“If I lay on my side, the pressure pads would dig into my body, leaving bruises,” she said of her teenage years lying prone in a brace all night. “If I lay on my back, the top of the brace would dig into my neck. If I lay on my stomach, the front of the brace would constrict and pinch my skin.”
It’s a problem many people with scoliosis are familiar with, whether they wear a brace or not. The spine’s abnormal curvature causes pain at night and makes slumbering difficult. Many wonder: What’s the best scoliosis sleeping position?
In many cases, a few simple modifications to your sleeping arrangements can make a world of difference. Follow these scoliosis sleeping tips to get a better night’s sleep:
1. Choose a Quality Mattress
When you have scoliosis, it’s crucial to sleep on a mattress that adequately supports your back’s neutral position. Since mattresses tend to lose their upper layers of support over time, a high-quality firm or medium-firm mattress is ideal.
If you use a topper for added comfort, make sure it’s no more than 3 inches thick. Extra thickness might feel good initially, but it can deprive your spine of much-needed support.
2. Find the Right Sleeping Position
An improper sleeping position doesn’t cause or advance scoliosis. But an optimal one can help provide some relief.
For people with scoliosis, sleeping positions can play a key role in managing pain and optimizing breathing. But an abnormal spinal curve can make finding a comfortable position difficult.
Your doctor may suggest a sleeping position based on your individual circumstances. In general, it’s best to sleep is with your spine in a neutral position. That’s why our doctors don’t recommend sleeping on your stomach, which arches your back and puts your neck in an unnatural position, placing extra stress on your spine. Preferred positions include:
- Side—More than 60 percent of Americans are side sleepers, and many people with scoliosis find this the most comfortable position. It helps keep the spine straight and neutral, which can minimize strain on the spine’s nerves. Other benefits to side sleeping include less risk of sleep apnea, better sleep quality and better brain circulation.
- Back—Although just 14 percent of Americans sleep on their backs, some doctors recommend it for scoliosis patients because it distributes your weight evenly across your body’s widest surface. When combined with a firm mattress, it can also help reduce the roundedness of the spine in patients with hyperkyphosis.
3. Support Your Spine with Pillows
The strategic placement of pillows can help support your curves while keeping your spine neutral at night. For your head, avoid large pillows—they’ll push your spine out of alignment, compromising your breathing and augmenting neck pain.
Small pillows (or even rolled-up towels) are handy for supporting your spine in other places, as well. Depending on the type of your curve, you might want to try the following:
- Thoracic curve—For scoliosis curves in the upper back, sleeping on your back with a thin pillow under your shoulder blades can help take the pressure off. If you prefer sleeping on your side, a pillow tucked between your legs helps open up the spinal canal. You can also place one under your upper ribcage to support your spine.
- Lumbar curve—When scoliosis affects the lower spine, you may need to experiment with different sleeping positions. Stick a pillow either directly underneath or right above your lower back for extra support. It might also help to add a small pillow beneath your neck (in addition to your regular pillow).
Before you start manipulating your spine with pillows or other devices, it’s best to check with your doctor, who can help make sure your sleeping position doesn’t restrict the flow blood or spinal fluid in your body.
4. Treat Scoliosis Naturally
Back braces, which are often prescribed in an attempt to block curve progression, cause a lot of pain and discomfort. Wearing one can make it even harder to sleep at night. What’s worse, braces are largely ineffective at treating scoliosis.
The ScoliSMART Activity Suit offers a less invasive alternative. Instead of forcing your spine into a specific position for hours on end, our activity suit harnesses the energy of your natural movements to create new muscle memory and stabilize asymmetrical muscle firing. This helps reduce the risk of curve progression and provides long-term relief from scoliosis pain—both of which can help you sleep at night.
For those with scoliosis, deep sleep can be elusive. These sleep tips for scoliosis pain can help relieve discomfort so you can get the rest you need.