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How to Sleep with Hip Pain

If you’ve been feeling discomfort in your hip, you’re not alone – the CDC1 reports that 36.5 percent of the adult U.S. population experiences lower limb (hips, knees, or feet) pain, which can range from minor to debilitating. Our hip joints are ball-and-socket joints that sit on either side of the body, connecting the pelvis and thigh bones2

Pain on the inside of the hip or groin is often caused by problems with the hip joint itself, while pain felt on the outside of the hip is usually a result of issues with surrounding muscles, ligaments, or tendons3. Today, we’ll help you understand what might be causing soreness in your hip and offer advice on how you might be able to avoid or relieve it. That said, it’s always best to talk to a medical professional if you’re experiencing severe or persistent pain.

Causes of Hip Pain


Hip pain can be caused by certain injuries4, including fractures, dislocation, and tears. If you play soccer or do gymnastics or dance, you’re at higher risk of injury, as these activities require extreme movement of the hip joint.

Sleeping Position

The Better Sleep Council5 reports that 47 percent of Americans sleep on their side, and while research6 shows that side sleepers often enjoy higher-quality sleep, this sleeping position can sometimes lead to hip pain. This is due to the amount of pressure7 that’s being loaded onto the side of the hip that you’re lying on, especially when sleeping on a mattress that’s too firm – it’s also why we tend to recommend softer mattresses for side sleepers. 

Additionally, pain can occur in the opposite hip if it tilts forward while you’re sleeping.7

Read more about the best sleeping positions here.


Unfortunately, our risk for developing certain diseases that cause hip pain increases the older we get, including osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis in the United States8. We also often become more sedentary as we age, which can weaken the muscles that stabilize our hips9, leading to discomfort. 


Arthritis is a painful condition that causes swelling and stiffness in the joints. Around one in four adults in the U.S.10  were diagnosed with the disorder between 2016 and 2018. There are many different types of arthritis but the ones that can cause hip pain include osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and ankylosing spondylitis.4 

Explore: Best Mattress for Arthritis


Our bones and tissues are surrounded by fluid-filled sacs that cushion these areas, and the main bursae can be found around the knees, hips, elbows, and shoulders.4 Bursitis occurs when these sacs become inflamed, and this inflammation is usually caused by an injury due to repetitive motion11.

Iliopectineal bursitis and trochanteric bursitis are the two forms of hip bursitis.4

Structural Abnormalities

Hip pain can also be caused by conditions that affect the shape of the hips, like femoroacetabular impingement (also known as FAI or hip impingement), which causes the bones to rub together painfully.

Another structural abnormality is developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH), in which the femur doesn’t fit into the hip socket properly12. DDH usually develops in the womb, while hip impingement can occur at any point in life.

How Does Hip Pain Affect Sleep?

It goes without saying that pain at bedtime isn’t conducive to a good night’s sleep, mainly because it can be harder to fall asleep when you’re struggling to find a comfortable position. You may also find it difficult to stay asleep if your pain worsens the longer you’re lying on the affected area.

Additionally, research shows that hip pain due to osteoarthritis is linked to lower sleep quality and increased fatigue13, while another study shows a correlation between worsening hip pain and poorer sleep quality14.

The Best Sleep Position to Stop Hip Pain

The Arthritis Foundation suggests sleeping on your back to help reduce symptoms of hip pain, as this distributes your weight more evenly.7 However, if side sleeping is preferred, you can try placing a pillow between your knees or behind your back. This should help relieve pressure and encourage the hips to stay aligned. 

What Else Helps Hip Pain While Sleeping?

Find the Right Mattress

Sleeping on a mattress that works for your body weight, shape, and sleeping style is imperative for getting quality rest, as well as avoiding hip pain. Side sleepers tend to find better pressure relief on a softer bed, though softness is subjective. Check out our full-length mattress reviews, which include lots of information on pressure relief for different weights and sleeping positions; these reviews should give you a good idea of a mattress’ suitability for your specific needs. 

