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How to sleep with back pain

Tired of waking up with back pain? Are those aches and strains getting you down throughout the day? We’ve pulled some ideas together on how to sleep with back pain. So if you suffer with back pain at night, you can work towards getting happier, healthier sleep.

Reducing the risk of back pain when sleeping

So, how do you reduce the risk of back pain when sleeping? If you’re finding that your back hurts after sleeping and you’re waking up with neck strain, there are some changes you can make to help. The two main solutions are your sleeping position and your sleep environment. Adapting both can make you feel more supported and comfortable in bed, reducing the risk of waking up with back pain.

Choosing the right sleeping position for back pain

If you’re waking up with back pain, you may want to switch up your sleeping position to help minimise the risk of any added discomfort. Because poor posture in bed can not only worsen back ache, but it can be the underlying cause of it too. We have outlined some of the best sleeping positions for back pain below, to help you get better sleep naturally.

1. Sleeping on your side with a pillow in between your knees
While you may already be pretty comfortable with sleeping on your side, it could be this position that’s causing some of your problems. Lying on your side can pull your spine out of position and cause strain on your lower back. So try placing a firm pillow between your knees to raise the upper leg, restore alignment and reduce the pain in the long run. But be sure to switch the side you’re sleeping on every so often to avoid causing any muscle imbalances.

Top tip: If there’s a gap between your waist and the mattress, try putting a smaller pillow there to add extra support.

2. Sleeping on your stomach with a pillow under your abdomen
Sleeping on your stomach is often considered a no-go when it comes to back problems. But for those who find it difficult to fall asleep any other way, then positioning a pillow under the pelvis/lower abdomen can help improve the alignment of the spine. This will take away some of the pressure on your back and any stress on the space between your discs.

3. Sleeping on your side in the fetal position
Sleeping on your side in the fetal position can be beneficial if you have a herniated disc, as it minimises the risk of your spine bending and allows your joints to loosen up – reducing those aches and pains in the long run. Simply tuck your knees up to your chest and curl your torso towards your knees – again, remember to switch sides to avoid causing an imbalance. Curling your spine will help to open up the space between the vertebrae, lessening the risk of herniation.

4. Sleeping on your back with a pillow under your knees
Lying on your back is often considered the best way to maintain a healthy back in bed. Why? It means that your weight is distributed evenly, the alignment of your head, neck and spine is good, and less strain is placed on your pressure points. But for additional support, you can sleep on your back with a pillow under your knees, which will help to keep the natural curve in your lower back. Although this may not be the best sleeping position if you’re prone to snoring!

Top tip: Avoid turning your head to the side as this will affect the alignment of your neck.

Choosing the right sleep environment to help reduce back pain when sleeping

Your sleeping position might not be the only thing that’s causing you to wake up with back pain. If your body isn’t supported properly, then your risk of developing back pain when sleeping can increase significantly. Find out how to maximise your sleep environment and choose the right sleep environment for your needs.


We’ll start with your pillows. To help avoid developing back pain at night while sleeping, they should support your neck and spine, maintaining your natural posture while remaining comfortable and supportive. If you like to sleep on your back, you may benefit from a thinner pillow to avoid lifting your head too high and causing strain on your neck and spine. Likewise, if you sleep on your stomach then a thinner pillow, or even no pillow, is the best way to avoid pushing your head backwards and putting pressure on your neck. But if you sleep on your side, a thicker pillow will offer more support – filling the space between your neck and the mattress.

If you’re unsure of what pillow you need and you regularly change up your sleeping position, our adjustable wool pillows are the ideal choice. Fluff up the wool balls to re-adjust the filling and optimise comfort – taking some out or adding in more depending on your preference of size.

Read our pillow buying guide for more information and advice on which pillow type is best for you.


Choosing a soft or firm mattress is a personal decision to make, but if your spinal health is lacking then having a mattress that offers comfort and sufficient support is important. And while you may be tempted to sink into your sleep with a softer mattress, you’ll receive less support in the long run. So if you suffer from back pain when sleeping, you may have heard that a firmer mattress is the general recommendation. But a medium-firm mattress can also be beneficial for those with longer-term back pain.

The overall goal is to find a mattress that will evenly distribute your weight, offer optimal support and suit your body’s pressure points. Our range of wool mattresses come in a variety of tensions to suit all requirements.

Find out more on choosing a soft or firm mattress.

For more information on how to sleep with back pain or to find other sleep health and advice, head to our hub where you can find out how to improve your clean sleep.