Waking up on the wrong side of the bed – why you've woken up with back pain and how to treat it

woken up with back pain

The birds are singing and the sun is streaming in through the window. You open your eyes, stretch your toes and enjoy a couple of minutes of quiet before your alarm goes off. 

Then you roll over – and that’s when the pain strikes. Yep, something’s up with your back. 

It seems hard to believe that getting some shut-eye has resulted in back pain but it has. You’re not bouncing out of bed this morning – you’re getting up very slowly and carefully and working out what to do next. 

What causes back pain on waking?

It’s not uncommon to feel some mild back stiffness when you wake up. After all, you’ve been lying in the same position for a while.  

But if it happens often or if it persists throughout the morning, you might need to investigate underlying causes such as your sleeping position, mattress or certain health conditions. 

Sleeping position

You spend about a third of your life asleep (though it may not feel like it!). Because you spend so much time sleeping, it’s possible that the way you sleep is behind your morning back pain. 

You might not be able to control what happens once you’ve reached slumberland but you can at least ensure you start off well. Often, all it takes is a carefully positioned pillow

If you sleep on your:

  • Back – put a pillow under your knees to help maintain the normal curve of your back. If you find you need more support, roll up a small towel and put it under the small of your back too. 
  • Side – bend your knees up a little and place a pillow between your legs
  • Stomach – put a pillow under your pelvis and lower abdomen. You can also try not sleeping with a pillow under your head. And if that still doesn’t work, see if you can manage sleeping on your back or side instead (sleeping on your tummy is tough on your back). 


Mattresses don’t last forever. We tend to buy them and then largely forget about them but, as the years pass, the mattress becomes less supportive. 

The Sleep Foundation recommends you replace your mattress if: 

  • It’s already 6-8+ years old
  • It’s noticeably saggy or damaged
  • You find you sleep better away from home
  • You’ve noticed an increase in asthma or allergy symptoms
  • The springs are noisy
  • You’re often waking up with stiff muscles or joints. 

Your mattress’s job is to help you get comfortable, restful sleep. If yours is letting the side down, then it could be worth replacing it.

That costs money, though. A good mattress isn’t cheap. Will it really help that much? 

One study asked participants to rate their sleep quality and level of discomfort on waking while sleeping on their usual mattresses over 28 days. The average mattress was 9.5 years old. Then they replaced the mattresses with new medium-firm ones and asked study participants to continue measuring their sleep quality and level of discomfort on waking for another 28 days. 

The results? The new medium-firm mattresses led to a significant improvement in sleep quality and reduced back discomfort on waking. 

Health conditions

Many different health conditions can lead to a twinge in your back when you wake up. Common ones include: 

    • Pregnancy: Some pregnant women find that back pain worsens during sleep. Try putting a heat pack on your back when you wake up. The good news is that pregnancy-related back pain usually improves once the baby is born. 
    • Fibromyalgia: This chronic condition causes generalised pain and muscle stiffness in many parts of your body, including your back. It also leads to poor sleep and fatigue.  
    • Degenerative disc disease: The spongy shock-absorbing discs between your spinal vertebrae begin to wear down with age, which can cause some stiffness and pain. 

Other conditions or lifestyle factors that can cause back pain in the morning include gaining weight, poor fitness, anxiety and depression, injuries, arthritis, osteoporosis, periods and endometriosis. There really is quite a long list of possibilities so we encourage you to see your doctor about any ongoing back pain. 

6 ways to relieve back pain in the morning

So, what can you do about morning back pain? Here are 6 tips to help you move more easily.

  1. Change your sleep position and mattress (see above)
  2. See your doctor to explore whether lifestyle factors or an underlying medical condition could be contributing to your morning back pain
  3. Do some exercises that stretch and strengthen your back and the muscles that support it. Your doctor or physio might prescribe some daily back pain exercises along these lines
  4. Improve your overall fitness – even something as simple as a daily walk can help your body run more smoothly and improve your sleep. 

As always, before you start a new exercise or stretching program, we recommend you see your physician for their advice. 

Apply some Deep Heat and Feel It Work

Deep Heat Patches get to work on muscle pain from 60 seconds after opening as the product is air activated.

When it comes to back pain, you may wish to try: 

Deep Heat Patches

Deep Heat Patches 

  • Deep Heat Lower Back & Hip Heating Belt – this large and comfortable wraparound elastic belt keeps the heat on your lower back for up to 12 hours of targeted pain relief as you go about your day. Warning: Do not apply directly to the skin. Use over light clothing.
  • Deep Heat Period Pain Heat Patches – these oval patches soothe menstrual cramps and muscle pain in the abdomen and lower back, providing all-day relief.  Warning: Do not apply directly to the skin. Use over light clothing.

Do not use: Any of the heat patches/belts whilst asleep or with prolonged pressure against the patch/belt

Warning: All heat products have the potential to cause skin irritations, burns or blisters. Discontinue use if skin sensitivity occurs or the belt gets uncomfortably hot. 



Why is heat so good for muscle pain? When you apply heat to your skin, you warm up the blood vessels underneath. When they get warmer, they dilate, which enables more blood to flow through to that area of your body, bringing with it oxygen and nutrients to aid the healing process and helps restore movement. Deep Heat Patches work by providing heat therapy and relieve muscle pain.

If you’re tired of waking up in pain, then hopefully some additional care for your back in the form of a better mattress, improved sleeping position, regular stretches and targeted pain relief will help you enjoy a better day ahead.