How to Sleep with Sciatica


Research shows that sciatica is one of the leading causes of disability around the world. Sometimes, sciatica is caused by some serious pathological conditions, like lumbar disc herniation. Besides, some certain poor postures, incorrect sleeping position and other living habits can also lead to sciatica.

And this article recommends the best sleep position and some good methods that can improve your sleep quality with sciatica. If you also have sciatica, you can simply try these options.

Part 1. What causes your sciatica pain?

Most of sciatica pains are caused by lumbar disc herniation compressing the sciatic nerve in people around the age of 20 to 40, while among older adults, it usually results from spondyloarthritis or disc disease, or both.

Many people with lumbar disc herniation will have sciatica. The best place for lumbar disc herniation is the 4-5 lumbar segment, which stimulates the sciatic nerve and causes pain. The incidence of this situation is more than 95%. Typical sciatica is a pain that starts in the lower back and radiates to the buttocks, the back of the thighs, the outside of the calves, and all the way to the feet. Most people experience severe pain due to increased abdominal pressure when sneezing or coughing.

Here are some of the most common causes of sciatica:

  1. The chemical stimulation produced by intervertebral disc herniation, as well as the body's autoimmune response, cause inflammation of the nerve root.
  2. After the nucleus pulposus protrudes, it compresses the nerve root that has been inflamed, which blocks the return of venous blood, increases the edema of the nerve root, and increases the sensitivity to pain.
  3. Ischemia after nerve root compression. These three reasons are interrelated and form a vicious circle. These three reasons are interrelated and cause and effect to each other, forming a vicious circle.
sciatica pain

Part 2. What is the best sleep position for sciatica pain?

The correct sleeping positions for sciatica are sleeping on the side or sleeping on the back. For people with severe pain, a soft pillow should be placed under the lower limbs when sleeping on the back, so that the hips and knees are slightly flexed, the muscles of the whole body are relaxed and the pressure of the intervertebral disc is reduced. This can effectively prevent the pain resulted from lumbar disc herniation.

You can also temporarily relieve sciatica by sleeping on your stomach. When sleeping on the stomach, the sciatic nerve itself is less stretched, and the sciatic nerve is more relaxed, which can relieve sciatica pain. But you should be noted that it’s not recommended to sleep on the stomach for a long time, since this sleeping position is easy to cause the body gravity to squeeze your chest.

Moreover, as a sciatica pain suffer, you need also to pay attention to your mattress. If you sleep on a bed that is too soft, the spine will sag downward due to the weight of your body, which will aggravate the compression of the intervertebral disc. Therefore, it is recommended to sleep on a hard mattress with better elasticity, and put a certain amount of support at the lumbar curve to maintain a good curvature.

Part 3. How to sleep with sciatica pain or lower back pain

1. Put a pillow between your knees when sleeping on your side

If you have sciatica pain or lower back pain problems and like to sleep on your side, you can place the left or right shoulder on the mattress while keeping one side of the body on the bed, and then put a pillow between your knees. Consider using a small pillow to add support if there is space between the waist and the mattress.

Whether you're using one or two pillows, try not to only sleep on the same side, as this can lead to muscle imbalances and even scoliosis in the long run.

Sleeping on your side doesn't offer significant benefits. The key is that the pillow between your knees provides support and helps keep your hips, pelvis and spine in better alignment.

2. Sleep on your side like a baby

You can also try sleeping on your side like a baby. Firstly, lie on your back and then gently roll over, knees flexed toward your chest and torso toward your knees. Be careful to switch sides from time to time to prevent bilateral imbalance problems.

The reason why this position helps is that this position can open up the space between the vertebrae to relieve the discomfort resulted from sciatica pain or lower back pain

3. Sleep on your stomach with a pillow on your stomach

As we mentioned on Part 2, under normal circumstances, sleeping on your stomach is not recommended. Sleeping in this position may increase stress on the neck. But if you have sciatica pain or lower back pain, you can try sleeping on your stomach with a pillow under your pelvis and lower abdomen to relieve some of the back pressure.

According to your own feelings, you can judge whether this sleeping position is comfortable or not, and then decide whether you need to put a pillow under your head.

Sleeping in this position may be most beneficial for people with a herniated disc, as placing a pillow under the abdomen helps to release the pressure between the discs.

4. Put a pillow under your knees when sleeping on your back

For some people, sleeping on their backs can help relieve sciatica pain or lower back pain. Lie on your back on the bed with a pillow under your knees, keeping your spine in a natural neutral position. The role of the pillow is very important - to maintain the curvature of the lower back.

When we choose to sleep on our backs, the weight of the body is evenly distributed over the widest part of the body, so there is less pressure on the pressure points, and the spine and internal organs are better aligned.

The bottom line

To sleep better and relieve your sciatica pain, it’s recommended to set a regular schedule, which can help the body enter a more natural sleep pattern. You can choose to sleep on your back or on your side to ease the sciatica pain. Besides, you can choose to do some soothing activities 30-60 minutes before bedtime to help the brain enter a relaxed state. Or take a shower, do some yoga can help as well.

Hope you can improve your sleep quality and relieve your sciatica pain or lower back pain fully with the suggestions in this article.