If you have sciatica, the burning, tingling, or stabbing pain that radiates from your lower back down through your leg is an uncomfortable annoyance that too often prevents a good night’s sleep.
See What You Need to Know About Sciatica
Using a two-piece wedge cushion can help to alleviate pressure on the sciatic nerve roots in the lumbar spine.
Watch: Pillow Tips for Sciatica Video
Finding a pillow—and a pillow arrangement—that works best for you can increase your chances of getting sufficient sleep. Interested? Here’s a guide for pillows and sleeping with sciatica pain.
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- Find a firm surface. Before considering pillows, take stock of your sleeping surface. While comfort is a matter of personal preference, many people with sciatica opt to sleep on a medium-firm to firm mattress. Some people even prefer sleeping on a yoga mat placed on the floor. A firm surface can provide support and promote spinal alignment.
See Different Types of Pillows
See Best Pillows for Different Sleeping Positions
- Create a supportive reclining position using a two-piece wedge cushion. A two-piece wedge cushion offers a similar position to a reclining chair, but it can be used on the surface of your mattress. The two-piece wedge cushion is designed to prop up your back and elevate your legs, which can take pressure off the nerve roots in your lumbar spine, and may offer you enough relief to fall asleep.
- Recline with 2 plump pillows behind your back and 1 to 2 flat pillows under your knees. If a two-piece wedge cushion is out of your budget range, or takes up too much space on your bed, stack two plump, dense pillows behind your shoulders and tuck a flat pillow or two underneath your knees and upper calves to elevate your legs.
- Use pillows to keep you from rolling onto your side. For many people with sciatica, sleeping on their side exacerbates the pain. You can use pillows to hedge yourself in while you sleep on your back. This simple trick can prevent you from accidentally rolling over in your sleep.
- Side sleepers: place a contoured pillow in between your knees. If you prefer sleeping on your side, there are methods you can try to get a good sleep despite the sciatica pain. You may benefit from using a contoured pillow, shaped to fit snugly and comfortably between your legs at the knee. A contoured pillow can help reduce lumbar spine pressure and keep your body aligned.
- Side sleepers: sleep with a larger-sized pillow. A pillow with a large surface area that you can position under your head and against your chest may help bring you comfort while sleeping on your side. You can try a pillow that features customizable thickness levels, allowing you to find a height and density that feels most comfortable to you.
- Try sleeping on your stomach with a pillow under your hips. It is generally best to avoid sleeping on your stomach, but if you try sleeping on your stomach, be sure to place a flat pillow underneath your hips to keep your spine aligned. Use a flat pillow—or no pillow at all—underneath your head, in order to prevent neck strain.
Sciatica pain has various underlying causes, and the medical cause of the sciatica pain may influence what sleep position feels more comfortable. If you give one or more of these tips a try, you may find a more restful and restorative night’s sleep.
See Sciatica Causes
When Sciatica Pain Is a Medical Emergency