Sleeping with a bulging disc can be challenging for the body to achieve the proper rest. And sleeping in an awkward position can add stress to the spine, making the bulge worse, which can cause tingling, numbness, pain, and digestive problems. This can disrupt the sleep cycle and prevent proper healing of the spinal injury.
Sleeping With a Bulging Disc
When sleeping, most back pain occurs in the lumbar or lower back, in one of two places where the spine meets the pelvis. Around 95% of lower back herniations happen in the L4-L5 spinal segment or the L5-S1 Lumbosacral joint. Any back pain can turn into a vicious cycle of:
- Inconsistent sleep
- Chronic pain
- Chronic fatigue
- Work/School performance
- High blood pressure
- Immune system compromisation
- Mental health problems
Sleeping with a bulging disc requires maintaining the ears, shoulders, and hips aligned to keep the spine aligned.
Sleeping on The Back
Back sleeping done correctly is the best way to sleep for the spine’s health. The important thing is to ensure the entire back is supported when sleeping. If there is a gap or space between the mattress and the back, the weight and gravity force the spine to lower in an unnatural way to fill the space. This can cause back muscle soreness, injury, and sciatica. A thin pillow, blanket, or towel can be used to fill the space, giving the spine the support it needs. Back sleepers can also benefit from a pillow or two under the knees to elevate the legs and help maintain the natural curve of the pine.
Sleeping on The Side
Side sleepers can try pulling the legs up toward the chest, and placing a pillow between the knees can provide relief when sleeping with a bulging disc. Pulling the legs up in the fetal position can relieve pressure on the discs. It is recommended to switch sides to keep the spine balanced. This helps maintain hip alignment, which helps keep the spine in a neutral position.
Sleeping On The Stomach
It is recommended to avoid sleeping on the stomach. This pulls the spine down into an unnatural curve that can cause and exacerbate back pain. For individuals that naturally stomach sleep, it is recommended to place a pillow under the hips and lower abdomen to prevent unnatural spinal positioning.
Utilizing the right sleeping position can provide pain relief and thorough rest. However, sleeping with a herniated disc is far from what is needed to get back to a normal healthy sleeping pattern. This depends on the location of the bulging disc, severity, and cause. A chiropractor can:
- Determine the cause.
- Relieve the pain.
- Help heal the bulging disc.
- Realign the spine.
- Maintain long-term relief without recurrence.
- Help the individual develop an optimal sleeping routine and positioning.
Sleep and Growth Hormone In Children
Growth, in all ages, is primarily controlled by growth hormone. The hormone is regulated by the hypothalamus and pituitary gland which plays an important role in sleep. Growth hormone has been found:
- It peaks during the beginning of deep sleep.
- There are multiple smaller peaks during the other stages of sleep.
- Those who have a delay at the beginning of deep sleep have delayed rises in growth hormone levels.
For children to grow they need to have proper levels of growth hormone. This means they need to have the proper amount of sleep for proper body composition. Research has found that increased levels of sleep resulted in less overall fat mass and a reduced percentage of body fat allowing their bodies to grow.
Al Qaraghli MI, De Jesus O. Lumbar Disc Herniation. [Updated 2021 Aug 30]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK560878/
Desouzart, Gustavo et al. ‘Effects of Sleeping Position on Back Pain in Physically Active Seniors: A Controlled Pilot Study. 1 Jan. 2016: 235 – 240.
Kose, Gulsah et al. “The Effect of Low Back Pain on Daily Activities and Sleep Quality in Patients With Lumbar Disc Herniation: A Pilot Study.” The Journal of neuroscience nursing: Journal of the American Association of Neuroscience Nurses vol. 51,4 (2019): 184-189. doi:10.1097/JNN.0000000000000446
Sener, Sevgi, and Ozkan Guler. “Self-reported data on sleep quality and psychologic characteristics in patients with myofascial pain and disc displacement versus asymptomatic controls.” The International Journal of prosthodontics vol. 25,4 (2012): 348-52.
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