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Published on January 29, 2019

How to Sleep with Lower Back Pain Using These 13 Tips

How to Sleep with Lower Back Pain Using These 13 Tips

Your clock began with just a blink of how late it had gotten. Now, it screams at you that the night is far underway. Yet, there you remain – awake and still uncomfortable.

Perhaps, you had just barely begun to doze when the pain unfairly awakened you. Sleeping with lower back pain is not always as easy as just lying down and closing your eyes. You must plan ahead for a proper – and enjoyable – night’s sleep.

Preparing your mind and body for rest is just as important as preparing your sleeping space.

So how to sleep with lower back pain?

Let us help you figure out a few alterations that may help you sleep better tonight. From that, you will be more equipped to choose which tips will most benefit you.

Where to Start?

It is no secret that exercise, food, and rest each have a balance that is required for general health. Creating an environment in which you can relax is imperative for minimizing tension. So, how can you do this if your body is in pain?

If a back injury has been sustained, the first step is to ensure that the source of the pain has been eliminated or is under review. If you are aware of an injury, it is best to ensure that proper care is received for the best chance of a timely and effective recovery.

If you are uncertain what may have caused the pain, speak with a medical professional to determine what may be needed for recovery.

How to Sleep Better Tonight

What can you do at home to help work through some of the pain for a better night’s sleep? Perhaps, it is already bedtime and you are just now realizing that pain from the day has begun to settle into your lower back. What can you do to get through tonight? What can you do to be ready for tomorrow night…and the next night?

Let’s look at some new ideas for sleeping with lower back pain. Find a couple that you want to try first. Combine them, mix them up, and find out what works for you. Alternate some of the options to keep it interesting. Be sure to incorporate any information given to you by your chiropractic doctor.

Take one or two nights with each of these 13 sleeping tips for lower back pain. Decide which ones help you the most. Feel free to adjust each concept to your lifestyle and physical needs.

1. Recognize the Power of Your Brain

The human brain is an incredible tool for directing what happens throughout the body. Pain signals are sent to the thalamus telling us that pain is present.[1]

What does the brain do? It sends a signal telling our hand to, “Move! There is something beneath your hand that is too hot for your skin to handle!” How do we respond? We yank our hand into the air, “Ouch! I’m not sitting on that park bench!”

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Why is it important to understand the brain’s power? Recognizing that the pain is part of the brain’s alert system can help us see that something isn’t as it should be within the body. This is especially important for us as humans because we cannot feasibly walk around with an MRI or X-Ray machine and constantly take stock of our insides. Pain signals take care of this for us. They act as an alert system that can help stop us from causing further damage.

Does that mean that we have to like the pain? Of course not! We can, however, take the messages from those pain signals and use them to help direct us to a reasonable recovery.

Will we always get rid of all pain all the time? That depends on the cause for the pain and what steps are taken to minimize its source, as well as any underlying conditions that may require medical attention.

Will crashing on a snowboard be automatically healed simply by recognizing the pain? Nope – but rather than going along day by day in hopes that the pain will subside magically on its own, recognizing the pain’s presence is a great first step.

2. Understand the Relationship Between Pain and Tension

Pain and tension have a closer relationship than we might realize. You may even hold your breath to avoid sending movement through your body in times of great pain.

Helping tight, tense, and sore muscles to relax release the tension held in them can help get you on the way to feeling better faster.

If an injury is present, we may easily compensate for the pain by using other muscles more. Holding tension in one portion of the body to avoid pain puts greater strain on the surrounding muscles.

Chronic pain can easily find its way into your life through stress and tension that is not dispensed with regularly.[2] Pain is often increased by our desire to resist its presence on our bodies. You may find that the pain becomes greater with a lack of sleep. An ache may start small and become progressive with little or no sleep.

3. Be Warm, Not Hot or Cold – Especially During Sleep

The human body shivers to gain warmth when it is cold. This brings tension to the muscles. We may not even realize this added tension until warmth is regained.

