Lower Back Pain and How Your Sleep May Be Affecting You

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Are you suffering from pain at your lower back area? Suspecting it might be because of your mattress or the way you sleep? 

This article will show you what is a good mattress and how you can make your favorite sleeping position easier on your back.

Table of Contents

What is lower back pain?

Lower back pain is often an underrated affliction because it is typically associated with sore muscles, instead of a localized injury, but it is actually the leading cause of disability all around
the world. 

Lower back pain can be due to stress, straining, bad posture, awkward sleeping positions, and many other lifestyle habits. 

Lower back pain is often an underrated affliction because it is typically associated with sore muscles, instead of a localized injury, but it is actually the leading cause of disability all around
the world. 

lower back pain office sitting

Types of lower back pain

Lower back pain can be due to stress, straining, bad posture, awkward sleeping positions, and many other lifestyle habits. 

Lumbago is the general term for lower back pain, but there are many other types of lower back pain with a focus on a specific injury or area. 

For example, sciatica is lower back pain that is caused by a ruptured disk. 

Spinal stenosis is lower back pain that is caused by the narrowing of the spinal canal. 

There is also degenerative disc disease that causes severe lower back pain. With degenerative disc disease, the pads between the vertebrae wear down over time until the nerves are being crushed between the vertebrae because they lack the cushion to protect them.


there are several types of lower back pain caused by different disc deteriorations

Causes of lower back pain

There are various causes for lower back pain.

A sudden movement

Did you lift something heavy today or did your have some injuries recently?

The most common cause of back pain is a sudden movement that put strain on the back muscle that might result in wear and tear in the muscle tissue.

Lifting heavy weight directly from the ground level is an example of it. It is a sharp sensation and you might be unable to move for few minutes. This can lead to a severe injury, so you might want to see a doctor if the pain does dissipate completely.

Improper versus against proper lifting. Improper lifting heavy objects can cause lower back pain.

Seating position

Another reason why your lower back hurts is your siting position. 

Bad posture like the hunched over or slouch position can cause your discs and muscle to stain for a long time. 

Your condition might worsen if you don’t change your position in time. Underlying health conditions might also worsen your situation with your back. 

Most people have a daily job and many peoples job involve sitting in a chair for long hours and while seating most of the stain is put on the lower back.

On top of that, many people have bad posture due to which many of the office people experience discomfort and stiffness, which after a prolong period creates sever spin and low back complications.  

Sitting hunched over can cause back and neck pain. Wrong way versus right way.

Sleeping position

Bad bed sleeping posture can cause back pain or may worsen your existing back pain. This is because a bad sleeping position puts strain on your spine, misplace your hip alignment or cause stiffness and soreness in the morning. 

Not everyone can sleep in the same position, everyone has different body shape, so it is best to know the ideal position to avoid back pain in the future. 

Your mattress might also be a cause, sleeping on a old mattress might change your sleeping position or put pressure on the wrong place in your spin.

sleeping positions wrong and right ways. Sleeping in the wrong positions can cause back and neck pain. More information is detailed below.


Sciatica most commonly occurs when a disc is herniated and strains part of the nerve. This causes inflammation, pain and often some numbness in the affected leg. (Source: Mayoclinic  writing about Sciatica)

If your leg feels significantly weak or there are changes with your bowel or bladder, you should go see your doctor.

Sciatica is when a herniated disc strains a nerve

Some special causes for women

Of course women may experience lower back pain around the menstrual period. Dysmenorrhea, a uterine dysfunction that causes frequent and severe cramping in women during menstruation, also predisposes women to back pain.

If you are a middle-aged woman entering perimenopause, or menopause transition, you may also experience lower back pain.

Approximately 70% of perimenopausal women will experience symptoms related to estrogen deficiency, with musculoskeletal pain reported in more than half of perimenopausal women.

Most studies show that increasing menopausal symptoms are correlated with chronic lower back pain. 

Reasons Your Mattress May Be Causing Lower Back Pain​

If you find yourself waking up in the middle of the night or each morning feeling pain in your lower back, your sleeping habits could be to blame.

The main reason your mattress could be causing you to have lower back pain is that it is unsupportive.

It might not be made for your weight or body shape. When your mattress is unsupportive, it doesn’t keep your body and spine properly aligned.

This happens when the mattress is either too soft or firm to meet your body’s needs.

A secondary reason your mattress may be causing lower back pain is that it is too old. Generally, mattresses are manufactured to be replaced every 10 years

Signs that your mattress needs to be replaced include visible indentations that linger when you get up, or there are dips in the mattress.

How To Find The Right Mattress

The first thing to keep in mind when selecting a new mattress is needing proper support. 

A good mattress must keep your spine properly aligned. The best kind for most people is those mattresses that provide contouring support so that your spine curves naturally in all your sleeping positions: on your back, on your belly, or on your side.

A mattress that is too soft or too firm won’t properly support your spine at the lower back the way it needs to. Old mattresses that sag also doesn’t support the spine properly either, which will also cause lower back pain.

the mattress should provide contouring support to keep your spine naturally curved in all positions

Figuring out which amount of softness or firmness works for you depends on your body frame and is different for everyone

Before buying a new mattress, do your research. Familiarize yourself with materials and mattress types. This will help you in the decision to find which mattress type will provide you the right kind of support. 

For instance, memory foam mattresses are designed to contour to each person’s body, which generally leads to the relief of pressure on the body. However, they tend to sleep warm. 

Maybe a hybrid style mattress is right for you, aimed at providing a mix of both support and softness.

If you need to, don’t be afraid to test your new mattress for a longer period of time.

Most mattress companies now offer money-back guarantees that allow you to try their mattress for anywhere between 30 days to a whole year, and will fully refund you if you aren’t completely satisfied.

