Back and neck pain can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, how you sleep may contribute to aches and pains if you’re sleeping in positions that throw off your alignment or place extra pressure on joints and muscles. On the other hand, it can be hard to get productive sleep when you’re living with persistent aches and pains. Recuperative sleep occurs with what’s termed slow-wave sleep (SWS), or the deeper stage of sleep. It’s this type of sleep that promotes tissue repair and regeneration, so it’s definitely worth the effort to take steps to get as much productive sleep as possible when you have back and neck pain.
Maintain Your Natural Spine Alignment
Sleeping on your back is the best position when you have back or neck pain since the natural alignment of your spine is maintained. Stomach sleeping isn’t so good since your spine is automatically forced into a position that’s not natural. Further maintain your spine’s alignment as you sleep by:
- Placing a pillow between your knees when sleeping on your side
- Positioning a rolled-up towel beneath your waist
- Sleeping on a single pillow to keep your head as close to the bed as possible (especially beneficial if you have neck pain)
Avoid Strenuous Exercise Before Bed
Certain exercises can be good for your spine and its supporting muscles. Doing your routine before bed, however, may result in muscle soreness that sets in as you try to sleep. Staying active throughout the day can also help condition your back and neck muscles and reduce the odds of experiencing soreness later.
Choose a Supportive Mattress
Medium firmness is the standard recommendation, but you may sleep better on a mattress that offers a bit more support. When it’s time to choose a mattress, do more than a polite sit down in the store and make sure it’s really supportive enough; or just add some support to your current mattress with a padded mattress cover or topper.
Treat Yourself to Warm Bath Before Bedtime
Soothe your aching back or neck muscles with a nice soak in a warm, but not hot, bath before getting to bed. Heat also improves blood flow, increases circulation, and promotes overall relaxation — all good things for an aching back or neck.
Keep a Regular Sleep Schedule
Catching up on sleep here and there isn’t likely to help with your back or neck pain. Sticking to a consistent sleep schedule also makes it easier to get to sleep sooner without the excessive tossing and turning that often triggers pain.
Visit your doctor if you’re still having difficulty sleeping soundly through the night after trying some of these suggestions. A reassessment of your treatment plan may lead to you to other pain management techniques you haven’t considered such as chiropractic adjustments. You may also benefit from an adjustment to your medication. Some anti-inflammatory and pain control drugs can disrupt your natural sleep cycle or interact with medications you’re taking for other conditions to the point where you’re losing precious Zs.