If pain is present and muscle tension is increased, we risk further stressing the neuromuscular system. Our nerve endings can detect changes in temperature.[3]

Not only does this take them away from their job as pain signal devices in the body, it also alerts them that an adjustment should be made. Allowing the body to stay cold for long periods during the day can cause the body to retain unnecessary tension, which may increase pain.

Sleeping too hot can simply make us uncomfortable and prevent sufficient REM sleep. Tossing and turning because your body is trying to dispense heat does not help you eliminate back pain while sleeping. Rather, it can put increased stress on your body during the time when it is meant to be recovering.

4. Try Not to Procrastinate: Understand that Hard Work Deserves a Break

Allow yourself to rest and rejoice after working hard. Try not to push a task to the end of its time. Plan to work hard and then take a break. Schedule breaks into undesirable endeavors – and then allow yourself to enjoy those breaks.

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Why is this important for lower back pain? Back pain is often the result of overworked muscles. If an injury has occurred in the past or if you are seeking to recover and avoid chronic back pain, you need to let your muscles take a break.

If your mind is geared to finish a task but you find that your body is not willing, planned break times might help you feel as though you are still on task.

Break bigger projects up into separate days. Enlist the help of a relative or neighbor and enjoy the scheduled break together. Why is this important for sleeping with pain?

If you can work to minimize or eliminate pain before it gets underway, you are less likely to be troubled by pain as you sleep.

5. Create a Balance in Your Body

Recognize the work your lower back does to help the rest of your body. Try to take some of the stress off of your lower back by treating your body as a complete unit. We do not mean that you must fill your time with crunches or a complicated weightlifting regimen.

Simply, your body will heal itself more efficiently if it is permitted to function as a unit. When you rest, it is time to allow your body to relax and rejuvenate itself from the interior – all the way through your extremities. Yes, over time working on core muscles can help with lower back pain. Thinking about intense workout procedures while you are in pain may not be so desirable.

Instead, choose a few stretches or yoga poses that can help your body relax and function more efficiently. Choose positions that bring you joy and do not cause pain. You might be a bit uncomfortable if you have not tried stretching techniques for lower back pain – but the rewards are amazing once you get the hang of it!

6. Work to Clear Your Mind

Fixating on your lower back pain will not help you rest or heal. Find activities that help you separate the pain you experienced during the day from your sleeping routine. In the evening, enjoy a favorite book. Go for a walk outside. Play with the kids – make a mess!

Find something that makes you laugh! Take your mind off of the pain as much as you can a few hours before it is time to put your head on your pillow. Clear your mind of anything that distracts you from joy.

7. Focus on Your Breathing Patterns

Breathing is something that our bodies naturally do by design. We often simply do not realize that we are taking in oxygen and dispensing carbon dioxide.

However, if an event takes place and we are not permitted to complete this basic physical task, we won’t live long.

Focusing on the body’s ability to be so completely amazing is a wonderful way in which we can divert our attention from pain.

8. Meditate as You Prepare to Sleep

Meditating for a better night’s rest can increase your ability to rest comfortably. While taking a moment to ponder and reflect at any time of day may be helpful, taking a moment to decompress shortly before sleep offers another level of relaxation.

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Similar to a focus on your breathing, find something else for your brain to interact with as you lie in bed attempting to sleep. Plan to enjoy a few moments in your preferred sleep position as you allow your eyes and ears to interact with something that calms you.

You may find these night time meditation techniques beneficial:

  • Select a night light that slowly dims up and down. Enjoy watching the color(s) change as you prepare your mind for sleep. Ensure that the light shown does not become bright enough to alert your ‘daytime’ thinking. Blues and greens are best if available.
  • Look out of your window and watch the sky, a storm, or the trees blowing.
  • Listen to the sounds of your home. What do you hear? Wind rustling outside?
  • Place an interesting image that glows in the dark on your ceiling. Observe how this image is shaped or designed. What do you appreciate about the image?
  • Enjoy a projection night light that throws your favorite design onto the wall or ceiling. Some children’s night lights offer fun cartoon images, too!
  • If you prefer having your eyes closed, consider listening to your favorite calming music for a few moments. Listen to the words, and focus on trying to hear phrases you may have missed in the past. If you prefer to listen to sounds without words, classical music, ocean sounds, or rustling river sounds may be preferred. Try to follow the sounds with your mind.

