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How to Sleep With Back Pain: A Beginner’s Guide

The No Bull Mattress Team

The No Bull Mattress Team

This article was written and fact checked by the team at No Bull Mattress & More.

Do you experience frequent back pain? If you’ve answered in the affirmative, you’re not alone. 

If you experience frequent lower back pain, you’re one of 65 million Americans who suffer under this potentially debilitating condition. Lower back pain affects as many as ⅓ of the population at some point in their lives and that up to 80 percent of the population will suffer from it at some point.

This kind of pain is bad enough during the day when you can move about and distract yourself with activities, but in bed, it can become positively unbearable affecting your quality of sleep. You would think that there would be a solution for a problem that affects so many Americans, but there is no silver bullet for lower back pain (LBP).  

The key to preventing, managing, and eventually eliminating lower back pain is in first understanding how and why it occurs, and then look at various ways you can get a good night’s sleep free from pain. 

What is Lower Back Pain

Back pain is actually a broad term that refers to a wide variety of painful sensations that can be felt anywhere from the neck to the legs. There are several types of pain associated with lower back pain that can tell you the cause of the problem, as well as what you can do to alleviate it.

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The Science Behind the Pain

Your back is made up of a multifarious structure of bones, discs, muscles, tendons, and ligaments that work collaboratively to provide your body with proper support and enable you to move around. Any structural problem with any of these components can result in back pain.

There are two main types of back pain: chronic and acute pain. Chronic back pain is long-term back pain that lasts for at least three months no matter your sleep position. As for acute back pain, it is a short-term pain that lasts no more than a few weeks affecting sleep quality.

Back pain that begins as acute may develop into chronic back pain. It’s projected that approximately 20 percent of acute cases persist and develop into chronic back pain causing you to change your sleep position.

What Causes Back Pain?

There’s good and bad news. Starting with the bad news, there are many causes of back pain, which means that the odds that you will suffer from this condition are high. The good news is that some causes of back pain can be easily remedied without medical intervention.

One of the causes that don’t usually require medication has something to do with sleep and your spinal alignment and natural alignment while you sleep. If you’re young and of sound physical and mental health yet you’re experiencing back pain, there’s one important question that you should ask yourself, which is – is your sleeping position the cause of your pain? If you notice that back pain is more intense in the morning, you most probably have your answer.

Common Conditions


This condition is characterized by shooting pain that travels from the lower back down one of the legs. This is a common indicator of sciatica, or irritation of the sciatic nerve. Sciatic nerve pain comes across as a sharp, biting pain, which occurs when the sciatic nerve is pressed by a herniated or slipped disc along your spine. 

Since the nerve radiates or branches into the buttock, thighs, and lower legs, the pain feels as if it is coming from there, a phenomenon known as referred pain. 


If the pain you experience is characterized by numbness, fatigue, and stiffness of the back, you may be suffering from scoliosis. Scoliosis is a lateral curvature of the spine, which mostly occurs in young people just before puberty. At this time, they experience a growth spurt which, coupled with other less understood causes, can combine to cause scoliosis.

Scoliosis is easily diagnosed. If one of your shoulders falls below the other, your waist is uneven, or one hip is higher than the other, you might be suffering from scoliosis. A CT or MRI scan will confirm the diagnosis.

The imbalance caused by scoliosis can cause severe pain in the back, neck, and lumbar region.

Scoliosis can be corrected with braces if caught early in young people, while older adults may need surgery to resolve the problem.

Slipped/Herniated/Ruptured/Degenerative Disc

A herniated disk occurs when one of the side walls of spinal discs ruptures, causing the lubricating jelly-like substance to spill and exert pressure on the nerve.

Ruptured discs can be caused by a variety of problems as we will see, but bad posture, heavy (bad) lifting and strenuous activity can all trigger the problem.

A slipped disc also showA slipped disc also shows other symptoms such as numbness and tingling in the shoulders, back, arms, legs, hands, or feet. Neck pain and problems bending are also an indicator of a slipped disc.

Luckily, a slipped disc can usually heal on its own given time and proper management. For very severe cases, you might have to see a chiropractor about other ways of managing it including therapy and surgery.

Three Major Causes of Back Pain Exasperated By Poor Sleep

There are three major causes of lower back pain. Mechanical causes are those which result from spine movement or other associated structures such as spinal muscles, ligaments, tendons, and soft tissues.

Organic causes are those that usually result from disease such as congenital problems (from birth), cancer, osteoporosis, disc degeneration, among others. When the cause is unknown, it is classified as idiopathic. 

Thinking more practically, our increasingly sedentary lifestyle is linked to most of the lower back pain problems we experience today. From continuously sitting down, lack of exercise, and strenuous activity, we can strain the muscles and ligaments in the back which puts added pressure on the spine. Lack of exercise can also cause some muscles to weaken and force the spine to bear more weight. All these factors can cause herniation, disc degeneration, among other problems.

