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Best Sleeping Positions for Endometriosis

Posted on November 29, 2021
Medically reviewed by
Dan Martin, M.D.
Article written by
Alicia Adams

If you live with endometriosis, it may be difficult to get the sleep you need. Members of MyEndometriosisTeam have written about the problem of not getting enough rest. One member asked, “Does anyone else suffer from insomnia? All I’ve wanted to do all day is sleep, but now I’m in bed and I just can’t sleep.” Another member reported that the lack of sleep is “one of my worst ongoing issues related to the pain. Sleep means relief, even if only for a little while.”

Finding the best sleep position to help you get more rest is not only important for your sleep but also your pain. Experiencing an ongoing lack of sleep creates a cycle where the pain tolerance threshold is lowered. This increases the amount of pain a person feels which, in turn, makes sleeping more difficult. Research in women’s health has shown that people with endometriosis report a lower quality of life due to the ongoing loop of disturbed sleep patterns and increased pain levels.

Because endometriosis pain and other endometriosis symptoms can differ with each person, there is no one single universal sleep position that works best for everyone. Figuring out which position is the most comfortable will be up to each individual and their needs. The main point to remember is to make sure the position supports the natural curve of your spine and properly supports your head and neck, which can reduce strain across the rest of your body.

Sleeping on Your Side

Most adults sleep on one side. If you find this position most comfortable, you will need to make sure your head and neck are supported with a firm latex or memory foam pillow to prevent neck pain. A medium-firm mattress is best as well because it will support the hips and shoulders, preventing them from sinking into the mattress and becoming out of alignment with your spine. Placing a pillow between the knees will help keep your pelvis from tilting.

Sleeping in the Fetal Position

The fetal position is related to sleeping on your side but with your knees drawn up together and close to your chest. It is called the fetal position because it is similar to the way a fetus arranges itself in the womb. This position can help reduce back pain. You can use a body pillow or a pillow between your knees to help position yourself comfortably.

Sleeping on Your Back

Sleeping on your back has the potential to offer back pain relief as well as keep your spine neutral. Lie straight on your back with your toes pointing toward the ceiling. Put a pillow under your head (and not your shoulders) to support your neck. Another pillow under your knees will also help support your spine.

Sleeping on Your Stomach

According to research, sleeping on your stomach (prone position) is the least popular position. It can offer benefits like relieving snoring, but this position is not generally recommended for those with back pain.

If you choose to sleep in the prone position, you will need to ensure that your neck and spine are aligned. Alleviate pressure on your spine by placing a pillow under your hips. Consider sleeping without a pillow for your head, or if you do need one, use a thin pillow that does not cause your neck to tilt. If you use this position frequently, a medium-firm mattress will help you keep your spine in alignment.

Be Persistent

Chronic pelvic pain, back pain, and other endometriosis pain and symptoms can make it difficult to find a comfortable position. Sometimes, the position that worked for one night may not work the next night. Keep trying different positions to discover the one that addresses that particular night’s needs. You may also want to consult with your health care provider for medical advice specific to your situation.

Other Sleep Tips

Finding a comfortable sleep position is important, but there are other factors that you may want to consider to improve your chances of getting adequate rest.

Stick to a Sleep Schedule

Keeping your body on a consistent schedule for the same bedtimes and wake times — even if you have restless nights — can help with getting sleep. Part of your sleep pattern should include time to unwind and relax.

Keep the Bedroom Dark

How much light is in your bedroom before going to sleep can affect your sleep-wake cycle. Research has found exposure to room light before going to bed suppresses levels of melatonin, the hormone responsible for making you feel sleepy. Dim lights or turn off main overhead lights a few hours before going to bed.

Light emitted from electronics can interfere with your sleep pattern as well. Turn off the television, power off computers, and put away laptops, smartphones, and tablets at least 30 minutes before going to sleep.