With this many meditation ideas, it will take several days to try them all! Be sure to allow your body to relax during this time.

Once you feel somewhat comfortable in bed, begin with whatever technique you have chosen for that night. The idea is to distance your mind from the day you just enjoyed (or endured).

Getting started is often the most difficult part. You may desire to set a timer if your chosen technique utilizes technology. Set it for 30 minutes and adjust up or down as desired the next evening.

Meditation is also a wonderful way to work through pain that may arise overnight. Be mindful of the sleeping habits of others. You may want to think ahead and have one of the techniques ‘ready to activate’ in case you do wake up from back pain and are unable to sleep.

9. Discover What Actions or Positions Cause or Increase Pain

You may already be well aware of what positions are the most and least painful for sleeping with lower back pain. However, have you tried really relaxing as you search for comfortable positions? Moving around trying to find comfort can easily cause temporary tension in your muscles.

Choose a position that is moderately comfortable, and take the time to breathe in and out 8 to 10 times without moving from that position. Give your muscles time to dissipate the tension in them.

Releasing tension from overworked muscles can be hard at first. Give yourself time to feel the difference in how your lower back responds to the decrease in tension.

You may or may not need to dramatically alter your preferred sleeping position. If you prefer to sleep on your side, simply place a pillow between your knees to align your spine.

Back sleeper? Ensure that your back is supported by your sleeping surface so that it does not bow and cause your muscles to strain overnight. You might prefer a pillow under your knees. Stomach sleepers may benefit from placing a pillow at or just above the hips for added support.

Many people simply do not realize the importance of their pillow for lower back pain. Too thick or too thin, your pillow may place your spine into a position that creates too much pressure on your lower back.[4] Choose a pillow that places your head in alignment with your spine.

10. Understand How Proper Support Helps the Lower Back While Sleeping

Be prepared to adjust your sleeping position a few times each night. Your spine contains sections that permit you to bend and move as you direct. The ability to twist and contort is a wonderful feature if you must reach something on a shelf. When you sleep, your body still retains the same ability for movement.

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As you lie down, your body conforms to the space on which you place it. Shoulders and hips tend to push into the surface beneath you. Your middle may curve too far pulling your back muscles into a position that creates undue stress on your spine and back muscles.[5]

If this is the case for any length of time, your lower back is likely to complain to your brain, “Help, I’m having trouble completing what you are asking me to do while your body is asleep! I can’t do this anymore. I need support down here!”

11. Decide Not to Utilize a Mobile Device if Awake Due to Pain

The light projected directly into our eyes from a device with backlighting can trick our brains into thinking that daylight is present. Why is this important? If you are awakened by lower back pain and wish to return to sleep, telling your body that morning is close does not give your brain a true perspective of your need for rest.

A mobile device may help take your mind off of the pain for a time – but it will not be the best thing for returning to dreamland.

If you really must read something, consider a few moments with an old school flashlight and paper.[6] Then, perhaps, focus on your breathing, meditate, stretch in bed, or adjust your sleeping position accordingly. (Be sure not to awaken your sleeping partner.)

12. Consider How External Factors Play a Role

Is something, in addition to lower back pain, causing you to be awake (e.g., caffeine, stress, particular unpleasant sounds)? If so, include changes to those matters in your preparations for sleep.

Are there external factors that add to your lower back pain (e.g., work requirements, exercise choices, yardwork, childcare considerations)? Existing pain will not likely diminish if the situation that caused it still exists in your life.

You may find that once you remove some of the sleep inhibitors, it will be easier for your body to allow you to sleep in spite of any remaining lower back pain.

13. Inquire with a Musculoskeletal Expert

Work with your chiropractor to determine the source of your lower back pain. Medical imaging can be done to ensure that possible injuries are properly assessed. From that, you and your chiropractor can work to set a goal for an efficient recovery. Receiving care as early as possible is beneficial for helping to avoid chronic back pain.

