Sciatica is a very painful and debilitating condition, impacting mobility and life quality. I know all too well how disruptive it can be. While wheelchairs and UK stairlifts can make tasks such as getting around the house easier, lying down to sleep is another matter. Unfortunately, sciatica pain, which originates in the lower back area and shoots down your leg, can make even the simplest tasks such as sleeping very difficult. In this article, we discuss some tips and advice for how those with sciatica can learn to sleep better so that night-time becomes a little more manageable.
The key to finding a sleeping position that works with sciatica is lying in positions that maintain the natural alignment of your spine. Sleeping on your side is something that many people find to be the most comfortable as it can reduce pain by alleviating the pressure on your sciatic nerve. Try to lie on the side that isn’t affected by your sciatica.
Many people are natural back sleepers, but this should be avoided if possible. Will Harlow, a sciatica specialist from the site, How to Get Rid of Sciatica, explains why: “When people ask me about the best way to sleep with sciatica, I ask if they usually lay flat on their backs. When we sleep laid out flat, this position can lead to a stretching tension on the sciatic nerve. You should know one thing when it comes to sciatica: nerves hate to be stretched!”
If you sleep on your back naturally, utilise a pillow under your knee to reduce the stretch that Will mentions above. If you lie on your side and there is a gap between your waist and the mattress, consider placing a pillow here to prevent your side from bending when you sleep. You can also consider putting a pillow between your knees when you sleep as this will help your spine and pelvis to retain their natural position and reduce rotation.
In this article on Handicare-Stairlifts I shared my thoughts and tips when it comes to utilising pillows to combat back pain when sleeping: “Even if you have spent a fortune on the best mattress in the world, there’s a good chance you won’t know true comfort until you’ve purchased a pillow specifically targeting your type of pain — whether it’s in your upper back, lower back, neck, shoulders or beyond. It can also depend on if you are a front, side or back sleepers.
Another good tip if you have sciatica or any type of lower back pain is to avoid sleeping on your stomach if you can help it. This is because when you sleep on your stomach, your spine curves towards the mattress which puts pressure on the area that is causing your pain. To prevent yourself from rolling over onto your stomach while you are asleep, you could try using a body pillow. Body pillows encourage a healthy sleeping position, prevent you from rolling on to your stomach, and supports your back and joints.
While a soft bed might be your preference, if you have developed sciatica, it might not be the best idea. A mattress that is firmer could well help make your nights more comfortable as you won’t be sinking into an overly soft mattress that puts your spine out of alignment. So, try and get yourself a medium-firm mattress or consider putting something firmer under your existing mattress, such as plywood. The Sleep Foundation has put together an article about the best mattresses for sciatica if you decide a new mattress is the way to go.
Unfortunately, even when we manage to drift off to sleep, sciatica pain can cause us to wake up in the middle of the night, making it very difficult to go back to sleep again. Instead of lying there thinking about the pain, something you could try is getting out of bed and walking around the house a little. This is the advice of Fornham Chiropractic Clinic who have made a video with some great tips for those struggling to sleep due to sciatica. Speaking in the video, is advice from one of their chiropractors.