Mattress companies that offer money-back guarantees include Nectar, Purple, Casper, and Bear. You can also see if your local mattress stores offer any money-back guarantees or sleep trials.

If you have a small living space, check out my articles below for some of the most supporting convertible, portable beds.

What's Wrong With Your Pillow?​

The main reason your pillow will cause you to wake up with lower back pain is that much like an old, unsupportive mattress, it doesn’t properly support your neck and spine. The importance is to have your spine align properly.

An old, worn down pancake of a pillow, or an incorrectly chosen pillow won’t hold your head and other bones at the right angle, misaligning your spine and causing pain in your lower back and neck.

Another problem you might be having is not using the proper pillow for your sleeping position.

That’s right, you even need to use a different pillow for each sleeping position.

If you’re a back sleeper, you need a pillow that doesn’t allow your head to tilt up or back, keeping your spine properly aligned.

A pillow either too high or too low will likely give you neck pain or stiffness the next morning.

pillow for your sleeping position sleeping on your back back pain relief

If you’re a side sleeper, you need a pillow that fills the space between your mattress and neck, again without tilting your head up or down.

pillow for your sleeping position sleeping on your side lower back pain relief

How To Pick A Properly Supportive Pillow

Knowing what kind of pillow will support your head the best depends on the position you sleep in. 

As previously stated, a back sleeper needs a pillow that won’t tilt their head up or allow it to fall back. 

Avoid pillows that are too soft or too firm, as well as too tall or not tall enough.

If you are a side sleeper, a better pillow for you is one that falls between four and six inches high, making it so your head doesn’t tilt up or down while you are on your side.

Another factor to keep in mind when looking for a pillow that provides you with the right support.

Ideally, you want to find a pillow that retains its shape without needing constant adjusting throughout the night. 

You also don’t want your pillow to completely lose its shape over time and flatten like a pancake permanently. 

The shape of a pillow and its ability to retain that shape will also lead to pressure relief. The ideal pillow will cradle your head and neck to reduce pressure.

Why Your Sleeping Posture Is Important and How to Adjust the Way You Sleep​

One last factor that causes lower back pain is your sleeping position.

This is because certain positions put unnecessary pressure on your neck, hips, and back. It is important to maintain the natural curvature of the spine by keeping your head, shoulders, and hips in alignment.

There are many sleeping positions that can add to your discomfort. Laying flat on your back can exacerbate the back pain you’re already feeling, especially without a pillow to support your lower back. In addition, laying flat on your stomach can also cause you to have a stiff or painful lower back in the morning when you wake.

The most important thing to remember, if you’re trying to find a comfortable sleeping position due to lower back pain, the key to finding a level of comfort is to ensure that your hips, knees, and pelvis are aligned with one another. This will ensure that no one area of your body is going to bear the brunt of your weight while you’re sleeping, and instead your weight will be nearly evenly distributed.

If you like sleeping on your stomach

If you like to sleep on your stomach, try placing a slim pillow under your pelvis and lower abdomen.

This will help relieve pressure off your back that would be added from sleeping on your stomach without a pillow. 

You may also opt to not use a pillow under your head. 

If you do choose to use a pillow under your head, ensure it is one that properly aligns your neck and spine. This position is great for people who have problems with their discs.

to avoid back pain when sleeping on your belly, use a flat pillow, or no pillow under your head, and a pillow under your belly to keep the spine's natural curve.

If you like sleeping on your back

To sleep better on your back, you need three pillows, one that properly supports your head, one to place under your knees, and one to place under your back to provide lumbar support.

The pillow under the knees will help keep the spine neutral.

The pillow under the back will provide extra support.

A rolled-up towel will also work in place of a pillow under the back.

To relieve back pain when sleeping on your back, place a proper pillow to support your head, a pillow under your lower back to keep the spine's natural curve, and one below your knee to support the back.

If you like sleeping on your side

To sleep comfortably on your side, slightly bend your knees and place a pillow between them. 

For added support, a small pillow or rolled-up towel between the waist and mattress will also help. 

Adding the pillow between the knees will help align the pelvis, spine, and hips. 

Although there are specialty pillows on the market that are made strictly to do this job, many people find they get a lot of comfort and relief with a regular pillow

Keep in mind to never sleep on the same side, as this can lead to muscle imbalance and even scoliosis.

To avoid back pain when sleeping on your side, use a higher pillow under your head to keep your neck and spine aligned. Use a small pillow under your waist to keep the spine's natural curve, and place a pillow between your knees for more back support.

Which sleeping position helps my back pain?

There are many different recommended sleeping positions to help ease lower back pain, and they are based on what type of lower back pain that you’re suffering from. For example, if you suffer from a herniated disc, you should sleep in the fetal positon. This is because a herniated disc gets relief when you are able to open the space between the vertebrae to relieve the pressure on the disc. This happens naturally when your body is in the fetal position.

For those who suffer with back pain that is related to degenerative disc disease, you should try sleeping on your stomach, with a pillow under your abdomen. This is because it relieves the pressure your vertebrae put on the pressure pads between them if you have cushion under you to allow you to comfortably allow your back muscles to ease up a little as you’re resting.

In conclusion

To improve sleep quality and reduce lower back pain, consider implementing these tips into your sleep habits, and consider finding a new mattress and pillow. 

The most important factor to remember for purchasing a new mattress and pillow and choosing a comfortable sleep position is to make sure your spine, neck, hips, and pelvis are all aligned to maintain the natural curvature of the spine.


Also, check out my other articles reviewing futon mattresses or portable beds below. I often review bed alternatives that will not compromise your back health and are suitable for small living spaces.

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