If your back pain has already been present for some time, your body may have begun to heal and simply is not able to properly tell your brain that the major injury itself is no longer present. Chiropractic care works to realign joints so that nerves can more efficiently send communications to the brain.

In opposition, you may be experiencing pain symptoms that mean your body still retains an injury and needs healing. Not sure what chiropractic care does for lower back pain? Chiropractic care seeks to find the source of pain and eliminate it from within the musculoskeletal and neuromuscular systems in the body.[7]

Finding Your Next Step

Which tips will you try this evening? Consider observing your breathing, meditating, and clearing your mind at various times throughout the day.

Releasing tension as we encounter it is beneficial for muscles, joints, and nerves. Do what you can to minimize the effects of stress and potential injury during your waking hours.

As evening approaches, be willing to let go of the day and focus on sleeping pain-free

More Resources About Back Pain Relief

Featured photo credit: Leighann Renee via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Dr. Brent Wells, D.C.

Chiropractic doctor currently leading over 10,000 Alaskans to more active, pain-free lifestyles โ€“ without addictive drugs or invasive surgeries.

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Last Updated on August 20, 2019

How to Control Your Thoughts and Be the Master of Your Mind

How to Control Your Thoughts and Be the Master of Your Mind

Your mind is the most powerful tool you have for the creation of good in your life, but if not used correctly, can also be the most destructive force in your life.

Your mind, more specifically, your thoughts, affect your perception and therefore, your interpretation of reality. (And here’s Why Your Perception Is Your Reality.)

I have heard that the average person thinks around 70,000 thoughts a day. That’s a lot, especially if they are unproductive, self-abusive and just a general waste of energy.

You can let your thoughts run amok, but why would you? It is your mind, your thoughts; isn’t it time to take your power back? Isn’t it time to take control?

Choose to be the person who is actively, consciously thinking your thoughts. Become the master of your mind.

When you change your thoughts, you will change your feelings as well, and you will also eliminate the triggers that set off those feelings. Both of these outcomes provide you with a greater level of peace in your mind.

I currently have few thoughts that are not of my own choosing or a response from my reprogramming. I am the master of my mind, so now my mind is quite peaceful. Yours can be too!

Who Is Thinking My Thoughts?

Before you can become the master of your mind, you must recognize that you are currently at the mercy of several unwanted “squatters” living in your mind, and they are in charge of your thoughts. If you want to be the boss of them, you must know who they are and what their motivation is, and then you can take charge and evict them.

Here are four of the “squatters” in your head that create the most unhealthy and unproductive thoughts:

1. The Inner Critic

This is your constant abuser who is often a conglomeration of:

  • Other people’s words; many times your parents.
  • Thoughts you have created based on your own or other peoples expectations.
  • Comparing yourself to other people, including those in the media.
  • The things you told yourself as a result of painful experiences such as betrayal and rejection. Your interpretation creates your self-doubt and self-blame, which are most likely undeserved in cases of rejection and betrayal.

The Inner Critic is motivated by pain, low self-esteem, lack of self-acceptance and lack of self-love.

Why else would this person abuse you? And since this person is actually you– why else would you abuse yourself? Why would you let anyone treat you this badly?

2. The Worrier

This person lives in the future; in the world of “what ifs.”

The Worrier is motivated by fear which is often irrational and with no basis for it. Occasionally, this person is motivated by fear that what happened in the past will happen again.

3. The Reactor or Trouble-Maker

This is the one that triggers anger, frustration and pain. These triggers stem from unhealed wounds of the past. Any experience that is even closely related to a past wound will set him off.

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This person can be set off by words or feelings, and can even be set off by sounds and smells.

The Reactor has no real motivation and has poor impulse control and is run by past programming that no longer serves you, if it ever did.

4. The Sleep Depriver

This can be a combination of any number of different squatters including the inner planner, the rehasher, and the ruminator, along with the inner critic and the worrier.

