Is unbearable sciatica nerve pain keeping you awake at night? You’re not alone. Millions of people from all walks of life experience sleepless nights thanks to the symptoms of this common condition. The good news is that all hope is not lost.
Is it possible to sleep with sciatic nerve pain? The answer is yes. Lying down on the back and elevating the knees as well as gently massaging the sciatica region and sleeping on the right mattress can eliminate sciatica nerve pain for pleasant nights.
What is Sciatic Nerve Pain?
Sciatica describes the pain experienced when any part of the sciatic nerve is compressed or irritated. This condition typically involves discomfort that may run through the lower back region into one or both legs.
Common causes of sciatica include:
- Extended sitting
- Wrong posture
Signs of Sciatica
There are several signs of sciatic nerve pain. If you’ve noticed any of the symptoms below then you can safely conclude that you may be suffering from the condition:
- Lower back pain and stiffness
- Leg pain
- Tingling feeling in either or both legs
Best Sleeping Position for Sciatica
Back Sleeping: The best sleeping position for sciatica is lying down on the back with the knees elevated. This can be achieved by placing a flat pillow underneath the knees while maintaining contact between the buttocks and the heels and bending the knees a bit towards the ceiling.
Make sure the head is elevated with a comfortable pillow and do not be scared to add more pillows for knee elevation until you find a comfortable combination. This position can reduce the amount of pressure the lumbar discs exert on the delicate regions of the spinal cord.
Remember, switching to the back with the knees elevated towards the ceiling may take some time to get comfortable. However, you can experiment with different types of pillows and variations of the position until you find a winning formula.
Sleeping through the night should become a lot easier afterward.
Side Sleeping: What if you’re a side sleeper who struggles to nod off in another position? Well, a common symptom of Sciatica is the feeling of pain on one side of the body. Thus, sleeping on the non-sore side with a flat and firm pillow stacked between the knees can be effective.
The pillow may alleviate excessive pressure on the sciatic nerve by aligning the spine with the hips. Also, remember to use the right head pillows to provide support for the neck and align it with the shoulders.
Stomach Sleeping: This position is a big no-no for anyone suffering from sciatic nerve pain because it can put excessive pressure on the neck and restrict the spine’s natural curvature. There are many instances of sciatica patients gaining relief from lying down on the stomach but any comfort gained may be temporary at best because the long-term damage to the spinal region can be far greater.
Best Sleeping Position for Sciatica During Pregnancy
Sciatic nerve pain is common among pregnant women due to the weight of the growing fetus which can place excessive pressure on the spinal region. The best sleeping position for sciatic nerve pain during pregnancy is the back with the head and knees elevated with as many pillows as needed.
During the first and second trimesters, pregnant women can also lie down on the most comfortable side with a pillow stack between the knees to provide alignment between the hips and spine.
However, side sleeping during the third trimester can be uncomfortable for both mother and unborn fetus. Hence, reverting to the back may provide relief for all parties.
Why Sciatica Pain is Worse at Night
Chronic and short-term sufferers of sciatica say the discomfort can become worse at night. This is because apart from night shift workers, many of us work during the daytime and hit our beds at night to rest.
Unfortunately, a sleeper’s position or nature of the sleeping surface can aggravate one of the 5 nerve roots at the lower back through irritation or compression.
This can worsen the degree of pain felt especially at night when the mind is usually free from the pressures of the day. With minimal distractions, if any, the transmission of pain signals to the brain becomes unhinged, and this can aggravate the level of discomfort felt.
How To Sleep With Sciatic Nerve Pain
Hitting the hay with sciatic nerve pain may not be a walk in the park. However, it is not impossible as long as you find ways to eliminate or at least minimize the pain. Here are the most tried and tested techniques for sleeping comfortably with sciatica.
1. Get The Right Mattress
Your mattress or sleeping surface can be everything as a sciatic nerve pain sufferer. An extremely soft mattress may offer inadequate support for the lower back resulting in severe pain in the morning.
Excessively firm mattresses, on the other hand, can exert too much pressure on the sciatic nerve which may keep you awake for several hours at nighttime. This is why you cannot afford to get it wrong when shopping for a new mattress after being diagnosed with the condition.
Sure, there may be several underlying reasons behind sciatica nerve discomfort but a bad mattress can aggravate the situation to unimaginable levels.
Remember, direct physical contact between the mattress or sleeping surface and the nerve roots that cause sciatica when irritated becomes inevitable during sleep.
A custom or adjustable-firmness mattress can offer soothing relief from the discomfort associated with the condition. These mattresses may offer the flexibility to alternate between different levels of firmness until you settle on the model that provides maximum comfort.
Custom firmness mattresses may be relatively more expensive than the majority of regular models on the market. But they can save you time and money from the trial and error of going through multiple models before finding the right one.
Have you read the article we wrote on How to Find The Best Mattress for Sciatica Nerve Pain? Click the link to discover some mind-blowing insights.
