your back. Keeping a healthy weight through a balanced diet and regular exercise may alleviate some of your back pain.

Medical Treatment

Over-the-counter pain relievers or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can be helpful for temporary relief. However, chronic or severe back pain should be evaluated by a healthcare professional. They may recommend treatments such as physical therapy, prescription medications, or in some cases, surgery.

Remember, it’s important to consult a healthcare professional if your back pain is severe, persistent, or accompanied by other symptoms like fever or numbness. They can provide an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan.


In conclusion, back pain from sleeping, although common, shouldn’t be an aspect of our lives that we overlook or simply learn to live with. This discomfort is often an indication of various underlying issues, be it our sleep posture, mattress quality, lifestyle habits, or even more severe health conditions. Understanding the causes and recognizing the symptoms of sleep-related back pain are the first steps toward alleviating this discomfort.

Remember, each journey is personal, and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Listening to our bodies, making adjustments where necessary, and seeking professional advice can guide us on the path toward pain-free, rejuvenating sleep.

If you’re experiencing Back pain, physical therapy for back pain at PhysioMantra can help: Book an online physical therapy session.