How Does Sleep Affect Back Pain?

How Does Sleep Affect Back Pain?

If you’ve ever had an ache in your lower back, you can be counted among the 80% of adults that experience back pain in their lifetimes. Another survey showed that more than 25% of adults reported back pain in the last three months. Lower back pain may be common, but treating it is not always straightforward.

Potential treatments for back pain include muscle relaxants, pain relief medication and physical therapy. Surgery may even be recommended for some people. However, these treatments don’t always work for everyone, which leads many people to alternative pain relief methods, like chiropractic care. However, there may be an even simpler way to relieve back pain: sleeping more.

Sleep Deprivation Increases Pain Sensitivity

If your back aches a little, it may feel like it is a lot more painful if you’re sleep deprived. Multiple studies have shown that sleep-deprived people are more responsive to pain. In a study where participants were asked to expose their fingers to a radiant heat, sleep-deprived participants withdrew their finger in a shorter time than when they were well-rested. This finding implies that not sleeping enough (at least seven hours per night) is hyperalgesic, which means increased sensitivity to pain.

If you're not sleeping enough hours, your lower back pain could feel worse than it would otherwise.

Sleep Deprivation Affects Pain Medication

Sleep deprived people may be both more sensitive to pain and less able to treat it with medication. A study showed that the pain-relieving effect of codeine was reduced when participants didn’t get enough sleep. Once again, the sleepy people were less able to stand the pain of a radiant heat even though they had a pain relief drug in their system.

Sleeping a sufficient amount may help any pain relief medication that you are taking be more effective.

Sleeping as a Pain Treatment

Taking steps to sleep better may also help reduce your pain. It can be difficult to sleep with back pain, but having the right bedroom setup may help. Your bed should support proper spinal alignment for your sleeping position. Compare mattresses to see which one is better for your preferred sleeping position (back, stomach or side). Side sleepers may need a softer mattress than back sleepers. Chiropractic care may also help with spinal alignment and allow you to rest more easily. Yoga and meditation have also shown promise as methods to sleep better despite stress and pain.

You can also take steps to reduce disruptions in your bedroom while you’re trying to sleep. Blackout curtains can dim the lights of passing cars or allow you to rest during sunlight hours. A white noise machine can drown out disruptive sounds that may wake you in the night. Think of what disturbs you while you sleep and address the issues.

Back pain affects most adults at some point in their lives. Take care of yourself by addressing the pain with proper treatments and a good night’s rest.