The Best Sleeping Positions for Sciatica – And The Worst One

best sleeping positions for sciatica

There are no doubts about it – sciatica is painful and can cause a lot of discomforts, mostly because of the sciatic nerve issues. The affection is more and more common these days, mostly because of unhealthy lifestyles that target the back – plus, injuries and accidents may also cause the problematic medical condition.

There are lots of difficulties patients must deal with, from leg pain and lower back discomfort to sensations that will affect the quality of life. The affection can be healed naturally, while most severe cases may require surgery. One of the common issues with sciatica relates to the sleeping position. Some positions can reduce the pain, while others aggravate it. Now, what are the best sleeping positions for sciatica?

Finding the perfect position can be a bit tricky. You try everything and no matter how you sleep, there will always be some issues. You try to sleep on a side, but you experience pain. You go on your back, but your neck feels uncomfortable because of the pillow. There are all kinds of adjustments you need to make – plus, you have to consider pressure on other parts of the body too.

Best sleeping positions for sciatica

1. Sleeping on the back

If you ask a doctor about the best sleeping positions for sciatica, most of them will recommend going on your back. No matter how far the painful sensation spreads throughout the body, it originates from the same place – the irritated sciatic nerve. In other words, you need to focus on relieving pressure on the respective area – lumbar discs and the lower back. This is what makes sleeping on the back so good.

However, there are a few rules to follow. To get in the perfect position, you need to lie on the back. You must ensure every port of the body is in contact with your mattress. Once you reach this position, elevate your knees a little and place a pillow under it. This aspect will relieve the pressure on the lower back, meaning your pains will be ameliorated.

sleeping on the back

There are no general rules regarding the amount of pillows you need. Some patients will do it with a relatively flat pillow – not too tall, but quite comfortable. Some others may need a couple of pillows and a bit of height for their knees. You have to experiment and figure out yourself what works for your specific condition.

The position might feel a little unnatural – well, it is. It will take a few nights to get used to it. You will naturally feel like drifting in your natural sleeping position. All in all, to help the transition, you can come up with some extra pillows on each side of the back. You can also add some pillows under the arms, as well as a regular pillow under the neck.

2. Pillow under the neck

A pillow under the neck may feel comfortable for some and totally unnatural for others – after all, the top of the spine is not straight. It is not a natural position and may cause a stiff neck in the morning. Again, you have to experiment to figure out what you need. Keep in mind that while finding the perfect position for sciatica, you have to think about the potential pressure on other parts of the body too.

pillow under the neck

If you experience neck pains, simply take the pillow under your neck away. If you still find it uncomfortable, you can also try out a few soft pillows under your hips or lower back. This type of pillow must be small and super soft – it might as well be a small cushion. You are only trying to reduce the pressure on nerves and ligaments in the respective area.

3. Sleeping on the side

Sleeping on the side is the second most recommended sleeping position for sciatica. Tell a doctor sleeping on your back does not work for you and they will recommend the side posture as one of the best sleeping positions for sciatica. Sleeping on this side will relieve most of the pressure in the lower back, but it also comes with extra benefits.

For example, lots of people end up snoring if they sleep on their backs. Some others find the posture relaxing while watching TV or reading a book, but not while sleeping. Loads of people sleep on their sides and this posture is just as helpful – yet not as efficient as sleeping on the back. It is a middle compromise that you should not overlook.

sleeping on the side

You are not sleeping on the back, so any area around the sciatic nerve – discs or muscles – will not be exposed to any pressure at all. But then, sleeping on a side in a crunched position is not good. For this posture to work against sciatica, you must align everything – hips and spin. The knees can go up towards the chest a little, but make sure the back and hips are straight and well aligned.

To get into position, lie on the side that feels less painful. Get an extra pillow for the arm, one for the neck and a couple of pillows for your knees – they go between the knees. Push your knees a bit towards the chest – stick to a 90 degree angle for maximum efficiency. The pillows going between them will release some of the pressure on the lower back.

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Sleeping on the stomach

Long story short, sleeping on the stomach will not help against the affection. It is not among the best sleeping positions for sciatica – in fact, most doctors will advise against this posture because it is not healthy at all. It will not relieve the painful sensations and the pressure – instead, it will aggravate these problems.

Those who are not suffering from sciatica should also avoid this sleeping position. It is likely to cause more damage and discomfort to the lower back. The natural curve of your spine will also go flat overtime. Plus, this sleeping position puts a lot of pressure on the associated nerve, shoulders, neck and so on – the only position you are supposed to avoid no matter what.

Sleeping on the stomach

At the same time, sleeping on the stomach has been linked with numerous other medical affections, apart from sciatica. This posture may increase the risk of herniated discs. Lower back muscles and nerves are more likely to get injured and experience discomfort – besides, you will be more fragile in front of potential injuries if you have a physically demanding job.


Bottom line, these are some of the best sleeping positions for sciatica. Going on your back is by far the easiest and most efficient way to sleep if you want to relieve pain and experience a better sleep at night. The side posture is also accepted. No matter which option you choose, a few extra pillows are highly recommended for an even more comfortable experience.

On the other hand, sleeping on your stomach may seem comfortable, but it is highly contraindicated – not only for sciatica patients, but also for healthy individuals who try to prevent problems associated with lower back pains and pressure.​

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