If You Deal With Back Pain A Lot, Here's How Sleeping On Your Side Can Make You Feel Better

by Caroline Burke

Sleep is holy, but that doesn't always mean you're necessarily getting an excellent night of shut-eye simply because you closed your eyes and stayed in bed for several hours. The position of your body can affect how well you actually sleep, which inevitably raises some questions. For example, is sleeping on your side bad for you?

First of all, let's clarify something: Any sleep is better than no sleep. Far too often, we throw sleep under the umbrella of "rest" without actually thinking about what that means or why it's important. A proper night of sleep is what allows us to retain and form memories. When you sleep, growth hormones are released to promote bone and muscle development, tissue and muscle repair occurs, and your immune system has a chance to get stronger.

Clearly, even though many of us admittedly take sleep for granted, talking and learning about how we fall asleep is actually pretty serious. So you might want to think a little more about how you're sleeping, quite literally, not just when and for how long you're snoozing.

For one thing, the way that you sleep can either contribute to or help remedy pain in the body.

Specifically, sleeping on your side is an excellent position for anyone who regularly deals with lower back pain.

And even more specifically, sleeping on your side with a pillow between your knees, or sleeping on your side in the fetal position, is pretty good for you. According to Healthline, these are the two best positions for anyone who regularly struggles with lower back pain, because curving your spine creates more space between the vertebrae.

But not everyone naturally falls asleep comfortably or naturally on their side. In fact, only 15 percent of adults report sleeping consistently on their side compared to other positions.

So, if you don't fall into that small percentage of side-sleepers, how do you train yourself to literally sleep differently?

If you have chronic back pain and sleep on your back or stomach, here are some ways to start a habit of sleeping on your side.

First, get the right pillow. And yes, there is an actual science to choosing the proper level of fluff in a pillow: your pillow should support the curve of your neck, and ideally you should try to align your ear, shoulder, and hips with the right pillow.

Next, you should make sure your mattress is supporting you properly. Your mattress should be firm enough to support your body; if it's not, you can try rolling up a towel or taking a pillow and nestling it against your waist and the mattress so that your spine rests comfortably.

One of the easiest ways of getting into the habit of sleeping in a new position is to make sure you're as comfortable as possible. Wear loose clothing, and even practice lying this way while you're doing other stuff, like watching Netflix or reading a book.

Lying on your side tends to happen when you're sleeping with a partner, too.

If you're sleeping with someone else in your bed, your sleep style might naturally shift toward lying on your side — especially after you read all of those articles telling you what your sleep position apparently means for your relationship.

No lie, I've personally panicked once or twice when I woke up to see my boyfriend and I weren't completely intertwined while we were asleep. (Then I realized we were both totally rested and ready to greet the day, and I stopped feeling bad about it.)

But if you're comfortable spooning through the night, then lying on your sides could be a great option to increase intimacy.

After all, research shows that as many as 25 percent of couples fight in bed because of poor sleep, which is often traced back to sleeping positions. For this reason alone, it's important to communicate how you prefer to sleep to your partner. Maybe you guys can lie side by side without lying side against side.

Overall, don't compromise your best shut-eye just to fulfill some idea of how you're "supposed" to be sleeping. Find what works best for you, and if you share the bed with a loved one, make sure there's an open line of communication about what feels most comfortable for both of you.