How To Sleep With Sciatica


Pain in Spine, illustrationWant to know how to get a good night’s sleep with sciatica? Then read along. Apart from disrupting daily activities like bending over and sitting, sciatica can also make it difficult for you to sleep at night. A study even mentioned insomnia as a common symptom of chronic sciatica. However, it is possible to get relief from sciatica with the right interventions. In this guide, we will take a look at the positions that can help improve your sleep at night.

The experts at Southwest Scoliosis and Spine Institute with offices in DallasPlano, and Frisco, Texas use the latest research, innovative therapies, and the most advanced technology to diagnose pain and create customized pain management plans for patients. Our broad team of specialists will provide the appropriate and highest quality sciatica care.

What Is Sciatica?

Sciatica is a nerve pain that develops when the sciatica nerve is injured, irritated, or compressed. The sciatica nerve starts in the pelvis and runs through the buttocks, down the leg to the knee. At the knee, the nerve connects to other nerves running down the calf and through the foot.

Sciatica is different from lower back pain. Lower back pain is restricted to the pain in an area of the back. You will notice the following signs if you have sciatica:

  • Weakness in the muscle of one or both legs.
  • Pin-and-needle sensation in the leg, foot, or toes.
  • Numbness in the leg(s).
  • Sharp, burning pain traveling from the lower back to the foot.

Other symptoms that anyone suffering from sciatica will notice include:

  • Constant pain in one side of the buttock or leg.
  • Difficulty in moving the leg, foot, or toes.
  • Pain that gets worse when sitting

The location of the pain depends on the area of the nerve that is affected.

Causes of Sciatica

According to research carried out by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), sciatica is usually caused by an irritation of the sciatic nerve, lumbar stenosis, a herniated disc, and tumors. In some cases, it can be difficult to diagnose sciatica because it is usually confused with lower back injuries.

However, sciatica is often caused by a serious spinal infection, spinal tumor, muscle spasms, degenerative disc diseases, or pregnancy. It can also be caused by more severe conditions like Cauda Equina Syndrome and spondylolisthesis.

All the conditions stated above have the following in common:

  • They affect the lower back, spine, and nerves in the area
  • They cause pain, and nerve damage, and also deteriorate the spinal column, bones, or muscles.


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Relationship Between Sleep and Sciatica

Many people think that sleep is only a way of relaxing the body and resting the brain. Some people may even deny themselves some sleep thinking it’s not a big deal. However, research suggests that important processes take place while we sleep.

One of the critical tasks the body carries out while sleeping is pain regulation. A lot of evidence from different researchers supports the fact that there is a connection between pain and sleep. The studies proved that lack of sleep has a role to play in chronic body pain.

How To Sleep Better With Sciatica

Highlighted below are some tricks that can be used to sleep with sciatica. These tips will help ease the pain associated with sciatica:

Sleep on your side

Sleeping on the side reduces pain by taking away pressure from the irritated nerve. To sleep on your side, lie on the mattress while placing your injured side on top. If a gap exists between your waist and the mattress, place it on a small pillow to reduce bending your side.

Place a pillow between the knees

This sleeping position keeps the pelvis and spine in a neutral position. It also keeps the legs from rotating while sleeping.

To set up this sleeping position, put your shoulder on the mattress and then settle the rest of your body against the mattress. Then bend the knees a little and place a thick pillow between the knees. If there is a gap between the waist and the mattress, you can place a small pillow below your waist.

Fetal position

This position creates space between the vertebrate and also helps to reduce back pain that is caused by a herniated disc. But some people discovered that it worsens their pain.

If this position is not comfortable for you, you can try any of the other positions in this guide.

To set up the fetal position, lie on the side and bring the knees to the chest; thereby giving the body a ‘C’ shape. A pillow can also be placed between the knees or under the waist.

Sleep on the back with a pillow under the knees

Lying on the back distributes the body weight evenly across the body. You can maintain the curvature of your spine by putting a thick pillow under the knees. This relaxes the hip flexors.

This position can be set up by lying on the back with a pillow under the head for support. You can put one or two pillows beneath your knees and then rest your heels against the mattress.

Sleep with a towel or pillow under the lower back

Placing a thin pillow or towel under the lower back can keep the spine in a neutral position. This position reduces the gap that exists between the back and the mattress.

Simply lie down (with your face pointing up) and place a pillow behind your head. Place a thin pillow or towel under the lower back to keep the pelvis in a neutral position. This technique can also be used together with a pillow under the knees if it is more comfortable.

Sleep on the floor

Since soft surfaces can cause the spine to bend out of the normal alignment, you can sleep on the floor if that keeps your spine in proper alignment.

Place a thin mat on the floor and lie down in any of the positions discussed in this guide or any comfortable position.

Sciatica Sleeping Positions That You Should Avoid

Avoid sleeping on your stomach if you have sciatica or other forms of lower back pain. Sleeping on the stomach makes the spine curve toward the mattress. This can stress the muscles or joints, especially if the person sleeps on a soft mattress.

Irrespective of the position you sleep in, don’t twist the spine or hips because they can exert pressure on the sciatic nerve.

How To Relieve Sciatic Pain When Sleeping

Here are methods that can be used to manage sciatic pain when sleeping:

Don’t sleep on soft mattresses

Soft mattresses can cause the body to sink into the mattress, thereby putting the spine out of alignment.

Use a medium to firm mattress

According to a 2015 review of studies, medium to firm mattresses are the best for improving sleep quality and maintaining spinal alignment.

Place plywood under the mattress

If the mattress is too soft, place a plywood board between the mattress and the box spring. You can also place the mattress on the floor.

Use a body pillow

A body pillow prevents one from flipping from one’s side to the stomach while sleeping.

Do yoga

Doing yoga or light stretching before going to bed can help loosen the muscles and reduce pressure on the nerve.

Adhere to good sleep hygiene

Adhering to good sleep habits like going to bed at the same time every day, keeping the room at a comfortable temperature, and doing away with caffeine before going to bed will improve one’s overall quality of sleep.

When Should You See A doctor?

If you have been experiencing sciatica pain for over a week, it is important to see a doctor for an in-depth diagnosis. A specialist will help determine the cause of the sciatica pain and will also recommend the right treatment options.

If you are wondering about the best sciatica treatment, Southwest Scoliosis, and Spine Institute can help.

Complaints about nerve pain in the back and lower limbs are common. These complaints are usually found among middle-aged adults. If someone has sciatica, the pain will radiate from the lower back down one or both legs. Chronic sciatica is usually a sign of an underlying physical issue, whereby the sciatic nerve is either irritated or compressed.

Many treatment options can help to get relief from sciatica nerve pain. The Southwest Scoliosis and Spine Institute is here to provide guidance and support, and also offer a range of treatments.

Experienced Spine Specialists For Sciatica Relief

It is important to consult a spine specialist as soon as possible to ensure that the sciatica-related conditions do not get complicated. Complications can lead to increased pain, loss of bowel or bladder function, weakness or loss of feeling in the affected leg, or permanent damage to the nerve.

If you are living with sciatica or you’re looking for ways to get relief from this painful and uncomfortable spinal problem, get in touch with our spine specialists at the Southwest Scoliosis and Spine Institute to learn more about our sciatica pain care or to schedule an appointment. Call us today at 214-556-0555 to get started.


Healthline – Sleeping with Sciatica
Sleep Foundation – Sleeping with Sciatica

If you or your loved one suffers from degenerative disc disease, a herniated disc, or another complex spine condition. We can help. Call Southwest Scoliosis and Spine Institute at 214-556-0555 to make an appointment today.