Medically Reviewed by Amy Wolkin, DPT, MBA
Dr. Amy Wolkin is a physical therapist based in Atlanta, GA. After graduating from Wellesley College in 2012, she pursued dual graduate degrees at Emory University. She graduated in 2017 with her Master of Business Administration and Doctor of Physical Therapy degrees. Her clinical interests are outpatient orthopedics, women’s health, and pediatric sports medicine. She has advanced training in dry needling and pelvic floor physical therapy.

Why Are Sleeping Positions Important for Scoliosis?

Everyone has their own preferences when it comes to what sleeping position feels best for them. But, for those with problems like scoliosis, it’s more than what you like – it’s what position feels most comfortable and less straining on your spine.

If you have scoliosis, there are certain sleeping positions you can try to help prevent pain. We cover that and much more in this article so you start waking up (hopefully) feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.

What Is Scoliosis?

Scoliosis is a spinal condition where the normal shape of the spine curves at the top of the shoulder and at the lower back in a C or an S shape. According to The American Association of Neurological Surgeons, only 20% of scoliosis cases have a determinable cause, which is commonly a birth defect, neurological abnormality, or genetic.

Scoliosis usually happens during growth spurts while in puberty. It usually is not painful during childhood years, but if left untreated, it can become debilitating. Cases range from mild, to severe enough to need braces or surgery.

scoliosis sleeping

Please always consult your physician or chiropractor if you’re looking to switch up your mattress or sleeping habits. Our team works to help you find solutions for your unique needs, but a healthcare provider can give you specific medical guidance.

RELATED: Best Mattresses For Back Pain

The Best Sleeping Position For Scoliosis (And The Worst)

These are the best sleeping positions for Scoliosis

(Best) Sleeping on your Back

The best sleeping position for scoliosis (agreed upon by most chiropractors) is to sleep on your back. With the proper mattress, this sleeping position will help to keep the spine in neutral alignment while sleeping. Dr. Raymond Hall, a chiropractic physician says, “Most scoliosis has at least a small degree of hyperkyphosis (small degree of hunched back type deformity) associated with the curvature and the back lying position helps to reduce the roundedness of the spine, especially with a firmer mattress support.”

(Best) Sleeping on your side

The second preference for a person with scoliosis is side sleeping, but make sure your mattress has both enough support and proper pressure relief to keep your spine aligned. Side sleeping is preferable for people with scoliosis because it keeps your spine in a straight and neutral position, which will make sleeping more comfortable as there will be less strain on your spinal nerves. To some people, it’s the best sleeping position for scoliosis.

(Worst) Sleeping on your stomach

Dr. Raymond Hall was voted The Top Chiropractor in California for 2015 and 2016 by the International Association of Healthcare Providers. First and foremost, Dr. Hall recommends to avoid sleeping on your stomach if you have scoliosis. He states that sleeping on your stomach can “push the natural curvature of the spine out of the alignment and into the abnormal scoliosis curve,” which can lead to increased back and neck pain, among other symptoms.

(Worst) Sleeping on the floor

Although some people may think that a firm floor would be good for someone with back problems, it’s one of the worst positions for someone sleeping with scoliosis. This can cause more pain and discomfort in your back and make it difficult to stand up the next morning. Therefore, if you’re ever crashing at a friends’ place, don’t be afraid to request to sleep on a couch or air mattress instead of the floor.

RELATED: Best Beds for Side Sleepers

Sleeping Tips For Scoliosis

Besides sleeping in an accommodating position, there are a few other tips you can try to ensure your scoliosis doesn’t interfere with the quality of your rest.

Use A Comfortable Yet Supportive Mattress

It’s important for anyone with scoliosis to sleep on a quality mattress that is best for their individual needs. A bad mattress can possibly make your symptoms and pain worse over time due to poor support. While those with scoliosis of course want to be comfortable, they also need to make sure that their spine is supported. As a rule of thumb, soft and cushy mattresses will not offer the support needed for long-term comfort at night. We recommend checking out our list of Best Beds for Scoliosis, where we’ve already curated a list of beds that fulfill all the needs of those with spinal issues. Just so you know, all of these beds have a trial period, which means that you can try them risk-free for at least a couple of months.

Consider A Mattress Topper

If you’re not currently in the market for a new mattress, you can always get a mattress topper to make your mattress either firmer or softer to suit your needs. Just make sure your topper is only 1-3” thick. Anything thicker might feel nice, but isn’t great long-term for the spine or neck.

The Perfect Pillow

malouf z down pillow back sleeper
Make sure to use the correct pillow for your body type and primary sleeping position

Your neck is a part of your spine, so it’s important to keep that supported, as well. The average human head weighs 10-11 lb, with only your neck to support it. Dr. Raymond Hall, a chiropractic physician, does not recommend large and dense pillows, as they can push your head forward (while on your back) or kink it to the side (while laying on your side), which throws off your spinal alignment and compromises natural breathing patterns while possibly increasing neck pain. Check out our Pillow Reviews page, where you can do a little research to see which pillow might be best suited for your body and sleeper type.

Don’t Forget Body Pillows

If you follow all of these tips and you still tend to be uncomfortable or wake up with discomfort, try experimenting with placing pillows under your body while you sleep. Common areas are under the knees, the hips, or the lower back. Of course, this will differ per your sleeping position, body type, and degree of scoliosis, so double-check with your doctor that this is okay to do.

Maintain Good Sleep Hygiene

Experts recommend a variety of habits that add up to what’s known as sleep hygiene. This includes keeping a consistent bedtime routine, getting exercise and light exposure during the day, and even eating properly so you don’t wake up hungry in the middle of the night. Check out our 101 Tips for Better Sleep for more bedtime ideas.

Avoid sweat

For those who wear scoliosis braces at night, sweat can cause a serious problem. Especially if you consider yourself to be a regularly hot sleeper. Experts recommend using a dusting of cornstarch to avoid sweat. You can also lower the temperature in your bedroom, which is known to be an effective way to get better sleep even outside of the summer months. There are also mattress topper options that are made to help manage temperature at night.

Talk to your Orthoist

If you’re wearing a brace at night and are experiencing pain or discomfort with it, your Orthotist may be able to recommend safe and medically sound ways to alleviate it with edge shaving or foam.

RELATED: Best Rated Mattress Toppers

How To Naturally Improve Your Scoliosis 

In addition to ensuring you have a comfortable sleep each night with a pillow for scoliosis, a good sleeping position, a comfortable mattress, etc., there are other ways to naturally improve your scoliosis. 

To start, exercise can be a great way to improve your scoliosis, especially yoga. This can increase your flexibility, help your posture, and help decrease your pain. It can also make you aware of what positions are most uncomfortable to you, and which stretches help to improve that pain.

Secondly, another way to naturally improve scoliosis is by using some sort of back brace. You should speak to your doctor regarding which brace they’d recommend and how you should go about using it in everyday life (if necessary).

Lastly, the best way to improve scoliosis – especially if it’s a mild case – is to simply go about your life with the support of a doctor. Of course, you should regularly ask your regular health physician about your scoliosis, but having a healthy lifestyle and a positive mindset has been proven to decrease pain patterns, stress and the burden of the curvature