Sciatica pain can cause you to wake up from sleep with a shot of agony. While many people suffer from this condition, not everyone is familiar with the best way to sleep with sciatica pain.
When looking for ways to get better sleep with sciatica, the key is to look for solutions that work for you. Everyone’s body is different, meaning that you might need a different solution to your flare-ups. We’ve included a host of home solutions for your sciatica to try in this guide.
Let’s go over what causes sciatica flare-ups and how to best keep them from happening in the first place.
What is Sciatica?
Sciatica pain is caused by issues with the sciatic nerve in the back and leg. This nerve is the largest nerve in the body, running down from the lumbar region of the spine down through the leg and into the foot.
There are several reasons why you might be suffering from sciatica:
- A narrowing of the lumbar region of the spinal column
- Degeneration of the disks in the spinal column causing two vertebrae to rub together
- Spondylolisthesis, or the slipping of one vertebra over another
- Muscle spasms
- Other causes of excess weight
In all of these cases, something is occurring that causes a pinching of the sciatic nerve. When that nerve is pinched, it sends a signal of pain up the nerve and to the brain. That pain is what you are feeling when your sciatica is flaring up.
Tips for Getting Some Sleep with Sciatica
There’s no correct or best way to sleep with sciatica for everyone. Sciatica affects people for different reasons, so there isn’t one solution to the problem. However, there are some tips that you can try to improve your ability to sleep through the night:
Get a Good Mattress
While this is the case for everyone, having the right mattress can make a big difference in alleviating your sciatic pain. The correct mattress can help align your body while you sleep. This alignment helps keep your body from pinching your sciatic nerve and preventing flare-ups.
The right kind of mattress depends on how you prefer to sleep. Side sleepers will find softer mattresses are best for supporting their body, while back sleepers will see better results with a firmer mattress.
Use a Body Pillow
A body pillow will help you keep your body aligned while you sleep and is less expensive than replacing your mattress. Placing the pillow under your side or between your legs will help keep your spine aligned as you sleep. This way, there is less chance for your sciatic nerve to get pinched and cause a flare-up.
Elevate Your Knees While Sleeping
Another way you can use a pillow to help sleep at night is to use it to help elevate your knees, especially for back sleepers.
To do this, lay down on your back and raise your knees. Slip a pillow under your knees and see how the position feels. You might have to use more than one pillow to find something that works for you. Regardless, these pillows help keep your spine and nerves aligned while you sleep, preventing sciatic pain.
Stretch Before Bed
Exercise isn’t recommended before bed since it can get the adrenaline flowing. However, there are some small stretches that you can do before bed to help relax the muscles around your sciatic nerve.
For those that suffer from muscle spasms, these stretches can help relax those muscles while you sleep:
- Knee to chest
- Knee to opposite shoulder
- Figure 4 stretch
- Pelvic tilt
Choose the Correct Side to Sleep On…
Pillows can move throughout the night, especially if you are prone to tossing while asleep. If pillows aren’t working for you, then you might need to figure out what side of your body responds best to being slept on.
Once you know what side you sleep best on, you can put something hard onto the side you don’t want to sleep on, like a tennis ball. The object will discourage your sleepy self from sleeping on that side and agitating your sciatica.
…Or Sleep On Your Back
For those that don’t like sleeping on their side, sleeping on your back could be the solution.
If the previous tip of elevating your knees didn’t work, then you might need to add support to your lower back. Place a pillow under your lower back to add some support and better align your spine while sleeping.
Take Prescribed Medications
If your doctor has prescribed medicine for you to take for your sciatica, make sure that you are taking it. These medications will help keep your sciatica from flaring up based on conditions inside your body.
In general, doctors will prescribe an anti-inflammatory medication. This will help keep your body from pinching your nerves due to swelling. Since sleep is key for recovering, these medications can serve double duty by allowing you to sleep better.
Change your Pillow
The pillow that you use for your head can make a difference in your spine’s alignment. The shape of your neck pillow will also help determine what angle you have your body at while sleeping.
You want your neck pillow to provide support to your neck while keeping your head from tilting. This will help keep you from turning while sleeping as well as keep your spine aligned as you sleep.
Learn Sciatica-Based Massages
Massaging the spots on your body that experience sciatic pain can keep those areas from flaring up overnight. Massage therapy is a known treatment for sciatica symptoms, so learning some of these massages can help you, too.
Use your palm and knuckles to ease the muscles in your lower back and upper legs. These massages are geared towards increasing blood flow and reducing tension in those muscles. This will keep inflammation from pinching the nerve, thanks to the increased blood flow.
Once you find a solution that helps you sleep at night, you’ll find that your symptoms are much easier to manage moving forward. Try some of the ideas mentioned above and see if you can find your solution to the pain of sciatica.