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Has anyone trained themselves to be a back-sleeper? 09 Jun 2015 15:16 #1

  • gate25
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I have been in a mattress nightmare for the past three years. Prior to that, I was sleeping on a 15 year old mattress with no issues, never woke up with any pain. The only reason I got rid of it was because I was moving and I gave it to my former roommate.

Since then, I have been on so many mattresses and spent so much money that it is embarrassing to mention how many. Some I knew right away were not right, and some I really tried to make it work. In retrospect, I wish I would have given some of them more of a try. The problem was a firmer mattress would give me shoulder and upper back pain, while a softer mattress would give me lower back pain. BTW, I am an significantly overweight female, so the weight issue definitely plays a big role.

I am currently on a firmer euro-top innerspring mattress from Jamestown Mattress, and it is fairly firm but it does have some give to it. I am waking up with lower back pain every day, but it usually goes away in the morning and I feel fine the rest of the day. Recently I have been considering purchasing yet another mattress, this time from Flobeds.

However, I started thinking that if I could train myself to sleep on my back it may really help out the problem. On my old mattress (the one I had for 15 years), I would sleep in a kind of half side, half stomach position (or a very forward-leaning side sleep may be a better way to describe it). Since all the problems started I now sleep on my side with a king size pillow between my knees with my arm hugging the top of the pillow, but sometimes I wake up on my back.

I have googled some articles about training yourself to back-sleep, and from everything I've read it sounds like it would be hard to do, but it can be done if you are persistent. One woman said it took her 6 months to successfully train herself.

Has anyone tried this or had luck with this? These issues have honestly left me in such a depression, as I never knew how much a mattress problem could affect me physically, emotionally, and financially. Would be really encouraging to hear a success story. I remember the days that I could wake up without pain and it seems like a lifetime ago.

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Has anyone trained themselves to be a back-sleeper? 09 Jun 2015 17:26 #2

  • phoenix
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Hi gatye25,

Since then, I have been on so many mattresses and spent so much money that it is embarrassing to mention how many. Some I knew right away were not right, and some I really tried to make it work. In retrospect, I wish I would have given some of them more of a try. The problem was a firmer mattress would give me shoulder and upper back pain, while a softer mattress would give me lower back pain. BTW, I am an significantly overweight female, so the weight issue definitely plays a big role.


I would be very cautious about continuing to buy any more new mattresses for the time being because if you have already tried many mattresses with a range of different firmness levels over the last few years then this would "point to" the possibility that your "symptoms" may be more related to health or weight issues or to sleeping position issues than to your mattress itself and if this is the case then a new mattress won't solve the issues you are having. I would also work with your doctor as well so that he can diagnose any physical issues or concerns that you may not be aware of that may be part of the underlying issues you are having as well. I would also keep your expectations about how much a mattress can do for these types of issues to reasonable levels.

These types of issues can be exceptionally complex to try and "diagnose" the reasons behind then and it can often involve some trial and error to see which type of changes improve your symptoms and which ones tend to make them worse.

It would also be helpful to know how your old mattress compared to the one you are sleeping on now.

Some reference posts that may be helpful include post #2 here which includes more information about the most common symptoms that people may experience when they sleep on a mattress and the most likely (although not the only) reasons for them.

There is also more about primary or "deep" support and secondary or "surface" support and their relationship to firmness and pressure relief and the "roles" of different layers in a mattress in post #2 here and in post #4 here that may also be helpful in clarifying the difference between "support" and "pressure relief" and "feel".

These posts are the "tools" that can help with the analysis, trial and error, and detective work that may be necessary to help you learn your body's language and "translate" what your body is trying to tell you so you can make the types of changes that have the best chance of reducing or perhaps even eliminating any "symptoms" you are experiencing.

Lower back pain is most often (but not always) the result of support cores that are too soft or comfort layers that are too thick soft. One of the most important "keys to success" for a mattress that works well is having a support system that is firm enough for your body type (and higher weight ranges will need firmer support systems) so you have a good base to work from and can add "just enough" in terms of the thickness and softness of the comfort layers to relieve pressure points in all your sleeping positions but not enough thickness/softness on top of the firm core that it will compromise alignment.

Another possibility is that with your unusual sleeping positions you may be "twisting away" from pressure points which can cause rotational alignment issues in your lower back and the lower back pain that goes with it. In this case it can come from a sleeping surface that is too firm and is causing some pressure points.