The Sleep Depriver’s motivation can be:

  • As a reaction to silence, which he fights against
  • Taking care of the business you neglected during the day
  • Self-doubt, low self-esteem, insecurity and generalized anxiety
  • As listed above for the inner critic and worrier

How can you control these squatters?

How to Master Your Mind

You are the thinker and the observer of your thoughts. You must pay attention to your thoughts so you can identify “who” is running the show; this will determine which technique you will want to use.

Begin each day with the intention of paying attention to your thoughts and catching yourself when you are thinking undesirable thoughts.

There are two ways to control your thoughts:

  • Technique A – Interrupt and replace them
  • Technique B – Eliminate them altogether

This second option is what is known as peace of mind!

The technique of interrupting and replacing is a means of reprogramming your subconscious mind. Eventually, the replacement thoughts will become the “go to” thoughts in the applicable situations.

Use Technique A with the Inner Critic and Worrier; and Technique B with the Reactor and Sleep Depriver.

For the Inner Critic

When you catch yourself thinking something negative about yourself (calling yourself names, disrespecting yourself, or berating yourself), interrupt it.

You can yell (in your mind), “Stop! No!” or, “Enough! I’m in control now.” Then, whatever your negative thought was about yourself, replace it with an opposite or counter thought or an affirmation that begins with “I am.”

For example, if your thought is, “I’m such a loser,” you can replace it with, “I am a Divine Creation of the Universal Spirit. I am a perfect spiritual being learning to master the human experience. I am a being of energy, light, and matter. I am magnificent, brilliant, and beautiful. I love and approve of myself just as I am.”

You can also have a dialogue with yourself with the intention of discrediting the ‘voice’ that created the thought, if you know whose voice it is:

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“Just because so-and-so said I was a loser doesn’t make it true. It was his or her opinion, not a statement of fact. Or maybe they were joking and I took it seriously because I’m insecure.”

If you recognize that you have recurring self-critical thoughts, you can write out or pre-plan your counter thoughts or affirmation so you can be ready. This is the first squatter you should evict, forcefully, if necessary:

  • They rile up the Worrier.
  • The names you call yourself become triggers when called those names by others, so he also maintains the presence of the Reactor.
  • They are often present when you try to fall asleep so he perpetuates the Sleep Depriver.
  • They are a bully and is verbally and emotionally abusive.
  • They are the destroyer of self-esteem. They convince you that you’re not worthy. They’re a liar! In the interest of your self-worth, get them out!

Eliminate your worst critic and you will also diminish the presence of the other three squatters.

Replace them with your new best friends who support, encourage, and enhance your life. This is a presence you want in your mind.

For the Worrier

Prolonged anxiety is mentally, emotionally and physically unhealthy. It can have long-term health implications.

Fear initiates the fight or flight response, creates worry in the mind and creates anxiety in the body.

You should be able to recognize a “worry thought” immediately by how you feel. The physiological signs that the fight or flight response of fear has kicked in are:

  • Increased heart rate, blood pressure, or surge of adrenaline
  • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
  • Muscles tense

Use the above stated method to interrupt any thought of worry and then replace it. But this time you will replace your thoughts of worry with thoughts of gratitude for the outcome you wish for.

If you believe in a higher power, this is the time to engage with it. Here is an example:

Instead of worrying about my loved ones traveling in bad weather, I say the following (I call it a prayer):

“Thank you great spirit for watching over _______. Thank you for watching over his/her car and keeping it safe, road-worthy, and free of maintenance issues without warning. Thank you for surrounding him/her with only safe, conscientious, and alert drivers. And thank you for keeping him/her safe, conscientious, and alert.”

Smile when you think about it or say it aloud, and phrase it in the present tense; both of these will help you feel it and possibly even start to believe it.

If you can visualize what you are praying for, the visualization will enhance the feeling so you will increase the impact in your vibrational field.

Now take a calming breath, slowly in through your nose, and slowly out through the mouth. Take as many as you like!

Replacing fearful thoughts with gratitude will decrease reactionary behavior, taking the steam out of the Reactor.

