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Why Is My Sciatica Worse When I Lie Down?

Sciatica Pain Gets Worse When Lying Down

When you lie down at night, the last thing you need is a sciatica flare-up. And waking up with severe pain is a terrible way to start your day. Why doesn’t lying down give your nerves a rest?

Unfortunately, your bed may be one of the strongest triggers for the nerve pain that you encounter.

Each sleeping position has its reason for causing sciatica pain, and understanding these issues can help you avoid them in the future.

Why Does It Hurt When I Lie On My Stomach?

This is typically the worst option for sciatica sufferers. When you sleep on your stomach, your pelvis rotates forward and flattens out the spine’s natural curve. This hyper-extends your lower back and is the quickest way to fire up your sciatic nerve.

If you’re used to sleeping on your back, it’s time to switch sleeping positions. This one will never go well for you.

If you can’t fall asleep without the stomach position, place a pillow beneath your hips. This moves your spine closer to a neutral position and should help with the pain.

Why Does It Hurt When I Lie On My Side?

This is a better option than the stomach, but it can still go wrong.

If you sleep on your side that had the sciatic issues, the weight can aggravate the nerve root and make things worse.

If you lie on the unaffected side, this can cause the affected side to raise a bit too high and pinch the nerve.

This may be reversed for some patients; go ahead and experiment to see which side is the best for your condition.

Why Does It Hurt When I Lie On My Back?

This is usually the best sleeping position for sciatica patients.

However, it can create a condition known as lumbar spinal stenosis. When your nerves exit the spinal column, they move through openings (foramina). Those openings can shrink when lying on your back because the spine’s curvature is accentuated. This can pinch the nerves.

The best way to deal with this is to place a pillow beneath your knees. This prevents the spine from curving too much and shrinking the nerve openings

Other Considerations

A soft mattress can be your worst enemy. Even lying on your back, the best of all sleeping positions for sciatica sufferers can be painful on a soft mattress. This is because your body sinks in and can’t hold the spine in the desired position. If your mattress is too soft, you can try placing an exercise pad on the floor and sleeping on that.

Stretch before you sleep. Loosening up your muscles, especially your quadriceps and lower back can help prevent sciatica pain while you sleep.


If you wake up with bad sciatica pain, then you need to change your sleeping position. Because each body is different, it’s impossible to say which position is the best for every sciatica patient. Try each of the recommended positions and see which one works best for you. If you need to find an experienced sciatica doctor near you, call 1-800-897-8440 today and get well!