However, I started thinking that if I could train myself to sleep on my back it may really help out the problem. On my old mattress (the one I had for 15 years), I would sleep in a kind of half side, half stomach position (or a very forward-leaning side sleep may be a better way to describe it). Since all the problems started I now sleep on my side with a king size pillow between my knees with my arm hugging the top of the pillow, but sometimes I wake up on my back.

I have googled some articles about training yourself to back-sleep, and from everything I've read it sounds like it would be hard to do, but it can be done if you are persistent. One woman said it took her 6 months to successfully train herself.

Has anyone tried this or had luck with this? These issues have honestly left me in such a depression, as I never knew how much a mattress problem could affect me physically, emotionally, and financially. Would be really encouraging to hear a success story. I remember the days that I could wake up without pain and it seems like a lifetime ago.


Based on your description if you are already waking up on your back then your body may already tend to adopt this position at some point over the course of the night so it may be worthwhile looking at some options that can help you sleep more comfortably and in better alignment when you are on your side rather than trying to change your sleeping positions.

A few suggestions that may help with your side sleeping is using a body pillow which can help forward leaning" side sleepers maintain better alignment on their side and still have some of the "comfort" and familiarity of having something against their stomach which many stomach sleepers miss.

As you mentioned it can be a somewhat difficult process to learn to sleep in different positions but it's often just a matter of time and will and "correcting yourself" when you find you are sleeping in a position you are trying to avoid.

Putting a pillow under your knees can help to decompress the lower back when you are sleeping on your back and may help you stay sleeping in the back position for longer. Pillows on each side of your body can also keep you in a back sleeping position because they will provide some resistance if you try to change positions.

Keeping a thin pillow on your stomach with your hands on the pillow may also help provide some of the "feeling" of having something against your stomach when you are sleeping on your back.

Raising the legs and/or the head of your bed slightly with an adjustable bed or with wedges can put you in a position that is more conducive to back sleeping and can make it more difficult to turn over onto your side.

With all of this though ... the first thing I would suggest is a body pillow that may help you sleep on your side without the twisting that may be happening and if this is successful then you are already spending some time on your back and combination sleeping where you are in good alignment in both positions may work well for you.

Phoenix

PS: for what it's worth my fiance was a primary side sleeper but developed TMJ and side sleeping with pressure on her face was having a negative effect according to her doctor so using pillows and just her "will" over a period of months she has switched to back sleeping almost all the time and now only rarely sleeps on her side.
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Last edit: by phoenix.

Has anyone trained themselves to be a back-sleeper? 12 Jun 2015 11:44 #3

I don't have anything to offer but my experience to "training" to be a back-sleeper.

Whenever I slept on my sides, I had a habit of leaving my lips slightly cracked and creating a giant pool of drool that soaked my face and hair. It was a bad time. The solution was obvious to me - stop sleeping on my sides...but it was uncomfortable - a bit painful - to NOT sleep on my side. One day, many moons ago, I decided that discomfort of sleeping was worth it to not wake up in drool.

I laid flat on my back - and toughed out the discomfort till I could relax enough to sleep. In the beginning, it took something like 10 mins of me just laying there, enduring the pain and discomfort. That time slowly reduced as nights went by - and I don't even remember the point where the discomfort disappeared. I would just lay down and sleep shortly after.

Now, I sleep predominately on my back. I do sleep on my sides sometimes, but it is more of a temporary guilty pleasure than an extended sleeping position.

Good luck! As Phoenix pointed out, there may be other issues at play that you need to address as well.

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Has anyone trained themselves to be a back-sleeper? 19 Jun 2015 11:33 #4

  • BeachMac
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I just want to echo Minnus re: another experience training oneself to be a back sleeper... In adolescence I was given the orthodontic torture device known as head gear. Back in those days, the metal wire came out of the mouth around the sides of the face and hooked to an elastic band around the back of the head, so any sleeping position but my back was impossible as long as that thing was hooked to my teeth. Took awhile, but decades later I never went back to stomach sleeping. I do side sleep some just to change positions.
Working in healthcare (but not giving medical advice here, just theory...) it is possible for a new mattress to tweak mechanics just enough that some bodywork may be necessary to get alignment (involving bones and/or muscles) back to the old normal. Especially if every night the body is out of alignment and perpetuating the problem. Good luck.

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