How to sleep better with back pain

According to research conducted by Imperial College London, Arthritis Research UK and the University of Aberdeen, 43% of UK adults suffer from chronic back pain. Back pain, particularly lower back pain, is extremely common and whilst symptoms usually improve within a few weeks or months, the link between poor sleep and back pain is an established one. 

If you are suffering from a problem stemming from the lumbar spine region, here are a few tips on how to sleep better.


Get to the root of the problem

There are many factors that may be contributing to your sleep problem. In addition to back pain there may be a range of other factors preventing you from getting some shut-eye. Temperature, ambient light and comfort – due to the quality of your mattress – can all affect sleep. Similarly, more severe issues such as anxiety, depression and breathing issues can have long-term implications for sleep quality. Limb movement disorders, alcohol use and use of selected prescription medication have also been connected to poor sleep quality.

Understanding the source of your sleep problem will help you tackle the issue head on, and getting help and advice from your GP or another healthcare professional may be a good idea particularly if symptoms persist for more than three weeks, worsen over time or prevent you from completing everyday activities.


Sleep on it

If you suffer from a lower back issue, the solution can often be to improve alignment by sleeping on your back. However if you are more of a side sleeper then ensuring your neck is positioned correctly can also help to combat problems with posture. Your neck should not be tilted too far back or too far forward when sleeping, and your spine should also not be overly curved or rounded. Adjust your sleeping position accordingly to ensure you are well positioned for better sleep.


Remember: you are what you eat

Watching what you eat and drink in those hours leading up to your bedtime is important. Caffeine is a stimulant found in coffee, tea, cocoa, chocolate and other food and drinks, and whilst its stimulating effects may come in handy by day, by night it will work to block sleep inducing chemicals that help to ensure restful sleep. The effects of caffeine tend to be felt during the first 15 minutes after consumption but once in the body, effects persist for several hours. In fact, the Sleep Foundation states that it can take around six hours for 50% of consumed caffeine to be eliminated from the body completely. For better sleep with back pain, limit or eliminate caffeine completely.

Eating heavily before bedtime can keep you awake, with issues like acid reflux making it uncomfortable to wind down. Alcohol should also be avoided before bed, as whilst it may help you to fall asleep and mask the uncomfortable symptoms commonly associated with back pain, alcohol use has been proven to impair sleep quality significantly.


Keep your mind and body in check

Stress is a primary cause of sleep disorders such as insomnia and has also been linked with chronic back pain, which makes reducing stress an important part of your route to better sleep. Exercise is just one of the ways that you can reduce stress. Intensive exercise should be avoided before bedtime due to its stimulating, adrenaline producing effects, however gentle exercise and stretching can provide a soothing introduction to any bedtime routine. These gentle exercises can even be completed in bed. Taking a hot bath can also relax and loosen muscles, making it easier to wind down at night.

Know when to seek help

There are many medications available that will help to achieve better sleep with back pain. While you should start with the sleep environment and sleep surface, there are times when seeking medical assistance is necessary. Consulting your GP or even a qualified physiotherapist can help greatly in finding a path towards a more comfortable, pain-free night’s sleep.


Did you know that Mammoth is an official partner of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy? Why not ask your physio if they sleep on a Mammoth? 

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