When you consider the amount of pain that sciatica can cause, it’s no surprise that people need a solution for how to sleep with sciatica; it’s a real problem. However, there ARE ways to get some relief at night time.
Here are my top 9 tips for how to sleep with sciatica – so you feel rested, restored and in less pain the following day.
Aims of this post:
- To answer the question of “How do I sleep with sciatica?”
- To talk about why sciatica at night causes such a problem
- To give you my top tips for how to sleep with sciatica pain – without being woken every 5 minutes
Before we dive in, please be aware that we are part of the Amazon Affiliate programme. This page may contain Amazon affiliate links, so if you choose to purchase a product for your sciatica that we recommend through a link on this page, we will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. This helps us keep Overcome Sciatica alive! Thank you for your support. Please be assured that we only ever recommend products that we truly believe can help.
Sciatica: How to Sleep
It is well known that sciatica can disrupt our daily schedules completely, giving us pain in the back and leg due to compression on a nerve root as it leaves the spine.
However, sciatica can also interrupt one of the most important processes that we go through each night: Sleep.
If you are unable to sleep, your body’s ability to HEAL itself is significantly hampered too. It’s no wonder people search for an answer to how to sleep with sciatica. If you can’t sleep, you can’t heal – which means you might struggle to get better.
Luckily, this article should have some of the answers you’re looking for!
While it is difficult to relieve pain caused by sciatica at night completely, there are several methods that can help when you’re looking to find a way to sleep with sciatica.
First, check out my video below, which will describe some of the best sleeping positions for sciatica sufferers:
Why Do We Need Sleep When We Have Sciatica?
When we have trouble figuring out how to sleep with sciatica, the resultant lack of rest hinders the natural process of recovery. Recovery from injury, illness and common stress will be effectively “slowed down” by the body – almost like your body putting the brakes on – which in turn slows down our recovery from sciatica.
As you can imagine, sleep is therefore VITAL when it comes to recovering from sciatica. Quite simply, if you can’t sleep, you can’t heal.
This is the reason why we need to make sure that everything in your sleeping environment is absolutely geared towards sleeping with sciatica, for a minimum of 7-8 hours each night.
Even for people who believe that they “don’t need” as much sleep as others, the research suggests otherwise. In Matt Walker’s fantastic book The Science of Sleep, he points out that even people who don’t feel tired display a sub-par healing ability when sleep deprived, compared to their well-rested counterparts.
Sleep is so important in the healing process that I couldn’t leave this advice out for any client.
Sleep is when healing occurs – certain hormones are released during sleep that regulate just about everything in the body. This is why we need to make sure that we are doing everything we can get plenty of rest when recovering from sciatica – which is why learning how to sleep with this condition is so important.
Why Does Sciatica Disrupt Sleep?
One of the reasons for sciatica affecting sleep so much is that inflammatory processes tend to be worse at night.
If you are suffering from sciatica, it is likely that the affected nerve root in your spine is inflamed.
You can read in more detail about why inflammation is the enemy in sciatica HERE.
Another reason that sleeping with sciatica can be so painful is often due to the position you are lying in.
Sometimes, positions that initially feel comfortable can actually place a stretch on the affected sciatic nerve. Irritated nerves hate to be stretched, and they inform us of that fact by giving us more pain!
Read the following tips to learn how to sleep with sciatica, to minimise the chances of being woken up repeatedly every night.
Sciatica: How to Sleep – Top Tips to Improve Sciatica at Night
Sciatica: How to Sleep | Tip #1
Take the Stretch off the Sciatic Nerve
Sciatica at night can make finding a position of comfort extremely difficult. 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.
Here’s a fact that we should all remember: Nerves hate to be stretched!
However, we can take this harmful, painful stretch away from the sciatic nerve when sleeping with sciatica through one simple change.
