Best and Worst Sleeping Positions for lower back pain

What’s your favorite sleeping position? We all have a preferred position to fall asleep in and while we may move around a little in our sleep, it’s fairly unusual for us to change positions frequently throughout the night. But is your favorite position the best for you?

Your sleeping position affects your quality of sleep and it can even affect your health. If you’re curious to find out if the way you sleep is helping or hindering you, the good news is that you’ve come to the sleep experts. Read on to find out if your sleeping position is good for you.


Your sleeping position has a great impact on your sleep quality

Each sleeping position affects the body a little differently, so let’s break down the different sleeping positions and what they mean for you.


Fetal Position

fetal sleeping position


Probably the best sleeping position for lower back pain, is the fetal position, where you sleep on your side with your knees drawn up in front of you, is one of the most popular sleeping positions. Approximately 4 in 10 people prefer this position, and it’s favored more by women than men. But for all its popularity, is it a good way to sleep?

Yes - it’s one of the most comfortable positions and provides health benefits overnight, which in turn makes it easier for you to get a good night’s sleep. If you sleep in the fetal position facing away from your partner, it can also be an effective way to lessen how much noise you hear from them, especially if they snore.


What are the benefits of sleeping in the fetal position?

In the fetal position, the spine can relax, and sleeping on your left side aids digestion. As your rest-and-digest system kicks in during sleep (known as the parasympathetic nervous system), sleeping on your side can allow your body to digest your food more quickly, allowing you to sleep more deeply. Sleeping on your left side is better for this benefit, but either side provides good digestive benefits. This position(given you use a proper pillow so support your neck and head, and your mattress is set up right as well), is the best sleeping position for lower back pain because when the spine is relaxes it reduces pressure on the nerves in your lower back area.


Are there disadvantages to sleeping in the fetal position?

The only caveat to the fetal position is if you’re going to bed stressed and curling up into a tight ball. Tucking your knees right up to your chest restricts breathing just enough that it can prevent you from falling into a deep slumber. If you typically find you wake up stiff or have the urge to curl up, make sure you’re warm enough at night (a hot water bottle can work wonders for cold feet) and try using a pillow for support.


How to improve your quality of sleep in the fetal position

A body pillow can help, but most find that simply hugging a pillow gives them enough support so that their knees can’t (and don’t need to) be higher than their hips. A firm pillow like our buckwheat pillow or millet pillow is a good choice. We also recommend putting a knee pillow between your knees to support your knees and hips while you sleep.


Like a Log

log sleeping position

Another variation of sleeping on your side is where you sleep almost as if you are standing, with your legs straight below you and with a fairly straight back. This is often referred to as the “log” position. Most people sleeping in the log position have a slight bend at the hips and may have one leg slightly in front of the other to support them.


Are there benefits to sleeping on your side like a log?

Sleeping on your side like a log provides you with all the same benefits as with the fetal position, such as improved digestion. You’re also unlikely to hinder your breathing in this position.


Are there disadvantages to sleeping on your side like a log?

If you feel relaxed, there aren’t any disadvantages to sleeping in this way, you just need to ensure your body is well supported. If you feel tense and stiff when you wake up, you may not be sleeping in a way that lets your body fully relax at night, which will damage your sleep quality.


How to improve your quality of sleep when sleeping on your side

When sleeping this way, it’s important to ensure your body is adequately supported and that your spine is in a relaxed position. Make sure you have a quality pillow that keeps your head straight on top of your shoulders, such as a buckwheat pillow, and use a knee pillow to support your hips and lower back.


On Your Stomach

stomach sleeping position


Sleeping on your stomach, sometimes called the “freefall” position, can be a relaxing way to rest your back after a long day. You stretch out, enjoy being fully supported by your bed, and may even tuck your arms under your pillow.


Are there benefits to sleeping on your stomach?

Lying on your stomach can feel like a great way to relax after a long day, and lying on your stomach can help open your airway.


What are the disadvantages of sleeping on your stomach?

Sleeping on your stomach can put unnecessary pressure on your digestive system, and lower back making it more difficult to digest your last meal, and also making is one of the worst sleeping positions for lower back pain. If you ate recently, you’ll likely feel the pressure of that undigested or partly-digested food when you lie down. While you may be able to fall asleep, you’re much more likely to toss and turn.

It’s also not good for your neck and lower back, as your head will always be at a 90-degree angle, and if you have too many pillows, you may be almost leaning back as you sleep.


How to improve your quality of sleep on your stomach

Ideally, try to move away from always sleeping on your stomach. Try propping a millet pillow under one side so you start to sleep slightly on your side. This will help you straighten your head.

If you can’t imagine sleeping differently, make sure you’ve got a suitable pillow under your head. You want to keep your head in alignment with your neck and spine as much as possible - our stomach sleeper pillow can help you do just that.


Flat on Your Back

back sleeping position


Lying flat on your back, sometimes known as the “soldier” position or the “supine” sleeping position, can often feel like a huge relief after a long day at a desk or doing manual labor. Our backs have to work hard, and lying on your back gives it a good opportunity to relax. It is not the worst sleeping position for lower back pain, but also not the best. It comes in right in the middle between sleeping on the side and sleeping on your stomach.


What are the benefits of sleeping on your back?

Your body is aligned and relaxed. It’s also beneficial for your digestive system, which can easily go to work digesting your food.


What are the disadvantages of sleeping on your back?

Some people won’t find there are any significant disadvantages to sleeping on their back, but for some, it can make you more prone to lower back and hip pain.

Another disadvantage is how much more likely it is to make you snore - sleeping on your back means the soft tissues at the back of your throat “fall down” when you relax at night, which causes you to snore. Snoring disrupts your sleep (and likely that of anyone else nearby) and those with sleep apnea are more likely to experience pauses in breath in this position.


How to Improve your quality of sleep when sleeping on your back

If you suffer from lower back or hip pain, it’s a good idea to place a small or soft pillow like our shredded latex pillow under your knees at night to elevate them. If you snore or have sleep apnea, it’s best to try sleeping on your side instead.


Which sleeping position will help me get the best sleep?

Everyone is different, and so what may work best for one person may not work best for you. Here are some common concerns and the best sleeping position to try so you can get deeper sleep:

  • Lower back pain: sleeping on your side supported by a pillow (can be firm like a buckwheat pillow or soft like a latex pillow), or on your back with your knees raised by a soft pillow
  • Neck pain: Neck pain is usually down to not having a good quality pillow that keeps your head in alignment with your spine - try one of our adjustable millet pillows for sleeping on your side or our stomach sleeper pillow for sleeping on your back or stomach
  • Hip and knee pain: use a knee pillow to cushion in between your knees
  • Snoring: Any position but on your back
  • Acid reflux: sleep on your left side if possible. If you’re having a bad episode, try sleeping as upright as you can so gravity can help keep the excess acid down
  • When you have a cold: on your back sitting fairly upright so excess mucus drains away from your sinuses


Sleep Soundly

Good quality sleep comes from having a good wind-down routine before bed, supportive pillows, a supportive mattress, and being the right temperature. If you can provide all these things for yourself and choose the best sleeping position for you from our advice above, you’ll be well on your way to experiencing high-quality deep sleep every night.

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