sleep foundation
The National Sleep Foundation

Medically Reviewed by

The National Sleep Foundation

Written by

The National Sleep Foundation

Lower back pain makes it tough to sit for long periods of time, and causes even simple movements to become a challenge. But it can also have a huge impact on the quality of your sleep at night. In fact, people who have chronic pain get an average of 42 fewer minutes of sleep a night than they need and only 37 percent report good or very good sleep quality (compare that to 65 percent of people without pain). 

A Rude Awakening

It makes sense: It’s hard to get comfortable when a part of your body hurts. But other reasons that an aching back leads to poor sleep might be a little less obvious. For example, lower back pain can lead to something called microarousals, causing the body to transition into a lighter sleep stage and briefly awaken. This can happen multiple times an hour throughout the night, severely compromising your sleep quality. 

Perfect Positioning

For back pain sufferers, the easiest way to improve your comfort, and therefore sleep, is to rethink how you lie in bed. Try to avoid resting on your stomach, as this puts more strain on your spine. The best way to orient yourself? On your back. To make this position even more comfortable, take the pressure off your spine by placing a pillow under your knees (and, if you’d like, a small pillow or towel rolled up under the arch of your back). If you prefer to sleep on your side, put a pillow between your legs. 

Seek Support

If it’s been a while since you purchased your bed, you might consider upgrading your mattress—it loses some of its springiness over time, meaning it’s not as good at keeping your spine aligned throughout the night. The more support the better for people with back issues, so think about adding a foam topper if your existing mattress is starting to sag.