A full night’s sleep should help you feel rejuvenated when you wake and are ready to face the day. So why do you sometimes wake up with stiff joints and a sore lower back? Unless you have known back issues or an injury that contributes to poorer sleep, morning aches and pains are both confusing and frustrating.
There are plenty of reasons for sore joints and lower back stiffness. It’s important to drill down to what the root cause is for you. Luckily, we know a thing or two about mattresses and quality sleep. Below are the four most common causes for morning soreness—and what you can do about them.
Your Sleep Position is Out of Whack
We tend to fall asleep in roughly the same position every night—and each sleep position has a different effect on your body. Simply put, not all sleep positions are created equal, which may account for some of your pain.
People who sleep on their stomachs (an estimated 16% of all sleepers) are most prone to experience back and joint pain since this position pulls the spine out of alignment. Additionally, the twisting and contorting that stomach sleepers do to get comfortable can put extra pressure on the neck, lower back and jaw—which can even lead to poorer circulation. Most sleep experts recommend that stomach sleepers try to train their bodies to sleep on their sides, usually by propping their trunks up with a pillow.
While the problem is more severe for stomach sleepers, side sleepers can also unknowingly pull their spines out of healthy alignment because they're using the wrong pillow (more on this later). Whatever sleep position you use, it’s a good idea to try changing up your sleep position to see if your morning joint and back pain subsides.
Your Pillow Isn’t Cutting It
Even if you've adopted the right sleep position, the wrong pillow can cause major issues that can be (literally) a pain in the neck. That’s because your pillow is just as important as your mattress when it comes to proper spinal alignment.
The trick is to choose a pillow with the right amount of loft for your sleep position. Side sleepers tend to need more supportive pillows with higher loft, while stomach sleepers should search for a pillow with a lower profile. Back sleepers can actually sleep on both high and low loft pillows, depending on personal preference.
If you suspect your pillow is to blame for your back pain and soreness in the morning, check out these helpful tips on choosing the right pillow for your sleep position.
Your Mattress is Too Soft, Or Too Firm
Now that you've taken into account your sleep position, and you’ve upgraded your pillow, what more can you do to avoid waking up with a sore back or stiffness?
The vast majority of people who experience morning back pain and stiffness should look to their mattress—or, more specifically, their mattress firmness level. Let's start with those of you who are devoted to stomach sleeping or, more ideally, are prone to back sleeping. Both stomach and back sleepers will generally rest and recover better while sleeping on a firmer mattress. If you find that your lower back is stiff and tight in the morning, regardless of sleep position, it’s also very likely your mattress is too soft, causing your spine to fall out of alignment and forcing muscles to contract rather than relax. The selection of a firmer mattress that's right for you can range from the insanely ultra-firm sleep experience that's akin to sleeping on the ground to finding a more mainstream mattress with varying firmness levels.
On the other hand, if joint pain and stiffness are your main problems, your mattress may be too firm—and could even be restricting blood flow to your joints. Soft to medium firm mattresses better cradle pressure points due to their more contouring foam layers. There are many options when it comes to a soft or medium firmness level mattress—and they don't necessarily leave you feeling like you've fallen into quicksand. Total latex mattresses offer a unique buoyancy that lifts away tension, while quick response memory foam mattresses provide all the contouring of memory foam with the more agreeable sleep-on-top feel.
Both types of foam are widely available in a hybrid model, which combines two separate sleep systems: foam and a coil system to provide optimal comfort and support.
Looking for the firmest mattress ever? Check out the two-sided Plank mattress — firmer, flatter, flippable.
You Need to Switch Up Your Bed's Foundation
The secret is finally out: adjustable foundations for your mattress are no longer reserved for hospital beds and nursing homes. More of us have recognized the significant health benefits of adjustable bases, as well as their convenience for doing a multitude of things in bed, from reading or working on a laptop to watching television while eating. Investing in an adjustable bases is actually highly recommended by many in the medical community to ease chronic back pain and stiffness in the joints, poor circulation, sleep apnea, acid reflux, and more.
Why? Because adjustable bases allow you to raise the foot and head of your bed in a more uniform manner than propping up your legs or shoulders on a pillow. That means better circulation throughout your limbs and decreased pressure on your back. Plus, adjustable bases promote sleeping in a better position to support spinal alignment and support so you’re more likely to fall asleep—and stay asleep—in a position that’s good for your spine health.
Morning joint stiffness and lower back pain are very common symptoms of a sleep system that needs some adjustment. If you aren’t sure what you need to change about your mattress, foundation or pillow, it’s always a good idea to chat with a sleep specialist. They can offer expert advice on which bed is best for you — helping you finally enjoy restful, rejuvenating sleep and happier mornings!