2. Supportive Neck Pillows
A supportive neck pillow can offer satisfying nights even among those who experience severe sciatica pain at night. While soft pillows may seem cozier, going to bed on one can aggravate the symptoms of sciatic nerve discomfort.
Note that fluffy pillows can inhibit the upper body from lying in a straight position leading to excessive pressure on the lower back.
Instead, experts recommend choosing supportive neck pillows that can straighten the upper spine and relieve the pressure on the lower back. Remember, firm pillows may cause sleeping difficulties initially especially among those used to lying down on flat models.
However, sticking to them can lead to rewarding benefits for your spinal health and bedtime comfort in the long run.
The Snuggle-Pedic Ultra-Luxury Bamboo Shredded Memory Foam from Amazon has been a game-changer since we ordered it last month. As Chronic Sciatica pain sufferers, my girlfriend and I love sleeping on these pillows because it provides just the right amount of support for the lower back.
3. Long, Warm Bath
A long, warm bath can be the key to a satisfying night of shuteye with sciatica. Many people report amazing benefits from this simple technique and that is not surprising because the science behind it is solid.
Warm baths can release feel-good hormones known as endorphins which provide relief for various knocks and aches in the body. The warm temperature of the water can also release tense nerve root muscles which may have been irritated.
Besides, warm baths are known for cooling down the body’s temperature- a key condition for getting good sleep.
If a long, warm bath is unrealistic, getting a quick warm shower or placing a warm water bottle at the foot of your bed can also provide tremendous benefits for good sleep.
4. Ice and Heat
Sciatica pain can get unbearable at night and this may result in counting sheep for several hours. The good news is that placing an ice pack on the affected area for 15-20 minutes every hour can provide soothing relief.
Ice can be an effective numbing agent for physical pain but avoid placing it directly on the affected area to prevent ice burns. Instead, ice packs can work well in most situations and are available at affordable prices.
Heat patches can be another effective method for providing relief from sciatic nerve pain. Many people find that heating pads work well for the condition. All you have to do is set the pad to medium heat and place it on the site of the pain for 15-20 minutes.
You’ll be amazed at how relieving it can feel which should translate to good sleep shortly after.
I found the Pure Enrichment PureRelief XL Heating Pad on Amazon. With over 15,000 positive customer reviews (and counting), it is the number one model available for sale today.
5. Essential Oils
The therapeutic effects of essential oils are well-known and these sweet-smelling oils can come in handy for sciatic nerve pain sufferers. Essential oils such as Jasmine, Lavender, and Bergamot release aromas that can put anyone to sleep.
No wonder, they have been in use since medieval times to treat the symptoms of insomnia. The good news is that these oils can be applied in a variety of ways to suit a person’s preferences.
Firstly, they can be used in preparing baths to supercharge relaxation levels after a long hard day. This can minimize the pain you may be experiencing from sciatica while setting up the right conditions for the body to doze off.
Essential oils can also be poured into electronic or manual diffusers to dissipate the sweet-scented aromas across the bedroom. Once these scents are inhaled, falling asleep is the next logical step.
The Ultimate Aromatherapy Diffuser with Essential Oils from Amazon helps me sleep quicker and longer. Recommended by my best friend who suffers severe body pains, it is a potent weapon for eliminating sciatica-induced insomnia.
6. Comfortable Bedroom Temperature
An extremely cold or hot room can do your sleep no favors. Can you imagine the feeling of excruciating nerve pain while sweating at the same time due to excessive bedroom temperature? You can be sure of tossing and turning in bed all night.
During harsh winters, taking steps such as turning on the heating, closing bedroom windows, and wearing temperature-appropriate clothes can promote good sleep. Hot summers, on the other hand, may require turning on the AC or fan to lower bedroom temperatures.
Many people also practice sleeping naked or wearing light clothes to prevent night sweats and other forms of discomfort.
Experts say the best temperature for good sleep ranges between 60-67 degrees so keep that in mind regardless of the prevailing climate at any point.
7. White Noise
Listening to a white noise machine can put even the most distressed mind to sleep. These machines can be placed on the nightstand or the main bed for solo sleepers with queen or king-sized mattresses.
White noise machines produce sounds that can be relaxing for the mind and stimulate comfortable nighttime rest even among sciatic nerve pain sufferers. The sounds produced can also mute other background noises that may be keeping you awake at night.
If you live in a college dormitory with loud or frequently-partying roommates, these machines can be heavenly at bedtime.
The Dohm Classic White Sounds Machine from Amazon has reversed my insomnia since I ordered it 3 months ago. It produces pleasant sounds that mask other background noises for effective sleep even during nights of distress.
Sciatic massages can be a potent way of gaining relief from pain and discomfort at bedtime. If you’re lucky to share a bed with a partner, asking him or her to rub the lower back region can be effective.
Make sure to point out the sites of the pain and monitor how each rub feels. Do not hesitate to let your partner know what feels good and what does not. This can enable getting the right massage at the preferred intensity for pain relief.
