Back pain is the worst and low back pain and sleep loss often go hand in hand. Anyone that’s experienced it, knows it.
I know it first-hand, too, since I’ve been suffering with pain on the lower right side of my back on a daily basis.
Your back is tied to every other part of your body, so when you’re dealing with a lingering back injury, it tends to impact everything you do. Just getting out of bed can feel like a major accomplishment when your back is acting up.
That’s why I wasn’t shocked when I came across a new study looking at the connection between a bad night’s sleep and back pain.
The study, done by a group of Norwegian professors, looked at more than 6,000 men and women across a 10-year period.
I won’t get into every detail, but the key takeaway is this: Insomnia and general sleep problems both make it tougher to recover from chronic lower back pain (LBP).
It turns out, a lack of quality sleep doesn’t just make it harder for you to concentrate at work. It also hurts your body’s ability to recover from injuries.
The responses from participants really made this clear. Men who showed two or more insomnia symptoms were 16-18% less likely to recover from LBP than those with no symptoms.
For women, the impact was even starker. Women who reported one insomnia symptom were 19% less likely to recover from LBP than those with no symptoms; women with two or more symptoms saw their recovery likelihood drop between 32-40%.
This is a serious issue. But this isn’t a lost cause, either.
As the researchers pointed out: “preventing or reducing sleep problems among people with chronic LBP may have the potential of improving the long-term prognosis.”
If you’re suffering from back pain, the goal, of course, should be to give yourself the best night’s sleep possible.
To get there, there are a few simple but important steps you can take. From a lifestyle standpoint, limiting your food and alcohol intake before sleep will help prepare your body for a good night’s rest. There are also little tricks, like staying away from your phone before going to sleep, that will help your body reach REM sleep easier.
This is something top athletes like Lakers star LeBron James have started to adopt — making sleep an integral part of their recovery.
I know falling asleep quickly, especially during the week, can be a challenge. You should generally fall asleep about 20 minutes after you to to bed if you are ready to sleep. If you’re having a problem, you might want to try out Sleep Doctor PM, a nighttime spray I personally developed. A few sprays about a half hour before you go to sleep will improve the quality and duration of your sleep, while also alleviating stress and anxiety.
At the same time, your bed also plays a critical role. Think of it like a house: you wouldn’t want to build on sand, obviously, and you don’t want to go to sleep on something that’s going to make your back pain worse. The last thing you need is to be uncomfortable in your bed while fighting an injury. For many people, their mattress is old or worn out but the thought and expense of replacing it may be overwhelming.
The good news is, you don’t necessarily need to buy a new mattress to get better sleep. Instead, consider a mattress topper. Mattress toppers give you a new addition to your sleep foundation and quite often upgrade the quality of the mattress. Mattress toppers are also less expensive than a new mattress and can extend the life of your existing mattress by several years. Check out the 3” Sweet Dreams Topper from Luma Sleep. It’s an affordable and easy way to improve your mattress, and it’s Natural Latex and Serene foams offer the perfect combination of comfort and firmness you need.
Again, back pain is one of the last things you want to deal with. But with a few small tweaks, you can at least help your body the best opportunity to recover, thanks to a good night’s sleep.
And speaking of sleep, it’s going to be even tougher for many of us to get quality rest during the holidays, especially if you are experiencing back pain. Airline travel is the biggest culprit here, as you probably know. It’s almost as if, unless you’re traveling in first class, they’re trying to make it uncomfortable for you in your seat.
I travel a lot, so that’s probably why this recent CNN piece caught my eye. A London-based company is looking to make falling asleep in economy much easier. I know, it sounds impossible. But the company’s plan is to add small “padded wings” to the sides of each chair, allowing passengers to pull them out and lean on them during the flight.
It certainly beats trying to sleep in an upright position while trying not to touch your neighbor. While there isn’t much of a health hazard to sleeping upright on the plane – except for a small increase in the potential for blood clots in your arms in legs – anyone that’s been on a plane understands how difficult it is to get a good night’s sleep while in the air.
I think it’s a pretty interesting concept, and I wouldn’t mind seeing airlines try it out.
In the meantime, making sure you have the right pillow for flying is a big deal.
I know, bringing a pillow on a plane can be a bit of a pain – but it can also save you a great deal of pain, too. If your neck and shoulders don’t get proper support, or your body is propped at an angle, it puts your spine and body out of alignment. This is common on airplanes and leads to strain and discomfort
I wrote about how to pick the perfect pillow, and it’s a good way to get started here. If you’re looking for a last-minute gift for someone else, or just a nice new pillow for yourself, I think it can help out.
Alright, that’s all that’s on my mind this week. I hope the holidays are off to a good start for you, and we’ll check back in at the same time next weekend.
Dr. Michael Breus