Take a Hot Bath

A warm bath before bed can lower your body temperature which promotes a feeling of relaxation. A MyEndometrosisTeam member mentioned using Epsom salts in their bath. “Warm Epsom salt baths help,” they wrote. Research shows a warm bath may also help you fall asleep faster.

Tips From MyEndometroisisTeam Members

Many MyEndometrosisTeam members use a variety of ways to prepare for sleep when dealing with painful menstruation, ovulation, and other endometriosis symptoms.

  • “I listen to guided meditations and have a cup of hot tea.”
  • “I usually take a hot bath with lavender.”
  • “I have a heated blanket and heating pad that I use and stick a pillow between my legs.”

Other members report taking over-the-counter pain relief medication like ibuprofen to help ease endometriosis symptoms when getting ready for bed. Please consult with your health care provider before taking ibuprofen or other pain medications.

Talk With Others Who Understand

MyEndometriosisTeam is the social network for people with endometriosis. On MyEndometriosisTeam, more than 122,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with endometriosis.

Are you living with endometriosis and searching for the best sleeping position? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.

References
  1. Endometriosis — Mayo Clinic
  2. A Quantitative Analysis of Sleep Quality in Women With Endometriosis — Journal of Women’s Health (Larchmont)
  3. Pain Threshold and Sleep Quality in Women With Endometriosis — European Journal of Pain
  4. Quality of Life Associated to Chronic Pelvic Pain Is Independent of Endometriosis Diagnosis — A Cross-Sectional Survey — Health and Quality of Life Outcomes
  5. Spine Alignment in Men During Lateral Sleep Position: Experimental Study and Modeling — BioMedical Engineering OnLine
  6. Sleep Positions and Nocturnal Body Movements Based on Free-Living Accelerometer Recordings: Association With Demographics, Lifestyle, and Insomnia Symptoms — Nature and Science of Sleep
  7. A Survey of Koreans on Sleep Habits and Sleeping Symptoms Relating to Pillow Comfort and Support — International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
  8. Pillow Use: The Behavior of Cervical Stiffness, Headache and Scapular/Arm Pain — Journal of Pain Research
  9. Effect of Prescribed Sleep Surfaces on Back Pain and Sleep Quality in Patients Diagnosed With Low Back and Shoulder Pain — Applied Ergonomics
  10. What Sleep Positions Are Best for Your Back? — The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center
  11. Slide Show: Sleeping Positions That Reduce Back Pain — Mayo Clinic
  12. Effects of Sleeping Position on Back Pain in Physically Active Seniors: A Controlled Pilot Study — Work: A Journal of Prevention, Assessment & Rehabilitation
  13. Subjective Rating of Perceived Back Pain, Stiffness and Sleep Quality Following Introduction of Medium-Firm Bedding Systems — Journal of Chiropractic Medicine
  14. The Relationship Between Insomnia and Endometriosis — Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine
  15. In Brief: Your Guide to Healthy Sleep — National Heart Lung and Blood Institute
  16. A Good Night’s Sleep — National Institute on Aging
  17. Insomnia: Relaxation Techniques and Sleeping Habits — InformedHealth.org
  18. Exposure to Room Light Before Bedtime Suppresses Melatonin Onset and Shortens Melatonin Duration in Humans — The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism
  19. Melatonin, the Hormone of Darkness: From Sleep Promotion to Ebola Treatment — Brain Disorders & Therapy
  20. The Sleep and Technology Use of Americans: Findings From the National Sleep Foundation’s 2011 Sleep in American Poll — Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine
  21. Treatment Options for Endometriosis — InformedHealth.org
  22. Hot-Water Bathing Before Bedtime and Shorter Sleep Onset Latency Are Accompanied by a Higher Distal-Proximal Skin Temperature Gradient in Older Adults — Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine
All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.
Dan Martin, M.D. is the scientific and medical director of the Endometriosis Foundation of America. Learn more about him here.
Alicia Adams is a graduate of Ohio State University and worked at their medical research facilities supporting oncology physicians and investigators. Learn more about her here.

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