For sciatica that shoots down the back of your leg when trying to sleep, try placing a pillow using guidance from the diagram below:
- For those looking for how to sleep on their back: Place a pillow under your knee to allow a slight bend, as shown in the picture above.
- For those looking for how to sleep on their side: Place a pillow between your legs. Hint: sometimes, my clients find that a normal pillow between the legs is not sufficient, as it isn’t quite firm enough. To remedy this problem and help you find how to sleep with sciatica, you could try a specially designed knee pillow, that separates your knees as you sleep. This one below is great value and the exact one I’ve recommended to several clients who needed to know how to sleep with sciatica:
- As well as your usual pillow set up… If your sciatica is WORSE when you lean back or when you stand for a long time, sometimes a slightly “flexed spine” position can alleviate the pressure that bony spurs, disc degeneration and thickened joints exert on the sciatic nerve.
Pillow placement is very individual when trying to work out how to sleep with sciatica pain, so a degree of trial and error is needed. Try one of the above techniques tonight and see how you get on with your sciatica at night.
A great video showing you how to position yourself for minimal pain from sciatica at night is shown below:
Sciatica: How to Sleep | Tip #2
Switch off all electronics at least 1 hour before bedtime
Electronic devices, such as iPhones and tablets, emit a type of light called ‘blue light’ which affects a part of the brain that keeps you more awake.
If we use these devices just before we go to bed, our brain remains ‘confused’ and doesn’t know whether to keep us up or let us sleep. This can further affect sciatica at night – if you take a long time to get comfortable or drift off, that initially mild sciatica pain might turn into a seriously painful episode.
We can prevent this effect by switching off at least an hour before we need to sleep.
A great tip to reduce the level of blue light emissions before bed is to switch your iPhone onto “Night Shift” mode by sliding up the menu bar on the bottom and selecting that option. You will notice your phone back light turns more yellow. This will help sleeping with sciatica become easier if you have to use your iPhone before bed.
Another great way to limit the harmful effects of blue light is to invest in a pair of blue-light blocking glasses to wear before bed time.
While this tip won’t prevent all blue light from reaching your eyes and affecting your sleep, it will block a substantial amount – usually between 30-80%.
I invested in a pair of blue light blocking glasses a while ago and noticed a significant improvement in my sleep, even after doing laptop work late into the evening. Here are the pairs I recommend:
For 30-50% blue light blocking:
The glasses below are the ones that I use. They look more or less clear but still make a noticeable difference to my sleep. The yellow tinge is also barely noticeable when watching TV or working.
Click HERE to view the TIJN blue-light blockers on Amazon
For 75% blue light blocked:
These glasses are much stronger and come with the obvious yellow tinge that is necessary when blocking high levels of blue light. They are naturally more effective at their job than the pair above, but as with anything, there is a need to weigh up appearance and vision change with effectiveness.
Sciatica: How to Sleep | Tip #3
Take a hot bath or shower before bed
By heating the affected area, the muscles in the back and legs can relax which will ease any residual muscle spasm from a hard day’s work. This will also help you drift off more easily and is one of the best ways to encourage sleep with sciatica.
The heating effect on your skin can give the sensation that the trapped nerve is gliding better in the tight spaces within the lower back and relieve some of the associated pain from sciatica.
Another alternative is to use a wheat pillow for heating either the back or affected leg just before bed.
This will help to relax any tense muscles in the same way that a massage does. A good example of a wheat cushion that will work well for this purpose is this one:
These cushions are great as you can just put them in the microwave for a few minutes and they stay hot for a long time. This one also has the addition of lavender which is supposed to assist with soothing anxiety and tension, and may even improve sleep with sciatica.
Sciatica: How to Sleep | Tip #4
Use a magnesium rub for better sleep
Topical magnesium creams and lotions work great for releasing hormones associated with sleep. You can rub a small amount around your neck about half an hour before bed to improve sleep with sciatica.
