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Sleeping with Sciatica? How to Go from Fat Chance to Forty Winks

sleeping with sciatica

Catching your Zzz’s can be a difficult endeavor if you’re suffering from symptoms of sciatica, which can be experienced as prickling, burning, numbness, tingling, sharp, stabbing pain, or a throbbing ache when sitting, standing, walking, sneezing, coughing, or resting. A 2010 report published by Clinical Rheumatology estimates that 40% of people suffer from sciatica, depending on how the condition is defined. Since getting deep, restful and restorative sleep is not only necessary for daily function but also for physical healing, it’s important to learn how to work around sleeping with sciatica. What are the best recommendations for stomach, back, or side sleepers?

What causes Sciatica Symptoms?

While many people consider sciatica to be just another, more complicated form of back pain, it is actually a group of symptoms indicating impingement of the sciatic nerve. The causes and area of this “pinch” can be varied, but the most common conditions include:

  • Lumbar disc herniation, lumbar subluxation, or lumbar degenerative disc disease
  • Spinal Stenosis
  • Spondylolisthesis 

These conditions can be difficult and slow to heal, so how can you find rest when you’re sleeping with sciatica?

Mattress Magic

Finding better quality sleep can be as simple as investing in a new bedding system, according to a report by Oklahoma State University. Researchers took a sample of healthy men and women with minor sleep-related pain and compromised sleep, and recorded their discomfort and sleep quality upon waking in their own beds for 28 days, and then again with new, medium-firm mattresses. The data indicated that new bedding was enough to increase sleep quality and reduce back discomfort. Since mattresses are typically less comfortable and less supportive over time, it may be a good idea to replace your old set if you’re sleeping with sciatic nerve pain.

Positional Problems

Sleep position are actually a major factor in finding comfort when it comes to sleeping with sciatica, and no matter if you’re a belly, back or side sleeper, neutralizing the curves in the spine to reduce pressure on the sciatic nerve is key. How can YOU get better sleep with sciatica?

Stomach Snoozers

Sleeping on your stomach is going to put the most strain on your back and hips, because while the front side of the body is flat, the back of the body and spine can’t possibly be in a neutral position. This not only puts pressure on impinged nerves but also on other joints and the muscles in your body. If this is your only comfortable sleeping position, minimize the pressure and your pain by placing pillows under the pelvis and lower abdomen to support the curves in your back.

Reclining Resters

If you’re a back sleeper, you’re already on track for finding the most restful sleep. This position keeps the spine in the most neutral position, minimizing pressure on the sciatic nerve. If you’re still feeling some pain, place a large pillow under the knees to reduce any additional curve in the lumbar area.

Side Slumberers

For side sleepers, the top knee typically lifts toward the chest and rests on the mattress, creating a twist (and pressure) in the low spine. If sleeping with the top knee forward on the mattress, support it and reduce the twist by placing a couple pillows under the knee. If side sleeping with the knees stacked, place a pillow between the knees and behind the back for support.

Stop the Pain and Savor Sleep Again

At Envista Medical, we integrate the expertise of a highly trained team of medical doctors, chiropractors, and other providers to work toward the shared goal of helping you live a pain-free life. Contact us today to learn more about our holistic plan using non-surgical, minimally invasive methods to treat your pain!