The Betterment Project

The Best Position for Sleeping With Lower Back Pain

Lower back pain is one of the most distracting and debilitating pains you can experience, but it’s also one of the most common complaints. It’s possible you’re more than familiar with this problem. It can happen for a variety of reasons: poor spinal alignment, a herniated disc, pelvis misalignment with the spine, sensitive pressure points, nerve pain, and more. 

As of May 2020, the CDC stated that 25% of adults in the United States report having lower back pain. It’s a common pain, even among children between the ages of six to 18, but it can have various causes.

If you find yourself experiencing lower back pain, you probably have questions about what’s causing your pain, how you can remedy the symptom, and what you can do to prevent it in the future. In addition, it’s important to know how to get to sleep with lower back pain, but it’s also important to understand the best position during sleep if you hope to alleviate or lessen your lower back pain.

Lower Back Pain: Common Causes

Lower back pain is common, but what are the common causes? Understanding the cause of your lower back pain may empower you to correct the problem at the source. Here are some of the most common causes of lower back pain.

1. Poor Posture

Poor posture is a very common cause of lower back pain. Posture pertains to the positions we hold our bodies in when we are sitting, standing, or lying down. People who have jobs that require them to maintain the same position for long periods of time often intensely feel the impact of their poor posture. 

For office jobs, sitting at their desk for the majority of the day can wreak havoc on their lower backs. This is also true for service industry workers such as servers in restaurants or cashiers who spend a large portion of the day on their feet. Your natural alignment will become messed up over time. 

You can also have poor posture in your sleep. If you think your posture could be a source of pain for you, you may want to rethink how you position your body, take more frequent breaks, or adjust your sleeping positions (stomach sleeping, back sleeping, various sleeping postures). 

2. Muscle Strain

If your lower back pain comes on suddenly, then your source of pain may be a muscle strain acquired from strenuous activity or repetitive exercise in the days leading up to the start of your pain. 

You may not always register the event as the cause. For example, if you spent the day playing with a child in your life (especially twisting from the waist), then you may not realize that the frequent lifting from a few days ago is the cause of your pain and weakness now.

The good news is that this pain is usually temporary as long as you are careful not to reinjure yourself. A warm bath, rotating hot and cold compresses on the area, rest, remaining in a reclined position, using a memory foam mattress or small pillow for support, and other standard pain management techniques may help alleviate your discomfort. 

3. Kidney Problems

It is common to experience lower back pain when you are actually experiencing kidney pain or kidney problems. If you aren’t able to find any measure of relief from pain management efforts, you may need to see your healthcare provider. 

Internal organ issues should be addressed and assessed by a professional. There may be other signs such as darkened urine that you should report to your doctor. Remember to pay attention to your body. Also, remember that hydration helps with so many functions of the body, including the kidneys. Water is always a better option than drinks with caffeine and stimulants!

4. Infection

Various infections of the bladder, urinary tract, or, for men, the prostate can all cause lower back pain. As with the kidney, these issues will need to be discussed with your doctor in order to formulate a treatment plan to correct the problem and get you out of pain. Typically when the infection clears, you will have less or no residual back pain.

5. Pregnancy

This is obviously a very niche source of pain, but it is a very common cause of lower back pain. This usually occurs in the latter stages of pregnancy due to the weight of the baby and the pressure it applies to the back. 

Adjusting sleeping positions and using enough pillows (along the natural curve of your spine) for support may help to reduce the pain and discomfort in the lower back while taking the pressure off your belly. If you don’t have a pillow during the day, you can even use a rolled towel.

6. Injury

Whether you have a slipped vertebrae, spinal trauma, or your body is warning you that something is about to go wrong, an injury or the threat of an injury can cause lower back pain. Injuries that involve bone can’t be managed in the same way that muscle strains can, so it’s advisable to talk with a professional if you think you have an injury that involves your spine (such as isthmic spondylolisthesis).

What About Sleep?

When your back is hurting, the pain can be so distracting that you struggle to fall asleep. There are some simple measures you can take to promote sleep when your back is hurting, and there are sleep positions to try to help you find some relief. 

Getting Ready for Bed

When your back hurts, it’s not as simple as climbing into bed and falling asleep. Some tips to try for getting yourself ready for a good night’s rest are:

  • Yoga - Exercise may be the last thing on your mind when you’re hurting in your lower back, but the soothing stretches of yoga can help ease the tension in your muscles and help with better alignment. 
  • Hydrate yourself - Don’t overdo this just before bed, but staying hydrated throughout the day can help lubricate the areas around your joints and ease your movements. 
  • Taking a warm bath - This can help to warm and relax your muscles to loosen them in preparation for sleep.
  • Meditation - You probably can’t think your way to less pain, but the deep breathing and focused thought of meditation can help oxygenate your muscles to help in recovery and turn down the pain receptors in your brain.
  • Giving sleep a fighting chance - Taking a supplement like Complete Calm Sleep Gummies to help your brain naturally register that it’s time to calm down and rest is a good idea under normal circumstances, but your body and mind could use the extra support even more when you’re in pain. 
  • Addressing discomfort - Whether you apply something topically or take something orally like a supplement for relief from the tension you feel, it’s a good idea to address any discomfort before you attempt to sleep. 
  • Setting the mood - If you don’t regularly prioritize your sleep environment, it’s an even better idea when you’re in pain to give yourself the best environment for sleep. Make sure your space is cool, dark, and quiet so you can enjoy the recovery that sleep provides. Bedtime is important! 

Assume the Position

Getting into a sleeping position is the only conscious effort you can make to put yourself in the right position for reducing your lower back pain. Obviously, when you achieve sleep, you’ll no longer be conscious of your body’s position. 

It’s a good idea to start in a position that will help, reposition yourself upon waking, and hope your subconscious is paying attention. Sticking to the position you sleep with most is a good approach to increase your success. Here are the best sleep positions for different sleepers for lower back pain:

For Back Sleepers: In order to alleviate lower back pain, back sleepers should try elevating their knees. To raise your knees, place a pillow under them. This position reduces the stress on your lower back muscles, and this alignment helps you maintain the natural curve of the spine. 

For Side Sleepers: The key to relief of lower back pain for side sleepers is to keep the hips stacked or evenly aligned one above the other. To keep your spine aligned properly, place a flat pillow between your knees. This position will help relieve the stress that side sleeping can place on the lower back or pelvic area, and you will improve your sleep posture.

Side sleepers also tend to curl into the fetal position. This curling can contribute to lower back pain, so try to avoid curling too tightly into this position. 

For Stomach Sleepers: To take the pressure off of the lower back when in the stomach sleeper position, place a pillow under the abdomen or pelvic area. 

If all else fails to deal with your lower back pain, remember The Godfather and “Go to the mattresses.” No, you don’t need to fight anyone, but it may be time to consider a new mattress. For the best lower back support, choose a medium-firm mattress.


Lower back pain may be common, but there’s very little comfort when you’re in pain knowing that others are experiencing the same pain. Depending on the cause of your lower back pain, you may be able to address it with some common pain management treatments. 

When it comes to getting to sleep, it’s important to take care to prepare for sleep as best you can to prevent your lower back pain from keeping you awake. As an added measure, finding the right sleeping position can help remedy the stress various positions can put on the lower back while you’re sleeping. 


Acute Low Back Pain | 

Prevent back pain with good posture | 

10 Signs Your Back Pain Could Be a Kidney Stone | 

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This article has been reviewed by members of our Scientific Advisory Board.

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