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For example:

If your child gets lost in the mall, the typical parental reaction that follows the fearful thoughts when finding them is to yell at them.

“I told you never to leave my sight.” This reaction just adds to the child’s fear level from being lost in the first place. Plus, it also teaches them that mom and/or dad will get mad when he or she makes a mistake, which may make them lie to you or not tell you things in the future.

Change those fearful thoughts when they happen:

“Thank You (your choice of Higher Power) for watching over my child and keeping him safe. Thank you for helping me find him soon.”

Then, when you see your child after this thought process, your only reaction will be gratitude, and that seems like a better alternative for all people involved.

For the Trouble-Maker, Reactor or Over-Reactor

Permanently eliminating this squatter will take a bit more attention and reflection after the fact to identify and heal the causes of the triggers; but until then, you can prevent the Reactor from getting out of control by initiating conscious breathing as soon as you recognize his presence.

The Reactor’s thoughts or feelings activate the fight or flight response just like with the Worrier. The physiological signs of his presence will be the same. With a little attention, you should be able to tell the difference between anxiety, anger, frustration, or pain:

  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure; surge of adrenaline
  • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
  • Muscles tension

I’m sure you’ve heard the suggestion to count to ten when you get angry—well, you can make those ten seconds much more productive if you are breathing consciously during that time.

Conscious breathing is as simple as it sounds; just be conscious of your breathing. Pay attention to the air going in and coming out.

Breathe in through your nose:

  • Feel the air entering your nostrils.
  • Feel your lungs filling and expanding.
  • Focus on your belly rising.

Breathe out through your nose:

  • Feel your lungs emptying.
  • Focus on your belly falling.
  • Feel the air exiting your nostrils.

Do this for as long as you like. Leave the situation if you want. This gives the adrenaline time to normalize.

Now you can address the situation with a calmer, more rational perspective and avoid damaging behavior.

One of the troubles this squatter causes is that it adds to the sleep depriver’s issues. By evicting, or at least controlling the Reactor, you will decrease reactionary behavior, which will decrease the need for the rehashing and ruminating that may keep you from falling asleep.

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Master your mind and stop the Reactor from bringing stress to you and your relationships!

For the Sleep Depriver

(They’re made up of the Inner Planner, the Rehasher and the Ruminator, along with the Inner Critic and the Worrier.)

I was plagued with a very common problem: not being able to turn off my mind at bedtime. This inability prevented me from falling asleep and thus, getting a restful and restorative night’s sleep.

Here’s how I mastered my mind and evicted the Sleep Depriver and all his cronies.

  1. I started by focusing on my breathing—paying attention to the rise and fall of my belly—but that didn’t keep the thoughts out for long. (Actually, I now start with checking my at-rest mouth position to keep me from clenching.)
  2. Then I came up with replacement strategy that eliminated uncontrolled thinking—imagining the word in while breathing in and thinking the word out when breathing out. I would (and do) elongate the word to match the length of my breath.

When I catch myself thinking, I shift back to in, out. With this technique, I am still thinking, sort of, but the wheels are no longer spinning out of control. I am in control of my mind and I choose quiet.

From the first time I tried this method I started to yawn after only a few cycles and am usually asleep within ten minutes.

For really difficult nights, I add an increase of attention by holding my eyes in a looking-up position (Closed, of course!). Sometimes I try to look toward my third eye but that really hurts my eyes.

If you have trouble falling asleep because you can’t shut off your mind, I strongly recommend you try this technique. I still use it every night. You can start sleeping better tonight!

You can also use this technique any time you want to:

  • Fall back to sleep if you wake up too soon.
  • Shut down your thinking.
  • Calm your feelings.
  • Simply focus on the present moment. 

The Bottom Line

Your mind is a tool, and like any other tool, it can be used for constructive purposes or for destructive purposes.

You can allow your mind to be occupied by unwanted, undesirable and destructive tenants, or you can choose desirable tenants like peace, gratitude, compassion, love, and joy.

Your mind can become your best friend, your biggest supporter, and someone you can count on to be there and encourage you. The choice is yours!

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Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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