Back pain is on the rise due to sedentary work and new lifestyle habits, affecting millions of people worldwide who are now seeking relief. Whether it's a persistent ache or a sharp twinge, back pain can be debilitating, impacting our daily lives and hindering productivity. Surprisingly, one simple aspect of our daily routine—sleeping—can play a pivotal role in providing relief from back pain. In this article, we will explore why it's important to choose the right sleeping position and discover three optimal sleeping positions to promote back health.

Understanding Back Pain

Back pain comes in various forms, each with its unique causes and symptoms.

The spine running through our back has different parts, each with a specific function.

  • The neck part, called the cervical spine, supports the head and helps us move our neck. Pain here can happen from bad posture or straining the neck.
  • The upper and mid-back, called the thoracic spine, connects to the ribs and protects important organs. Pain in this area can come from sitting badly or muscle problems.
  • The lower back, known as the lumbar spine, supports most of our body weight and often hurts due to sitting too much, bad posture, or lifting things incorrectly.
  • At the bottom, the sacral spine connects the spine to the pelvis, and problems here can cause lower back pain.

Knowing these parts helps figure out where back pain comes from and how to make it feel better.

Among the most common types are acute back pain, often caused by sudden injury or strain, and chronic back pain, which persists for an extended period. Then, sciatica, arising from pressure on the sciatic nerve and herniated discs, where the soft tissue between vertebrae protrudes, are also prevalent conditions contributing to back discomfort.

According to the World Health Organization, in 2020, low back pain affected 619 million people globally, and it is estimated that the number of cases will increase to 843 million by 2050. This increase is largely driven by population expansion and aging.

The sedentary nature of many jobs and the lack of regular physical activity contribute to muscle imbalances and weakened core strength, exacerbating the risk of back pain.

Understanding the specific type of back pain is crucial for adopting targeted solutions. In many cases, lifestyle adjustments, such as adapting your physical activity to your age and modifying sleeping positions, can make a substantial difference.

Your Sleeping Position Matters

Quality sleep is essential for overall well-being, and the way we position ourselves during sleep can significantly impact our spinal health.

The spine has a natural curvature, and maintaining its alignment during sleep is vital to prevent unnecessary stress on muscles and joints.

  • Sleeping positions that deviate from the spine's natural alignment can exacerbate existing back issues or contribute to the development of new ones.
  • On top, sleeping on the wrong mattress or using unsupportive pillows can further compound the problem.

Optimal sleep hygiene involves choosing a mattress and pillows that provide adequate support for the spine, allowing it to maintain its natural curvature. Additionally, selecting one of the top two sleeping positions for back pain relief and incorporating a mindful breathing technique before sleep is advisable.

Read about: Biometric Devices for Wellness: Exploring the Best Wearable Options

The Two Best Sleeping Positions for Back Pain Relief

Adopting proper sleeping positions can relieve pressure points and promote restorative sleep.

1. Supine Position (On Your Back)

Sleeping on your back is widely regarded as one of the best positions for spinal alignment, as it enables the mattress to support the natural curvature of the spine. This posture reduces pressure on critical areas such as the neck, shoulders, and lower back, potentially alleviating discomfort and preventing pain. To further enhance lumbar support and promote a neutral spine position, placing a pillow under the knees can be beneficial.

However, it's important to note that individuals who snore or suffer from sleep apnea should be cautious with this position. Supine sleeping can exacerbate these conditions by allowing the tongue to fall back more easily into the throat, obstructing the airway and leading to increased snoring or more severe apnea episodes.

Thus, while back sleeping can be advantageous for spinal health, those with breathing-related sleep disorders may need to consider alternative positions.

2. Fetal Position

For those who prefer sleeping on their side, the fetal position can be beneficial for back pain relief.

Curling the body into a fetal position with knees drawn towards the chest helps open up the space between vertebrae, reducing pressure on the spinal discs.

Placing a pillow between the knees can enhance alignment and comfort.

How About Sleeping On Your Stomach?

While some individuals who snore or experience sleep apnea might find relief by sleeping on their stomach, this position is not recommended for everyone. For example, it is not suitable for those with pre-existing back issues, as it can strain the neck and lower back.

If you're unsure what your primary sleeping position is throughout the night, consider sleeping with an Oxa device showing a percentage breakdown of your sleep positions. It also reveals a number of position changes, a good indicator of sleep quality.

When we want to relieve our back pain, it's crucial to recognize the impact of our daily habits, including the way we sleep.

Make it easy with the Oxa breathing trainer as your guide; practice resonance or coherence breathing, starting with a few minutes each day, which can help activate the body’s natural relaxation response and set the stage for deep sleep to easily unfold.

By understanding the various types of back pain and adopting proper sleeping positions, individuals can take proactive steps towards spinal health. The two recommended sleeping positions—supine, fetal, and prone—offer options for different preferences and comfort levels.

Read More: 10 Natural Ways To Boost Your Deep Sleep


Q: Why is back pain becoming more prevalent, especially with sedentary work?

Sedentary lifestyles often lead to muscle imbalances and weakened core strength, contributing to the rise in back pain cases. Lack of regular physical activity and prolonged sitting can strain the back, making it crucial to adopt healthy habits, including proper sleeping positions.

Q: How does sleeping position impact our back health?

The way we sleep significantly affects spinal health. Maintaining the natural curvature of the spine during sleep is essential to prevent stress on muscles and joints. Sleeping positions that deviate from this alignment can worsen existing back issues or lead to new ones.

Q: Are there specific lifestyle changes to complement better sleep for back pain relief?

Yes, adopting a healthy lifestyle is crucial. Regular exercise to strengthen core muscles, maintaining good posture throughout the day, and investing in a supportive mattress and pillows all contribute to back pain relief. Deep diaphragmatic breathing before sleep is also recommended.

Q: Can stress contribute to back pain, and how can it be managed for relief?

Yes, stress can contribute to back pain by causing muscle tension and affecting overall well-being. Managing stress through techniques such as intentional breathing can help alleviate both physical and mental tension and contribute to back pain relief.

Hakima Tantrika
May 28, 2024

MA, RYT 500, and ICF-certified coach is a holistic physical and mental health writer and educator. With global recognition, she's enriched over 2 million readers through her blog and shaped 800+ instructors worldwide. Fluent in four languages, Hakima blends extensive knowledge and a rich multicultural insight, making her a distinguished authority in the wellness sphere.

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