A more active lifestyle and better postures when sitting, lifting, sleeping, and playing will minimize the chance of lower back pain from occurring or help with healing if you already have it. In the meantime, you need to find a way to relieve back pain so that you can sleep and rest comfortably  to ensure a continued state of wellness.

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How Sleep Can Impact Back Pain

While it’s common knowledge that any form of pain can cause bad sleep, there’s growing evidence that points to a two-way relationship. Many studies have established a link between sleeping problems and lower back pain. So, how does sleep or lack thereof, cause back pain?

One link between sleep and back pain is tied to your sleeping position. While posture is usually associated with standing and sitting, proper posture is also important when sleeping. Maintaining a sleeping position that involves contorting, twisting, or otherwise exerting pressure on the lumbar spine can result in back pain and stiffness.

If your back pain is worse in the morning, you can try adopting certain sleeping positions at night to help prevent back pain. The following are some good sleep positions that will help you avoid waking up with back pain:

Sleep on your back

This is considered the best sleeping position as it distributes your bodyweight evenly. Therefore, sleeping in this position will lessen pressure points and ensure that there is a proper alignment of your spine and your internal organs. Consider placing a pillow right under your knees to support and sustain your spine’s natural curve.

Side Sleeper

If you find it hard to sleep on your back, you should try sleeping on your side. Side sleeping is the most common sleeping position, particularly for women. In fact, pregnant women are encouraged to sleep on their side. If you are a side sleeper, remember to alternate sides a few times at night. You can also consider sleeping with a pillow stuck between your knees.

The fetal position

This is a sleeping position where you lie down with your legs drawn toward your chest. This position helps to keep your back straight, thus helps to align your spine. With a well-aligned spine, you are less likely to experience back pain. This position extends the spinal discs and works very well to ease pain from herniated discs and sciatica.

Other options to alleviate pain: 

  1. Sleep on your back with a pillow under your knees and a rolled up towel under the small of your back. This is the natural position of the spine where your weight is evenly distributed and the whole body is aligned, which can help with almost all kinds of back pain.
  2. Sleep in a reclined position. If you feel more comfortable in reclining chairs, you might want to sleep on a recliner such as La-Z-y Boy or get yourself a reclining bed. 
  3. Sleep in Zero Gravity position which elevates and supports your back while keeping your spine relaxed. Your feet are elevated for good blood circulation.

Sleeping on a recliner is not the best idea in the long term, but it can be tremendously useful because it stretches the spine and relieves pressure. Some recliners are also heated along the lumbar region, which can be therapeutic.

When experiencing back pain, the last sleeping position you should adopt is sleeping on your stomach. This sleeping position is considered the worst sleeping position as it forces you to turn your head to the side, which is bad for your check and back. If the face-down position is your favorite sleeping position, consider placing a slim pillow underneath your hips to improve the alignment of your spine.

Whether you’re a side sleeper or you love sleeping on your back, using a pillow is highly recommended. When sleeping on your back, ensure that the pillow occupies the space between the mattress and your neck to sustain a neutral position. When sleeping on your side, place a thicker pillow under your ear to ensure that you won’t strain your neck and back.

How a Good Mattress Can Help

If you’ve always slept in whichever sleeping position without experiencing back pain, your mattress could be the reason you are in the current predicament. Since it’s a primary means of supporting your body when you sleep, a mattress plays a significant role in reducing or preventing back pain.

To ensure that your spine is properly aligned, you will need a mattress that is in good condition. According to researchers, making use of a medium-firm mattress can help prevent back pain.

Nevertheless, the appropriate mattress firmness will vary from one user to another, depending on several factors, including an individual’s body shape, weight, favorite sleeping position, and comfort preferences.

If you are blessed with wide hips, you should choose a softer mattress that can accommodate your spine’s width while allowing your spine to stay neutral. If you have narrow hips that are in a straight line with your waist, you can consider sleeping on a more rigid mattress.

Say Goodbye To Back Pain With No Bull Mattress!

No matter which position you prefer to sleep in, you need the right kind of mattress to help ease back pain and promote better sleep. A poorly built or old mattress forces you to sleep in unnatural positions, which exacerbates back pain and makes recovery impossible. 

No Bull mattresses are designed and built with the latest technology in springs, coils, and memory foam with the same high-end quality you expect from big-name brands, but at a fraction of the cost. Why? Because we sell value, not inflated brand names. 

There are many mattress brands on the market, which make choosing the right mattress a daunting task. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be an intricate process for you if you know where to look.

As a mom-and-pop business, No Bull mattresses ensure that your back gets the soothing, comfortable, and supportive action that is crucial to better spine alignment. That way, you can alleviate and control your back pain when you sleep. Visit our website for more information about why No Bull mattresses could be the key to healing back pain.

Are you ready to order your mattress? Compare our best deals to find the mattress that suits your needs and budget.


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