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How to Sleep with Sciatica


Sleeping with sciatica can feel like pulling a wooden piece out of a Janga tower: one false move, and you’ve got serious problems. Most sufferers have learned to avoid the subtle shifts and positions that set off their pain, but even experienced sciatica sleepers can have trouble getting a good night of rest.

It can feel like your nights will never be normal–that you’ll always have to deal with bolts of lightning shooting down your leg or an eternal dull ache and pain in your lower back. Here’s the good news: if you learn and use proper technique, your pain will decrease, and your sleep will improve.

Step #1: Get a Proper Sleeping Surface

Your mattress (or mattress pad) is your first line of defense. If the surface is too soft or too hard, you’ll find it challenging to get your spine aligned and reduce nerve compression. Look for a mattress that has a decent amount of cushioning but doesn’t allow you to sink in too far.

If you can’t find a mattress that meets your needs, try sleeping on a mat or blanket on the floor.

Step #2: Stretch Before You Sleep

Tightness in your leg, butt, and back muscles make sciatica worse. This doesn’t change when you’re lying horizontally in bed, so it’s a good idea to go through your stretch routine before trying to sleep.

Create a stretching routine that’s focused on relieving the pressure on your lower back. Tight hamstrings and quad muscles are infamous for causing back issues and, ultimately, sciatica.

Doing a few core-strength exercises like lunges or crunches can also alleviate sciatica symptoms. Do a few of these before hopping in bed.

Step #3: Position Yourself Properly

First of all, don’t sleep on your stomach. This will flatten your spine and put pressure on your sciatic nerve.

Both the back and side are valid options for sciatic-sleepers. Here are a few ways you can make both sleeping positions more effective.

If you sleep on your back: try placing a pillow under your knees. This will raise your legs and force your spine closer to proper alignment.

If you sleep on your side: put a pillow between your knees. This keeps your hips and pelvis from getting out of alignment

Many people find that sleeping on their side and lifting their top knee until it sticks out straight is a good way to deal with eliminating pain from sciatica.

Step #4: Take a Warm Bath

A soak in warm water (not too hot) can go a long way in relieving sciatica symptoms. This is true for several reasons: The heat releases endorphins that soothe the pain in your back, and the muscles around your sciatic nerve endings are relaxed and stop irritating the nerve.


Most people who struggle to sleep with sciatica will need to use more than one of the techniques listed here. If you find that your symptoms don’t lesson and you need more help, consider seeing an experienced back injury doctor, physical therapist, or a massage therapist that specializes in sciatica. 

Nerve pain can range from an annoyance to an extreme source of pain; no matter where you fall on the spectrum, you can use these methods to improve your quality of sleep.