Sciatica is a common type of condition characterized by splitting back pain that extends down to the legs. The pain results from inflammation of the sciatic nerves.
Sciatica can make simple routines such as sitting, walking, standing, and even sleeping difficult. Unsurprisingly, many patients wonder how to sleep with sciatica.
Read on to learn more about sciatica and tips on ways to sleep with sciatic pain to get a good night’s rest.
Causes Of Sciatica
A good place to start is to understand the causes of sciatica. The sciatic nerve originates from the lower back and extends down to the back of each leg.
Pain in the lower back and in the legs may occur when the roots of the sciatic nerve, found in the lower lumbar spine, are inflamed or constricted.
Several factors can result in the constriction or inflammation of the sciatic nerve. Common causes include:
- Lumbar spinal stenosis, which causes the spinal canal to narrow at the lower back
- Degenerative disc diseases, which occurs when the discs that support the vertebrae wear out. This causes the vertebrae to rub against each other, therefore, irritating the sciatic nerve
- Back or buttock muscle spasms
- Lifestyle habits such as lack of exercise, gaining excessive weight, walking in high heeled shoes, or sleeping on the wrong type of mattress
How To Sleep With Sciatica
Admittedly, sciatic pain can make the thought of going to bed a dreadful one. However, managing your condition is entirely possible and you can sleep better too.
Here are a few tips to help you sleep with sciatica:
Bend Your Knees
Sleeping with your knees slightly elevated can help to ease pressure on the sciatic nerve root. You will need a couple of pillows to support your knees adequately.
First, start by lying flat on your back and then fold your knees such that the sole of your feet lie flat on the surface of the bed.
Then, place a pillow in the space between your bent knees and the bed for support. You can add more pillows until you feel comfortable.
You may not experience immediate relief but try this position for a while and see how it works for you.
Relax Your Muscles With A Warm Bath
A nice, warm bath right before bedtime can help to calm down your muscles and can trigger the release of endorphins that help with pain alleviation. Add some muscle-relaxing bath soap to increase the soothing effect of your bath.
Complement your warm bath with an equally relaxing activity such as reading a book, performing slight stretches, or listening to soothing music. This will allow you to ease better into your sleep.
If you are not up for nighttime baths, consider applying a hot water bottle or a back wrap around your lower back area to minimize pain.
Invest In A Good Mattress
Sleeping on a soft mattress can worsen your sciatica symptoms. You will experience more relief by sleeping on a firm, well-balanced mattress. Instead of a fluffy or bouncy mattress, opt for an orthopedic one.
The firmness of the mattress you should get will also depend on your sleeping style. If you sleep on your stomach, a firmer mattress will keep your body well aligned.
If you usually sleep on your side, a relatively soft mattress can provide adequate support for your hips and shoulders. If you mostly sleep on your back, a mattress of medium-range firmness will support your body better.
If lying on the mattress does not relieve your pain, consider lying on a yoga mat on the floor. Some people find that the firmness of the floor provides better support for the body, which in turn relieves sciatic pain.
Find Your Ideal Sleeping Position
There is no one-size-fits-all sleeping position for people with sciatica. You will need to find the sleeping position that brings you the greatest relief through a process of trial and error.
If sleeping on your back with your knees folded does not work, try sleeping on your back and see how that works for you.
Try not to sleep on your stomach. Experts say that this sleeping position strains your spinal cord the most and puts a lot of pressure on your neck when you turn your head to one side.
Lying on your stomach may seem like it relieves your sciatic pain but in reality, this can predispose you to back and neck problems.
If you really must sleep on your stomach, you might need to switch to a mattress of medium firmness. Such a mattress will align your spine and provide adequate support. Also, stomach sleepers can add a pillow under the abdomen for additional support.
Sleeping on your side is a great choice for relieving sciatic pain. However, when you sleep on your back, you risk twisting your lower body, which can worsen your condition.
For the best results when sleeping on your side, place a pillow in between your legs to prevent your leg from rolling forward. This keeps the leg, spine, hips, and pelvis aligned.
If you like to sleep on your side, consider sleeping in a fetal position. This can help to open up the spaces between the vertebrae discs, thereby relieving pressure.
Invest In A Neck Pillow
While a fluffy pillow feels comfortable, you will not get much support from this kind of pillow, especially if you have sciatica.
Consider getting a firmer pillow that will place your spinal cord in a neutral position. A firm but comfortable pillow will also mitigate neck pain and other back problems.
Consider a good memory foam pillow, they make great gifts too!
Try Massage Therapy
Massage can help to alleviate your sciatica symptoms and may help you fall asleep faster and with minimal interruptions to your sleep. The best part is that you can perform massages for sciatica on your own. Incorporate this therapy into your bedtime routine for best results.
Finding the best position for sleeping with sciatica can be difficult but with time, you will be able to find the perfect sleeping position. Be sure to maintain a regular sleeping routine and to take your prescribed medication as instructed by your doctor.