In the absence of a partner, a professional masseuse can be a great option if you can afford it.
The Naipo Shiatsu Neck and Back Massager from Amazon provide soothing relief for my back pain. I get custom massages via complete control over my preferred heat and pressure settings at any point in time. I highly recommend it.
9. Physical Therapy
Physical therapy can be a smart option to deal with the symptoms of sciatica and this is why many doctors recommend it as an option for patients. Anyone who decides to go down this route can get a referral from his or her primary care doctor to find a licensed physical therapist.
Physical therapists typically come up with treatment plans based on the patient’s body type as well as the degree of pain. It may include physical exercises that can relieve pressure on the sciatic nerve and lower back as well as electronic stimulation and manual therapies.
While physical therapy can be an effective way to gain relief from the symptoms of sciatic nerve pain, they may not be for everyone. Do not hesitate to opt for another method if it is not working for you or seems too daunting.
10. Sleep On The Floor
Sleeping on the floor may be an effective way of dealing with sciatica. Back sleepers especially may experience soothing relief from lying down on firm surfaces and they don’t come better than the floor.
However, avoid sleeping on the bare floor if you decide to try this method. Instead, a flat futon mattress or even a yoga mat can be a solid option. Also, make sure the floor is completely clean to prevent exposure to dust and dirt which can lead to breathing difficulties and triggered allergies.
During the summer, floor sleeping can also provide magical cooling benefits for the body when mattresses can become extremely hot.
Have you read the article we wrote on Sleeping On A Hard Surface? Click here to discover some insightful benefits from the practice.
11. Practice Yoga
Tired of stiff sciatic nerve muscles that cause excessive discomfort at night? Why not try practicing Yoga?
Yoga can be a great way to release tense muscles caused by inflammation and excessive pressure. The key to reaping maximum benefits for sciatica pain is to target poses that can reduce pressure on the lower back region.
Attending yoga classes as a beginner can be a great introduction to the amazing benefits of the centuries-old renowned practice. If live classes are not an option, there are several practice videos online at absolutely no cost.
Just pick 5-10 routines that can be beneficial to the lower back region and practice continuously to perfect them.
The BalanceFrom GoYoga All-Purpose 1/2 Inch Extra Thick Anti-Tear Yoga Mat from Amazon is my go-to mat for doing yoga at home and the office. The 71-inch length and 24-inch width make it comfortable for people of all shapes and sizes. With 5-star reviews from over 21,000 verified buyers (and counting) on Amazon alone, you cannot afford to miss out on it.
12. Pain Relief Creams
If you’re struggling to sleep due to the symptoms of sciatica, it may be time to take things into your hands with a pain relief cream.
Pain relief patches or creams can provide soothing relief by directly applying it at the site of the discomfort. These creams or patches usually contain pain-numbing ingredients such as menthol or capsaicin.
The good news is that there are several creams on the market that work for 8 hours straight. As long as you apply the right one, sleeping through the night should be a breeze.
I love the Penetrex Pain Relief Therapy Cream from Amazon. Trusted by over 2 million users, it contains active ingredients that numb the pain in any area of my body throughout the night. It is a must-have for everyone.
13. Chiropractic Care
Sciatic nerve pain is caused by compression of the nerve roots due to unhealthy pressure on the lower back from factors such as sleeping position, posture, and sleeping surface pressure.
A visit to the chiropractor can lead to amazing results when the nerves and bones in the spinal region are realigned to ensure everything is back to normal.
This can be one of the best ways to gain relief from the discomfort associated with sciatica. If you’re struggling to nod off at night, it may be time to seek the services of a skilled chiropractor.
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese medicine practice renowned for providing superior and long-lasting pain relief. If you suffer severe pain at night due to sciatic nerve problems, it may be time to consider this seemingly dramatic method.
Acupuncture involves the insertion of needles at the lower back area to stimulate the release of hormones and neurotransmitters that can mask pain.
It is a popular method especially among pregnant women who may be suffering significant lower back discomfort due to the pressure from the growing fetus’s weight.
The good news is that this popular Eastern medicine method is more effective at providing pain relief compared to over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen, according to research.
15. Sleep Aids
Several sleep aids can help put you through the night even when the symptoms of sciatica have become extremely pronounced. It is the last option on this list because we believe this option should be a last resort.
Sleep pills may be available over the counter or through a prescription. Common OTC options include:
If you’d rather get a prescription-based sleep aid, some of the popular options your doctor may prescribe include:
The key to getting blissful sleep with sciatic nerve pain is to find ways of reducing or even eliminating the discomfort. Some of the tried and tested methods include lying on the lower back with the knees elevated as well as acupuncture, listening to white sounds, and taking sleep aids.
We’ve outlined 15 ways that can help you get satisfying sleep with even the most painful degree of sciatica. As long as you follow them, those nights of insomnia can be history.