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3 tips for sleeping well when you have Sciatica or lower back pain

Do you find your sciatica or lower back pain is keeping you up at night? Read our top tips for sleeping comfortably through the night.

April 13, 2021

Lady with sciatica sleeping

Estimated reading time: 2.5 minutes

 A good night sleep is essential to staying healthy and feeling good. It is also a key component of effective sciatica treatment. However, when you’re in pain, finding a comfortable sleeping position that allows for a restful night sleep can be easier said than done.

 

What is Sciatica?

The sciatic nerve branches from your lower back through your hips and buttocks and down each leg. If this nerve is compressed, irritated or injured for any reason, you may experience pain. We refer to this pain as sciatica.

Sciatica isn’t the same as lower back pain. Lower back pain is limited to pain in an area of your back. But if you have sciatica, you might notice:

  • Sharp, burning or shooting pain that travels from the lower back to the foot.
  • Muscle weakness in one or both legs or feet.
  • Numbness in one or both legs.
  • A pins-and-needles sensation in the leg, foot or toes.

Where you feel the pain can depend on which area of the nerve is affected. It could be a constant pain or might only be noticeable when you sit or lie in certain positions.

In this article, we discuss three effective tips for sleeping well when you are suffering from sciatica or lower back pain.

 

A hot bath can ease sciatica

1. Take a hot bath before bed

Heat can help the muscles and back relax and ease any muscle spasm you may be experiencing. Adding a scoop of Epsom salts to the bath can also aid in reducing inflammation and promoting relaxation that many find offers relief from sciatic pain. In addition, a nice hot bath often leaves us feeling sleepy and can help us to drift off.

If you’re not able to take a bath, try a hot water bottle or a lavender heat pack instead. The heat from these will have the same beneficial effects as taking a bath, and lavender is known for its relaxing properties.

 

2. Elevate your knees

There is no one-size fits all sleeping position for those suffering from sciatica. However taking pressure off the small joints in the spine can help, as can reducing the stretch in the sciatic nerve. For these reasons lying on your back with your knees raised can provide relief from pain.

  • Lie flat on your back with your feet and buttocks in contact with the bed.

  • Bend your knees towards the ceiling.

  • Slide pillows under your knees until you find a position that’s comfortable.

 

3. Keep moving

When you’re in pain, it can seem tempting to rest more and to avoid moving the affected areas. However, with sciatica, pain will eventually increase with prolonged inactivity and decreased motion and so it is important to stay active as much as possible.

There’s no need to exert yourself or push yourself beyond your limits, but try incorporating some of these gentle activities into your day:

  • Go for regular walks. Even a short stroll to the shop or round the block can help to ease tension in the back and legs.

  • Practice simple stretches that you can do whilst sitting in a chair.

  • Avoid sitting in the same position for long periods of time. Get up and stretch your legs regularly or spend some time doing activities that require you to stand.

 

Ideas to help you exercise

When you reach the age of 60, the recommended amount of exercise is 150 minutes, or two and a half hours, per week.

Read more

 

When to see a doctor

If you’ve been dealing with pain from sciatica for more than a week, you should consider a visit to the doctor for a proper diagnosis. They can help you determine what could be causing your pain and recommend the best treatment options.

 

Other resources


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