Understanding the Relationship Between Sleep Positions and Back Discomfort

Understanding the Relationship Between Sleep Positions and Back Discomfort


Back discomfort is an issue that affects many people. It can be linked to your sleep positions and can impact your sleep quality or lead to health troubles. Everyone is different, so finding the right sleeping position for your body type and structure is important.

Knowing how specific positions can affect your body alignment while you sleep is essential. Additionally, understanding the potential causes and risks of each position can help you make the right decision:

  • Sleeping on your back
  • Sleeping on your side
  • Sleeping on your stomach

Sleeping Positions and Back Pain

Your sleeping position can impact your back health. It can be either positive or negative. A suitable sleeping posture, plus the right type of mattress, can help you avoid waking up with back and neck pain. However, an incorrect sleeping position can cause back pain and rigidity, making existing back distress worse.

In this article, we will investigate the correlation between sleeping positions and back pain.


Side-sleeping is a common sleep position for many people with low back pain. To keep the lower back in a neutral position, put a pillow between your legs. Make sure your head and neck are in line with your spine, with a supportive but not too thick or thin pillow. Depending on your comfort level, extra pillows may help.

You can also slightly hug one knee to your chest, with both legs straight, for extra stability. Or curl up more in a semi-fetal position, with both knees closer to your chest. Pay attention to how your top leg rests on your bottom leg, as this can cause tension in your hips and misalign your lower back.

If you can, find an alternative sleep support, like a body pillow, to help you achieve a comfortable position and get a restful sleep.


When it comes to sleeping positions, back-sleeping is the most widely recommended. It aligns your spine and reduces stress on your back muscles and joints. For neck and upper back pain, a large pillow below your shoulders can help. Lower back pain? Place a small pillow or towel beneath your knees.

Many prefer side sleeping as it makes breathing easier. But, it can put pressure on your stomach and lungs. It’s not recommended for those with chronic lower back pain. To reduce discomfort, put a pillow between your knees and use a firm mattress for support.

Stomach-sleeping is not ideal for spinal issues. To reduce strain, use bolster pillows under your abdomen and chest. Notice how you feel before settling into a new sleep routine.


Sleeping on your stomach can be a pain in the back – literally! It forces your lower back to arch in an unnatural position, which puts extra pressure on your body and can make existing conditions worse.

Your neck and shoulders are also twisted for extended periods and this causes misalignment and muscular imbalances, leading to soreness and tension. To top it off, many people push their heads forward into their pillow, resulting in pinched nerves, headaches and neck pain.

Given these potential drawbacks, experts don’t recommend stomach-sleeping if you have or are prone to back or neck discomfort. To ease symptoms, try different sleeping positions such as side sleeping or a modified back-sleeping position (with a small pillow underneath the pelvis).

Benefits of Different Sleeping Positions

Your sleep can heavily influence your spine health! Different sleeping positions can help prevent lower back pain, neck pain, and muscle aches. Let’s check the pros and cons of each type of sleep position. We’ll also examine how these postures can reduce back pain.


Side-sleeping is popular. It has many benefits, like improved spinal alignment, less snoring and apnea, and even better back comfort.

For those with back pain, the side-sleeping position with a pillow between the knees can help. Pregnant women or those with GERD or heartburn can gain relief too.

When people are in this position, they can rest deeply. For extra help, use a mattress that contours to your body and have pillows behind your neck and between your legs/knees. This ensures your head won’t be crooked, and your spine will be properly aligned. Maximum comfort all night long!


Back-sleeping is one of the most popular sleeping positions. It offers spinal alignment and support without pillows. This means that the back is in a neutral position. If it doesn’t provide restful sleep, try using a pillow between your knees to relieve pressure on the lower back.

It’s also perfect for those with acid reflux. It keeps your body upright from shoulders to hips, reducing stomach acid. With a good pillow, it can reduce snoring and lessen tossing and turning, thus improving sleep quality.