This magnesium rub is the best one I have found for use with my clients. Many of them report a deeper sleep (although you might get some vivid dreams too!):
Magnesium rubs are believed to possibly be better than magnesium supplements in pill form, due to the proximity that you can place the supplement to the carotid artery in the neck. Experts believe that this can improve the uptake of magnesium and maximise benefits, making this supplement a winner when looking for the best way to sleep with sciatica.
If you are interested in other supplements to help sleeping with sciatica, see this report here on one of the top supplements for sciatica.
Sciatica: How to Sleep | Tip #5
Substitute white meat for red meat in the evenings
Food is more than just food; it can calm you down or make you feel more awake and ready for your day.
Eating white meat has a calming effect on little receptors in your brain called “neurotransmitters”, which control energy and alertness. Red meat is great in the mornings to get the neurotransmitters firing but we don’t really want this at night, especially when sleeping with sciatica.
If you eat a lot of red meat, try eating this meal at lunch time and opt for chicken or fish in the evening instead. Making this simple swap can have a great effect on sleep.
Hint: Combining white meat with a carbohydrate side can further improve sleep when sleeping with sciatica. The outdated advice to avoid carbs in the evening has been dismissed in the modern day as experts have shown that eating carbs late can actually help sleep.
Sciatica: How to Sleep | Tip #6
Put down the nightcap 2 hours before bed
Drinking alcohol just before sleep has been shown to have a detrimental effect on sleep quality.
I know the common theory is that a whiskey before bed might help to knock you out, but the actual sleep you’ll be getting will be of poorer quality. Put a cork in the bottle 2 hours before bed to feel the difference when sleeping with sciatica.
Sciatica: How to Sleep | Tip #7
Having sex stimulates sleep-boosting hormones!
Probably the best news in this article is that having sex has been proven to release feel-good hormones in the body that encourage deep sleep. A great excuse to not let this type of extra-curricular activity go missing from your schedule, even when you tend to suffer from sciatica at night!
Sciatica: How to Sleep | Tip #8
Try a sleep aid supplement
When trying to work out how to sleep with sciatica, both dropping off and staying that way can be a significant problem.
Sleep aids contain ingredients that are usually natural and encourage a deeper and sustained sleep. They don’t work for everyone and the evidence isn’t exactly overwhelming for their use, but I have had clients who swear by them.
The following sleep aids are some of the best I have either personally used or recommended to clients.
Supplements to Improve Sleeping with Sciatica
The first is this 5-HTP supplement by Nu U. 5-HTP is a fantastic supplement that helps sciatica at night by improving the serotonin production of the human brain, allowing a deeper and more restorative sleep. You’ll likely feel quite tired soon after taking one so be sure to only consume just before bed:
I have also been advocating this NeuroRest supplement below for years. It has a superb combination of all-natural ingredients to help encourage sleep – both dropping off quicker and staying asleep longer. Although a little more expensive than other sleep aids, its popularity is well justified in my opinion:
Sciatica: How to Sleep | Tip #9
Take a nap to make up for lost sleep
The other thing to remember is that taking naps during the day if possible can be a powerful solution to losing sleep at night. Having a 20 minute power nap can make up for hours of sleep lost because of sciatica at night.
The evidence for napping has grown and grown over the last 10 years – the researchers have found that 20 minutes is the optimal length of time to spend napping, and that drinking a coffee just before you lay down for your nap will help you feel energised when you wake up (caffeine takes 25 minutes to enter the blood stream).
So there are my top tips for finding the best way to sleep with sciatica.
Don’t forget to go to bed slightly earlier if possible, too. If you are going to wake up in the night and lose precious minutes of sleep, you need to make those minutes up elsewhere if possible. Getting under the covers half an hour earlier can make a world of difference when sleeping with sciatica.
I hope you have gained something useful from these tips! If you have learned something else about how to sleep with sciatica, please drop a comment below and help others too.
If you know of anyone else that you feel may benefit from this information then please share this article with them to help with sleeping with sciatica, too!
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