Getting a good night’s sleep with sciatica can be difficult. Lying in certain positions can put pressure on your irritated nerve and cause a flare-up of symptoms. However, some positions are less likely to cause pain.

Those who suffer from sciatica know how getting a sleep at night is so difficult.

Your sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in your body. It starts at your spinal cord, runs through your hips and buttocks, and continues down the back of each of your legs.

Sciatica is an impingement of your sciatica nerve. It’s most commonly caused by a herniated disc in your lower back. The hallmark symptom of sciatica is shooting pain along the nerve. Pain can vary from mild to excruciating and typically affects one side.

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Learn how to best sleep with lower back pain and sciatica. You can also watch this video that explains how you can sleep better with lower back pain and sciatica.

What Is Sciatica?

Sciatica is pain or other unpleasant sensations in the lower back, legs, or foot caused by a problem with the sciatic nerve or its roots. Sciatica can arise when the sciatic nerve is inflamed, compressed, or injured.

The sciatic nerves are the body's longest and thickest nerves. Each run from the lower back to the foot and is roughly the width of a finger. The sciatic nerves govern muscles behind the knee and in the lower leg, as well as provide feeling in various regions of the leg and foot.

Only around 5% of persons who experience discomfort in the lower back have sciatica. Although many people use the term sciatica to describe any discomfort in the back or legs, sciatica refers particularly to pain caused by the sciatic nerve.

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Adults over the age of 20 can have back problems. People in their forties are most prone to develop sciatica. It is also found in studies that a person's genetics can also influence the risk of developing sciatica. Limited study indicates that a person's genetics may influence their risk of acquiring sciatica.

There has been mixed research on the frequency of sciatica by gender. Some research suggests that men aged 30 to 50 are more likely to develop the disease, whereas other information indicates no difference between genders.

Best Sleeping Position for Lower Back Pain and Sciatica

Sleep on your back with a pillow Under your knees

Sleeping face up on your back helps to distribute your weight evenly. However, this position can put a pressure on your lower back. To avoid this, place a pillow beneath your knees to relieve strain on your spine.

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  • Lie on your back. Place a pillow beneath your head to help support your neck.
  • Place a pillow between your knees to elevate your legs and support your spine's natural bend. This prevents pulling on your lower back.
  • You can also place a pillow beneath your lower back for extra support.

Sleep on your side with a pillow between knees

Many people who suffer from sciatica or other forms of back pain find it more pleasant to sleep on their side with a pillow between their knees. This sleeping position may help relieve low back pain or discomfort.

The pillow under your knees is essential for optimal spinal alignment. Without it, you risk twisting your spine and exacerbating sciatica symptoms.

  • Lie on your side, knees slightly bent. Maintain a neutral spine and avoid bending or arching your back.
  • Place one or two cushions beneath your head to maintain your neck neutral. Your head should be in alignment with your neck and spine. If your head leans too much down toward the bed or too far up toward the ceiling, insert or remove a pillow.

In the fetal position

The fetal position is another side-lying option for people suffering from sciatica. This position expands the gaps between your spine. It may help relieve sciatic nerve pressure, particularly if you have spinal stenosis.

  • Lie on your side with a pillow or two under your head.
  • Bend your knees toward your abdomen while rounding your trunk forward.
  • Place a pillow between your knees if necessary. You can also hug a body pillow to help maintain your fetal position.

Worst Sleeping position for lower back pain and sciatica

1. Sleeping on your stomach

Sleeping on one's stomach is difficult for people with sciatica because it puts strain on their joints and muscles.

2. On your back without support

If you don't have anything to support your knees when lying flat on your back, you may experience more back pain. If your mattress does not give adequate support, it can exacerbate sciatica discomfort.

3. In a twisted position

You should try to maintain your spine in a neutral position. A twisted position can increase strain on your sciatic nerve.

How to treat lower back pain and sciatica

It is very important to sleep in a good position as it can help relieve pressure on your lower back and promote appropriate spine alignment. However, this is not the only factor that affects your spine and sleep health.

Given below are some simple sleep solutions that can help with back pain.

  • Avoid soft mattresses: An excessively soft mattress might lead your body to sink into it, throwing your spine out of alignment.
  • Try a medium to firm mattress: We discovered that mattresses that self-identified as medium-firm were the best for improving sleep quality and spinal alignment.
  • Put plywood under your mattress: If your mattress is overly soft, consider putting a plywood board between it and the boxspring. You might also try placing your mattress on the floor.
  • Consider a body pillow: A body pillow can help you avoid flipping from side to stomach in the middle of the night.
  • Consider stretching or yoga: Including gentle stretching or yoga in your pre-bedtime routine can help release your muscles and relieve nerve pain.
  • Take a warm bath: Some persons with lower back pain find that a warm bath relieves their pain.
  • Maintain good sleep hygiene: Keeping your room at a comfortable temperature, going to bed at the same time every day, and avoiding coffee before bed can all help improve your overall sleep quality.

When to consult a doctor

If a person is experiencing persistent sciatic nerve pain during the day or night, it is advised to consult a doctor. Sciatica will not get diagnosed by itself, and is most likely to result in another condition so it is better to get it treated early.

A doctor can help find out the root cause and provide treatment specific to the condition. Following this, a person's symptoms should gradually improve. A doctor may also prescribe drugs to help with symptoms, such as discomfort, both at night and during the day.

In conclusion

There are certain sleep positions that can help you get a good night sleep if you have sciatic nerve pain in your lower back and legs. One of the most recommended sleeping positions for sciatica is laying on your side in a fetal position or a pillow between your knees. Sleeping in this position supports the natural curve of your spine.

A comfortable sleeping position can help you relieve some pain. If you are experiencing severe nerve pain that makes it nearly impossible to sleep or to perform any other tasks, talk to your doctor about treatment options and how to sleep well with saiatics.

Without taking any treatment, sciatic nerve pain can keep you up at night. Though doctors will prescribe over the counter or prescription medications, it is important to take some steps at home that helps prevent and relieve the pain.

You can follow these tips to manage sciatic nerve pain like changing sleep positions, stretching, using hot or cold packs, and avoiding standing or sitting for a long period throughout the day. People can also find that light exercise, core strength development, and good lifting technique can help them manage and prevent sciatic pain.

When experiencing this type of discomfort for the first time, or if the pain is difficult to manage at home, you should consider seeing a doctor to find out the underlying cause. The doctor can provide appropriate treatment and assist the patient in finding relief.