Tips for Getting to Sleep with Back Pain

My recent features in the Daily Mirror and Daily Express newspapers (above) looked at back pain and some tricks to help fix it.

As anyone with an achy back will know, the pain can keep you awake at night.

My book 222 Ways to Trick Yourself to Sleep has plenty of tips to help you get a peaceful night’s slumber, including some exercises and things to do that can help ease a stiff and aching spine.

In the meantime, here are some tips you can try:


An Oklahoma State University study took a group of healthy volunteers who were sleeping on mattresses that were on average nine and a half years old and who were experiencing back pain and disturbed sleep. The study leaders kitted them out with new medium-firm mattresses for 28 days, and guess what? The volunteers reported better sleep and less painful backs.


Your back muscles are prone to injury first thing in the morning as they may have stiffened up through the night. So, start every day safely by stretching and warming them up before rising. Lying on your back, first bring one knee upwards toward your chest, then the other. Next, hold your lower legs and bring both knees towards your chest, hugging them there for 10 seconds.  Then, rather than using your back muscles to lever yourself up into a sitting position to get out of bed, try log-rolling instead: from lying on your back, roll onto the side you get out of bed, bring your knees upwards so they’re partly off the edge of the bed, then drop your legs to the floor as you use your top hand to push downwards on the bed to help yourself upright to a sitting position.


Sitting puts more pressure on our spine and discs than standing, says Tim Allardyce, physiotherapist at, and as some of us spend 10 hours a day on our bottoms (at work, on the sofa, in the car) that’s bad news for our backs.  “Our spines love movement, so get up and move around every 20-30 minutes if you can,” he says. “To improve mobility in your back, do some stretches: standing up, run your hand down the outside of your leg to create a side-bend to the spine. Repeat the other side, several times each side.”


60-seconds of rotation stretches will help mobilise your spine when you’ve been sitting a while, whether at home or work. “Sitting upright with good posture, twist around to one side to touch the back of your chair, then repeat the opposite side,” says Tim. Repeat several times each side.


Healthy spinal discs (which act to cushion the vertebrae) contain plenty of water. Through the day, gravity squeezes water out of the discs, which could lead to back pain. So be sure to regularly replenish them by taking one-minute water breaks every hour. Buy a bottle and mark it every 200 milliletres, labelling each line with the hour of the day. Aim for at least 2 litres daily.


This Pilates move relieves tension in the back, increases mobility in the spine and can help improve posture by stretching out the vertebrae – and it’s a perfect move at the end of every day. “In my classes, this is a favourite instant back pain reliever,” says Sarah Vrancken, founder of “Stand so that your ankles, hips and shoulders are in line. Whilst breathing out, nod your head towards your chest and then, vertebrae by vertebrae, slowly roll down your spine without pushing your hips back. Just imagine that from the hips down, your body is made out of stone; it cannot move (the movement needs to come from the spine). When you’re as far down as you can comfortably go, breathe out, then roll upwards, vertebrae by vertebrae, stacking each one on top of each other, as if you’re building a tower on top of your tailbone. Repeat four times.”

Don’t forget to check out my book 222 Ways to Trick Yourself to Sleep for plenty more tips on getting to sleep more easily!

Photos by Form,  Ty Carlson, K8 and  Steve Johnson on Unsplash 

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