Improving Sleep in Your Senior Years by Reducing Pain & Discomfort

Improving Sleep in Your Senior Years by Reducing Pain & DiscomfortImproving Sleep in Your Senior Years by Reducing Pain & Discomfort


Whether you live in a retirement community or with your family, it is exhausting to wake frequently at night, which is why it helps to understand its cause. Although there are many reasons for waking up throughout the night, chronic pain is often responsible.

If you sleep in a position that does not support your body properly, it may create pressure or cause you to bend or stretch awkwardly, aggravating your pain. You can feel more comfortable and enjoy uninterrupted sleep during the night by learning how to align your body correctly when lying down.

Comfortable Body Alignment

Body aches and pains are common as we age, and the position you were used to sleeping in may become more painful over time. Experimenting and adjusting can help you find a comfortable way to sleep that suits your body and preferences.

For instance, if you have developed a rounded back, it won’t be easy for you to lie flat on your back anymore. Instead, sleeping on your side with appropriate support for your spine can be comfortable. In addition to this, it is best to check with your doctor before trying something new to help avoid any injury.

Also Read: How Aging Changes Your Sleep & What You Can Do About It

Tips to Reduce Body Pain & Sleep Better

The physical therapists in our retirement communities recommend the following for different sleeping positions:

For Back Sleepers

  • Avoid using too many pillows under your head to ensure your neck is positioned properly.
  • Keep your lower back in a neutral position by adding a pillow under the knees.

For Side Sleepers

  • Keep enough pillows under your head, so it is in a neutral position and aligned properly with your spine.
  • You may add a pillow under your torso, leaving space for the arm to minimize pressure on your lower shoulder.
  • Use a pillow between the lower legs or knees to keep your hips, pelvis, and spine aligned when sleeping.

For Stomach Sleepers

Although it is not recommended to sleep on your stomach, it may be helpful if you have degenerative disk disease. Here’s how you can keep your spine in a neutral position:

  • It is best not to use a pillow when sleeping on your stomach. However, if you prefer, you can place a thin pillow under your head.
  • It also helps to place a thin pillow under your pelvis or stomach.
  • Slightly bend one of your legs to the side and add a pillow under the knee.

For General Back Pain

To reduce backache, consider sleeping on the back or side, and be sure to follow the tips for side and back sleepers.

For Sleeping on a Reclining Chair

If you prefer sleeping on a reclining chair, the reclined position can take the pressure off your spine. This can also help if you have isthmic spondylolisthesis. Consider using a bed wedge, which is an inexpensive option, to mimic a recliner chair’s shape. You could also buy an adjustable bed, which is a more costly alternative.

Sleeping Positions for Special Conditions

Herniated Disk

The fetal position is ideal for backache caused by a herniated disk. Sleeping curled up opens the space between the vertebrae, making it easier to manage pain.

General Neck Ache

It is best to sleep on your back or side if you have neck pain because these positions help to keep your neck and spine aligned with your body. Avoid sleeping on your stomach because it puts pressure on nerves in the neck. Be sure to keep the pillow at the correct height and follow the tips for back and side sleepers.

Shoulder Pain

It is best to sleep on your back with a small pillow under the painful side to relieve shoulder pain. You can also sleep on your good side if it is more comfortable for you.

Hip Pain

For hip pain, it helps to sleep on your good side with your knees bent. Ensure your hips, spine, and pelvis are correctly aligned.

Knee Pain

To reduce the pain in your knee, sleep on your back or side and ensure your knee is in a comfortable, slightly bent position.


To ease the discomfort of heartburn while sleeping, elevate the bed’s head or use a bed wedge to create an incline. However, avoid using extra pillows under your head as they only raise your head and neck, not your stomach and upper body. Sleeping on your left side can also help reduce reflux.

Additional Tips to Deal with Pain & Improve Sleep

  • Consume Foods that Promote Sleep Tryptophan is a type of protein crucial for the production of serotonin and melatonin, which help promote relaxation and sleep. Humans are unable to produce tryptophan, so it must be obtained from food. Consider including fruits, such as kiwis and cherries, rice, and whole foods like milk, pulses, and fatty fish in your diet.
  • Practice Yoga Yoga can help ease chronic back pain and improve sleep. Learning from a qualified instructor is the best way to practice poses safely while staying within your pain and tolerance levels.
  • Take a Short Walk If you find it difficult to fall asleep at night because of chronic lower back pain, an evening walk may help you. The core body temperature increases when you walk and eventually cools down after some time. This helps to trigger your sleep cycle and reduce anxiety, promoting better sleep. It also helps burn off excess energy and release endorphins.
  • Rhythmic Breathing Research indicates that taking slow and deep breaths at night helps you to relax and get better sleep. It helps to synchronize your heart rate and breathing pattern.
  • Consider Taking a Sleep Aid Several sleep-enhancing aids are available to ensure a more peaceful sleep. You may consider taking capsules, tablets, or brewing specialty teas. Fruit extracts, herbal preparations, and micronutrient supplies are a few other options.

Our Retirement Living Community has Qualified Staff to Help You

If you are looking for a Hartford retirement community that allows you to live a stress-free and independent life, The Holiday Retirement is the right choice. We have qualified staff to assist you and offer excellent amenities to accommodate your unique needs.

For more information about our independent living homes for seniors, call us at 1-860-233-8202. You can also take a virtual tour of our Hartford retirement community homes to see what we offer.

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