Sciatica symptoms don’t take time off to accommodate your sleep schedule. The burning sensation in your calf or throbbing pain in your foot can jolt you awake at any hour—if you’re lucky enough to fall asleep.

To help you find relief—and regain control of your sleep schedule—here are 3 little-known tips for sleeping with sciatica:

See Chronic Pain and Insomnia: Breaking the Cycle

Using a pillow to elevate your knees in bed can help to alleviate sciatica symptoms.
3 Tips for Sleeping with Sciatica Video

1. Elevate your knees

Your sciatica flares up when 1 of the 5 sciatic nerve roots in your lower back is compressed or irritated. Sleeping with your knees elevated may alleviate your symptoms by minimizing the pressure your lumbar discs place on your nerve roots.

Watch Video: What Is Your Sciatic Nerve and Why Does It Hurt So Much?

Interested? Here’s how to do it:

  • Lie flat on your back—keep your heels and buttocks in contact with the bed and bend your knees slightly towards the ceiling.
  • Slide a pillow between your bed and your knees for support. Slowly add additional pillows until you find a comfortable knee position.
  • Don’t despair if you don’t find relief after a few days; no single sleep position works for everyone. Keep experimenting and you may find that a different position minimizes your sciatic pain and allows you to sleep through the night.

See Mattresses and Sleep Positions for Each Back Pain Diagnosis


2. Enjoy a bath before bed

A warm bath can help you sleep by encouraging the release of pain-fighting endorphins and relaxing the muscles around your sciatic nerve roots.

  • Some people with sciatica find it’s easiest to fall asleep immediately after a bath, while others like to read a book or knit after a soak. There is no right or wrong way—but as part of practicing good sleep hygiene try to follow the same schedule every night.
  • The temperature of your water should be warm and pleasant, not hot. Hot water can make it difficult to fall asleep by raising your body temperature.
  • If a nightly soak isn’t for you, there are plenty of other heat therapy options. Try applying a hot water bottle to your lower back/buttock or consider sleeping with an adhesive back wrap that provides continuous, low-level heat.

See Sleep Aids for People with Chronic Pain

3. Consider ditching your mattress

Some people find that sleeping on the floor relieves their sciatica symptoms—though experts disagree over the potential merits and drawbacks.

Here are a few pointers if you want to give it a try:

  • For sanitary reasons, avoid sleeping directly on the floor, instead try a yoga mat or large beach towel.
  • Don’t give up after one night—you may struggle to adjust to the firmness of the ground. Give it a week, and if your symptoms remain unchanged—or you still can’t sleep because you miss your mattress—retire your yoga mat or towel.
  • You might find that sleeping on a firm surface alleviates your sciatic pain, but, for a variety of reasons, you may not like sleeping on the floor. If this is the case, consider purchasing a firm mattress or removing the box spring from under your bed.

See Additional Factors That Affect Sleep Comfort

I hope all of the above advice will help you find relief from your sciatica symptoms and enjoy a more restful night’s sleep.

Learn more:

Using Medication to Manage Pain and Reduce Sleep Problems

Diagnosing the Cause of Sciatica