The Best Sleeping Positions for Sciatic Low Back Pain

Discover the best sleeping positions to alleviate sciatic low back pain and wake up pain-free and refreshed.
Written by
Sean Hiller
Published on
Jun 24, 2024

The Best Sleeping Positions for Sciatic Low Back Pain

Is your back pain keeping you up at night? Waking up with back pain and nerve symptoms shooting down your leg can ruin your sleep and your day. The position you sleep in can make all the difference between a restless night and waking up pain-free and refreshed.

Note: This article is a companion to a video on the Vulcan Performance YouTube channel. You can watch the video below, and if you enjoy this content, make sure to hit the "like" button and subscribe to our channel!

Hi, I'm Dr. Sean Hiller, a physical therapist and certified strength conditioning specialist at Vulcan Performance in Birmingham, Alabama. This article will cover the best sleeping positions for individuals suffering from sciatic low back pain. This is part of our sleeping position series. In other articles, we will also cover the best positions for degenerative disc disease, stenosis, neck pain, and shoulder pain. Let's explore how you can achieve a pain-free night's sleep.

Why Sleeping Position Matters for Sciatica

You might have a favorite sleeping position that used to be comfortable, but now it's causing you pain. Adjusting your position can help alleviate that discomfort. If you’re worried about rolling over into a bad position during the night, we’ll also discuss how to prevent that.

Sciatic low back pain differs from other types of low back pain like degenerative disc or stenotic pain. For sciatica, extension (arching your back) often provides relief. This is why it's crucial to choose a sleeping position that maintains this posture.

Exercises Before Bed

Before you even get into bed, performing some extension-based exercises can help reduce your pain and improve your sleep quality. We have a video on specific exercises for sciatica, which you can find linked in the description of our vlog. Doing these exercises before bed, combined with the right sleeping positions, can make a significant difference.

Bad Sleeping Positions for Sciatica

1. One Leg Up and to the Side

This position creates an uneven, rotated posture where one side of your spine is flexed and the other is extended, leading to increased pain.

2. Sleeping on Your Stomach

While this position can extend your back, it often causes you to roll around. Additionally, having your neck in a dramatically rotated position isn’t ideal for your spine.

3. Fetal Position

Sleeping in a curled-up fetal position places your spine in a flexed posture, which is the opposite of what you want for sciatica relief.

Best Sleeping Positions for Sciatica

1. Flat on Your Back with Pillows

Lie flat on your back with two pillows under your head and one long pillow running from your head to below your mid-back. This setup puts your pelvis into an anterior tilt, extending your lower back. Many people find significant relief in this position.

2. On Your Stomach with Pillows

Place one pillow under your chest and head, and another under your quads. This position keeps your lower back extended and can prevent rolling. It may feel a bit extreme, but it’s effective for some.

Staying in Position All Night

To stay in the right position throughout the night, build a "pillow fort" around you. This setup helps prevent rolling into a painful position while you sleep. Though it might seem simple, it’s a highly effective method.

Long-Term Solutions

You won’t need to sleep like this forever. These positions and additional exercises are all a part of your rehabilitation process. As you progress and your pain goes away, you'll likely be able to return to your favorite sleeping positions without issue.


By using these methods and doing recommended exercises, you can start your journey towards pain-free sleep. Make sure to subscribe to the Vulcan blog so that you can keep up with our upcoming articles providing recommended sleeping positions for  other types of back pain. And if you are in the Birmingham, Alabama area and are experiencing back pain, make sure to schedule a free injury screen at one of our two locations (Mountain Brook or Inverness) to discover the cause of your pain and see if 1-on-1 physical therapy at Vulcan Performance is right for you.

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