Use a Body Pillow

Body pillows are long, thin pillows that offer additional support to the sleeper, especially when sleeping on the side. Recent research shows that the use of such a pillow can significantly reduce pressure on the hips and shoulders15, which may alleviate pain in those areas. Body pillows are often helpful during pregnancy as well.

Heat and Cold Therapy

There’s evidence to suggest that applying heat16 to a problem area can help reduce musculoskeletal pain, with immediate effects. The application of heat increases blood flow, which can soothe aching joints and relax tight muscles. Heat can be applied with a heat pad or wrap, or by simply having a warm bath or shower, or using a sauna

Experts advise the use of heat for chronic pain17, like arthritis. However, when it comes to acute injuries less than six weeks old, cold therapy is recommended, as this is superior at reducing pain and inflammation. The best way to apply cold to your hip is with an ice pack (you can use a bag of frozen vegetables or ice cubes, wrapped in a towel) or ice gel pack, with experts recommending 20 minutes on, then 20 minutes off.17 

Learn More: Best Cold Plunge Tubs and Best Portable Sauna

Pain Medication

For minor hip pain, the use of over-the-counter pain relievers18 may be enough to help ease symptoms. These include NSAIDs like ibuprofen and naproxen, as well as acetaminophen. You can also try topical pain relievers, such as capsaicin and salicylates. It’s recommended that you see your doctor if you need to use pain relief for longer than two weeks19 or if the maximum dose no longer works.  

Ways to Help Hip Pain Throughout the Day

  • Movement  – Gentle mobility or stretching exercises can help relieve stiffness or soreness in the hip, with evidence showing how exercise programs can be effective for short-term relief20 in patients with hip osteoarthritis. The Arthritis Foundation21 recommends a seated butterfly stretch, knee-to-chest stretch, or side leg raise, among others.
  • Eat a healthy diet – Research suggests that eating more anti-inflammatory foods22 can help improve pain scores in patients with chronic pain. This means consuming a higher intake of fish, vegetables, fruits, and unprocessed cereals, and smaller amounts of meat, dairy, and ultra-processed foods. 
  • Good posture – Poor posture23 can have repercussions for your back and hip health. Ensure your weight is evenly distributed through both feet when sitting and standing; your ankles, knees, hips, shoulders, and ears should be aligned when you stand. While sitting, your hips, shoulders, and ears should be in one line.
  • Consult your doctor – You can try home remedies for minor hip pain, like pain relievers and ice/heat therapy, but if these don’t work – or the pain is unbearable – you should see a doctor. Your physician should be able to diagnose the root cause of the problem. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is hip pain worse at night?

If you only experience hip pain when you’re lying in bed, there’s a good chance your mattress or sleeping position is the problem. However, if you also feel pain during the day, it might get worse at night. Researchers suggest that this is because the senses are heightened while trying to sleep, and we’re more aware of pain24 when we’re not distracted by the activities of the day.

Should I sleep on my hip if it hurts?

It’s best not to sleep on the affected side of your hip if it’s hurting, as this can exacerbate any existing pain. It’s recommended to sleep on your back when experiencing hip pain, although you can also try side sleeping with a pillow between your knees.7

How do I stop my hip from hurting when I sleep on my side?

Placing a pillow between your knees or using a body pillow can help keep your hips in alignment, which may ease nighttime aches.7,15 Over-the-counter pain relievers can also help to reduce discomfort.

Can an improper mattress cause hip pain?

Yes – it’s important that you’re sleeping on a quality mattress that suits your body weight, type, and sleeping position. Side sleepers can be more prone to experiencing discomfort when sleeping on a mattress that’s too firm because they may find their hips digging into the mattress, which can cause an uncomfortable buildup of pressure. However, firmness is subjective – you ideally want a mattress that’s firm enough to keep your hips and spine in alignment but soft enough to cradle your body and relieve pressure.

Lisa Bowman

Lisa Bowman


About Author

Lisa is a content writer for Sleep Advisor, which combines two of her greatest passions – writing and sleeping. She can also be found writing about fitness, sustainability and vegan food.

Combination Sleeper


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