There are several ways a person can help manage sciatica at night, including adjusting sleep positions and trying pain relief remedies before bed.
Sciatic nerve pain typically starts in the lower back or buttocks and radiates to the back of the thigh and legs or feet. When it occurs at night, it can affect a person’s sleep quality and duration.
A person can help manage and prevent pain through strategies that include adopting certain sleep positions and taking steps to manage pain before bedtime.
In this article, we will review some of the best and worst sleep positions for sciatica, pain relief tips, and when to contact a doctor.
Certain sleeping positions may help take pressure off the sciatic nerve, which may help decrease pain. Experts recognize that supporting the lumbar spine
Sleep positions that help support the lumbar spine may help. This can include sleeping in the fetal position or on the side with a pillow between the knees. If lying on the back, a person may wish to place an additional pillow below their knees or under their lower spine.
If possible, a person may want to consider switching mattresses or getting a mattress topper that helps support all parts of the spine. The design of many modern mattresses can help maintain the natural alignment of the spine and take pressure off the lower back.
It is best for a person to take some time to try different positions and see what works best for them. Not everyone will respond well to the same positions. Testing different positions, mattresses, and pillows may help.
It is best to avoid any position in bed that causes additional pain.
These may be positions that cause compression or twisting of the lower back, such as sleeping on the stomach. If sleeping on their front, a person can place a pillow under the pelvis or lower belly to help maintain the arch of the back. However, this may result in some neck discomfort due to turning the head one way or the other.
It is also best to avoid remaining in bed for long periods. Movement generally helps improve pain associated with sciatica.
Sciatica may improve without much need for medical intervention if a herniated disc is the cause. About 80–90% of people see improvements after a few weeks of nonsurgical treatment.
A person can try several different strategies shortly before bedtime to help improve their sciatic nerve pain,
- applying hot or cold packs
- gently stretching the lumbar spine and legs
- avoiding sitting or standing for long periods
- using proper posture throughout the day
In addition, exercises can help a person improve their core strength. When lifting, it is best to practice good form. Experts recommend people also do light cardio, such as walking or swimming.
However, it is best to avoid exercising right before bedtime to prevent trouble sleeping. According to a 2019 study, finishing with exercise at least 90 minutes before bedtime may help ensure a person can fall asleep as they typically would.
Experts recommend people consider contacting a doctor if they experience persistent sciatic nerve pain during the day or night. Since sciatica itself is not a diagnosis, an underlying condition is likely the cause.
A doctor can help determine the underlying cause and provide treatment specific to the condition. After this, a person should notice their symptoms start to improve. A doctor may also prescribe medications to help manage symptoms, such as pain, at night or during the day.
Without management, sciatic nerve pain at night can interfere with sleep. Though a doctor may recommend over-the-counter or prescription medications, a person may also be able to take some steps to help prevent and relieve their pain at home.
Steps for management can include switching sleep positions, stretching, using hot or cold packs, and avoiding long periods of standing or sitting throughout the day. People may also find that regular light exercise, increasing core strength, and practicing proper form when lifting can help them manage and prevent pain.
When experiencing this kind of pain for the first time, or if the pain is difficult to manage at home, a person may wish to consider consulting a doctor to determine the underlying cause. The doctor can provide suitable treatment and help a person find relief.