Stomach-sleeping is not a good position for those with back issues. It strains the spine, making the lower back arch awkwardly. This leads to increased pressure on the discs and pain. Turning the head while sleeping may cause neck pain too.

A pillow under the stomach can help alleviate strain. Switching sides from time to time is also advised. For extra comfort and support, place a pillow under your pelvic area. This will prevent hyperextending your lower spine.

Tips for Better Sleep

How can you get a good night’s sleep without back discomfort? Simple! Understand the relationship between sleep positions and back pain. This article will tell you how to find the best sleeping positions to reduce back discomfort. It’s easy!

Invest in a Good Mattress

Investing in a good mattress is key for better sleep and rest. Think about the following points when choosing one:

  • Your body weight – A mattress suited for your weight is essential. Heavier people may need a firmer one, while lighter people may prefer a softer one.
  • Your needs – Do you like sleeping on your stomach or back? Do you get too hot at night? These questions can help you decide.
  • Types of mattresses – Memory foam is great for comfort and support, while latex offers breathability. Hybrid mattresses have a combination of memory foam and coils/springs and provide bounce and contouring.

Remember to consider shipping and budget when buying online. Visiting big box stores or showrooms can be helpful. Quality should always be your top priority for sleep health!

Try Different Pillows

Finding the right pillow is crucial when it comes to sleeping with back discomfort. Pillows come in all shapes, sizes and materials. Experimenting with different ones can help address neck and shoulder issues.

Search for pillows that will encourage a neutral spine position. This will reduce pressure and strain on the back. Speciality mattresses are available too. They have an adjustable base system so they can be tailored to the individual.

Pillow shape matters too. A flatter one will offer better posture support when lying down. A higher one might provide extra comfort if placed under the shoulders or calves. Memory foam and feather pillows are great. They mould around the head and neck, providing more comfort than traditional polyester filled pillows. Placing a small rolled up towel under the head at night can also help give neck support.

Use a Body Pillow

A body pillow or wedge cushion can ease back pain at night. It helps keep the neck and spine in neutral alignment, reducing stress and improving sleep.

When picking size and firmness, think about your sleeping habits. Sticking to one position is key; changing too frequently can make symptoms worse. If you feel discomfort in any position, make a note so you don’t return to it. This helps guarantee better sleep.


It’s important to understand that there are many factors involved when finding the best sleep position for back pain. It should be comfortable, provide support and alignment for the neck and spine.

Those with existing back pain, or those at risk of developing it, should pay attention and seek medical advice if needed.

Having a comfortable mattress is key. High levels of firmness can increase comfort and improve spinal alignment. Ergonomic pillows can also help maintain posture during rest.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is the best sleep position for reducing back discomfort?

A: Sleeping on your back with a supportive pillow under your knees is often recommended as the best position for reducing back discomfort.

Q: Can sleeping on my stomach cause back discomfort?

A: Yes, sleeping on your stomach can cause strain on your back muscles and potentially lead to discomfort.

Q: Does the type of mattress I have affect my back discomfort?

A: Yes, a mattress that is too soft or too firm can both contribute to back discomfort. It is important to find a mattress that provides proper support for your back.

Q: Can changing my sleep position relieve chronic back pain?

A: It may help reduce back pain over time, but it is important to also address any underlying causes of chronic back pain with proper medical treatment.

Q: Is it okay to sleep without a pillow to relieve back discomfort?

A: It is generally not recommended as a supportive pillow can help align your spine and reduce back discomfort.

Q: Can standing or sitting for extended periods of time lead to back discomfort during sleep?

A: Yes, standing or sitting for extended periods of time can cause muscle strain in the back which can contribute to discomfort during sleep.

the back recovery program by alex larsson
Jane Smith is a natural health enthusiast on a mission to uncover effective methods for achieving pain-free living. Through her personal journey with chronic back pain, she has become well-versed in holistic approaches such as yoga, Pilates, and essential oils.

Related Articles