When you live with chronic pain, sleeping can be, well, a pain. Not only does the physical pain keep you awake at night, just knowing that you need sleep to help you feel better can cause an inner thought battle that keeps your mind racing as you’re trying to get some shuteye. To help you stop counting sheep and start catching some zzz’s, we’ve compiled the best sleeping positions for pain management.
You need sleep to manage pain
People who live with chronic pain, or who are recovering from injuries, need to ensure they get adequate sleep to allow their bodies time to heal. Energy consumption is lowered while you sleep, which allows the body to re-fuel and regenerate. An abundance of human growth hormone (HGH) is secreted as you sleep, which works to heal your muscles and bones, while also giving your immune system a much-needed boost.
Your body is pretty incredible, and can fight infections and regulate hormones while you’re sleeping, working hard to repair any damage done during the day. Additionally, your heart gets a break while you sleep, slowing down to between 10 and 30 beats per minute.
However, injuries and/or chronic pain can make it extremely hard to fall and stay asleep, leading to a cycle of frustration, potentially causing the pain to worsen. While it can initially be difficult to train your body to sleep in a certain position, these small changes can make all the difference when it comes to treating pain, injury and/or illness.
If you are in pain and having trouble sleeping, take a look at the major injuries and their related sleeping positions in the infographic from Dromma below. Additionally, try these sleeping positions for pain management:
- Above the shoulders
If you feel the injury or pain in your head, elevating it is the best option. Additionally, sleeping on your back with relaxed arms is the best way to decrease blood flow to the head, which can help to ease pain.
For neck pain, you will want to do the opposite — sleep with a flat pillow or no pillow to release any pressure from your neck. Sleeping on your back and placing a pillow underneath your knees can also help relieve any pressure on your neck. Use this same method for rib pain, lying on your back with a pillow under your knees.
2) Back and shoulders
Sleeping techniques are slightly different for back pain, depending on whether you’re experiencing pain in your lower or upper back. If the pain is in the lower back, lying face up with a pillow under your knees is the best option. For lower back pain, lying on your side can be helpful, as long as a pillow is placed between your knees.
The approach for shoulder pain is similar to that for lower back pain, with your pained shoulder facing the ceiling and your affected arm elevated. If your arm is broken or a wrist injury is involved, the best position is facing the ceiling, with minimal pillows under your head, pillows under your knees and arm, elevating it above the body.
3) Hips and legs
For hip pain, your injured hip should be elevated by lying on the opposite side. Place a pillow in between your legs for added support. If there is an injury to your ankle or legs, keep them elevated by using one or two pillows as a prop.
In general, most people should avoid sleeping on their stomachs, as it puts stress on your back and could cause neck injuries. Already in the habit of stomach sleeping? To stop yourself from rolling over in your sleep try wearing a t-shirt with a tennis ball in the front pocket, or place pillows on either side of your body.