Sleeping and Back Pain

Sleeping is one factor in our lives which may be associated with back health. For our backs to feel good, we must get enough sleep and we must sleep mattresses and positions that support our spines well. Here's some information about getting a good night's sleep without straining our backs.

Sleeping and back pain are two factors that are associated with one another, especially when we lie down on unsupportive mattresses and when we don't get enough sleep.

Sleeping Without Strain: Sleep is an essential part of life. Without sleep, we would literally die. We don't fully understand why sleep is so important to our bodies, but here's a little of what we do know. We do know that important physiological processes occur when we sleep, such as memory consolidation and restorative functions such as bone and muscle growth. The production and release of human growth hormone increases when we are asleep, which facilitates the perpetual process of replacing old worn out tissues with new, healthy ones.

Sleep is an opportunity for the body to regenerate itself after long days of walking, lifting, climbing, and other activities that put a lot of stress on the spine and joints. As we lay down to sleep, the muscles relax and the discs that separate the vertebra in our spine expand again after taking on water and other nutrients. Imagine a wet sponge that was wringed out fully inflating again after absorbing new water. All of these processes are good on healthy backs, and those recovering from injury - especially when we are in sleep positions support healthy sleeping.

We should sleep in an effective sleeping environment that doesn't stress the spine as we sleep. An effective sleeping environment will give the soft tissues of the body, such as the joints of the spine, a chance to renew themselves while the stress is taken off of it. A healthy sleep environment will allow your body the ability to heal itself, so that normal wear and tear does not later cause chronic pain problems.



The back muscles are active at all points throughout the day. Both sitting and standing are postures that involve the activation of the back muscles, even when we remain stationary in these positions. The only time when the back muscles have a chance to rest is when we are lying down. Sleep is the one opportunity for the muscles of the spine to completely unload their burden of the body weight. In order to allow these back muscles the opportunity to relax completely, we need to sleep properly.

What does it mean to sleep properly? Sleeping properly means that we should sleep in positions that allow the muscles the chance to relax completely. There are two ideal sleeping positions. Sleeping on your side is an ideal sleeping position, especially when you put a pillow between your knees. Supine sleeping (one your back) with a pillow placed under the knees is also an ideal position. These positions both put your spine into its correct alignment.

Prone (stomach) sleeping is the worst for your back for two reasons. Stomach sleeping arches your back and forces you to twist your neck. Stomach sleepers are much more likely to wake up in the morning with neck pain or lower back pain.

Your mattress: the mattress that you sleep on will also factor as important for supporting your back and spine. There is no universal guidelines as to which mattress brands and type offer you the best night of sleep - orthopedically speaking. That being said, here are some tips that are offered up by the majority of doctors.

Your mattress should be one which is not too soft, yet not too firm. Is there a way to tell which one is just right? Here's one way people may find the right mattress for their body.

Go to the mattress store with your spouse or friend. Lay on the mattress on your side, with your back turned to the person you came with. If the mattress is just right for you, your spine should be straight from your neck to the bottom of the back. If your spine does curve, than the mattress is probably too soft. In a too soft mattress, the spine curves unnaturally because the hips and shoulders sink too deep into the mattress.

If your spine is curved even as you sleep on your side, your back muscles will be forced to support you as your sleep, hindering their ability to rest and restore themselves.