PART-1, tried and tested tips for getting restful sleep and reducing morning stiffness when living with ankylosing spondylitis

If you suffer with AS, you will be well aware that sleep is essential. Patients with ankylosing spondylitis would probably pay for sleep if you could buy it… Now I am not suggesting taking sleeping pills but it is worthwhile to look at ways of making sleeping more comfortable.

I would like to share my personal sleep tuning practices that have helped me get through difficult AS pain times.

Maybe you to busy yourself when night falls, trying to avoid going to bed because you are frightened that the nasty pain will come back.

It takes you hours in the morning to get to a point where you are comfortable moving around? It makes sense that you are dreading going to bed and taking the chance to loose the mobility that is so hard to come by.

To break the cycle of pain and muscle spasms we need to get restorative sleep which is hard to come by when living with AS.


Although it is a chicken and egg situation, I think by implementing some non-invasive habits I will share in this two part sleep tuning post the cycle can be broken, it just needs a little patience and self compassion.

Have a look at my tips below, in combination with the tips I share on how to ease muscle pain in another post you have a good set of tools to make huge improvements to your levels of fatigue and overall quality of life.

Sleep positions for people with AS, that can help avoid morning stoop and stiffness.


Tuning your bed

You need:

  • various sized pillows
  • a small towel


Lower back

I have various pillows and towels on hand to adjust or support my sleeping position. To avoid waking up with a flexed spine, I use a rolled up towel under the mattress cover at the level where my lumbar spine and waist curve are located.

Pelvis and waist

If you are a lady blessed with luscious hips, you may feel tension in the outside hip or lower back when sleeping on your side. I found using a thick pillow between the thighs/ knees helps keep the body from twisting and getting stiff and painful during sleeping.

Shoulder girdle

I also like to bunch up a pillow under my head so that my shoulder is not compressed forward or backwards.



When I sleep on my back I like the rolled up towel under my lower back and a thick down pillow under the back of the knees. Whether you want to use a pillow under the head or not depends on how you feel comfortable.

I have days where I use 1 pillow, 2 pillows or even none.

Ankles and sleeping on your front

If you have inflammation around the ankle/ heel area, you may find it very uncomfortable to point your toes. Sleeping on your tummy requires the feet to be pointed resting on the their top which can be painful when the bursa of the heel is inflamed. You can use a thick towel to lay under your ankles to get a relaxed, floppy calf and lose the compression full toe pointing would cause.

Depending on how far you have progressed in your AS, you may not be able to lay on your front, but it is good to know your options.

Other places you can sleep

I do have a magic sofa that I used to move on to when the pain from sleeping in the bed got to the point where sleeping was no longer possible. If you look at that sofa you would think, “no way anyone could sleep on there”, but it saved my nights for many months. Yes, that is how I used to have my arms it helped ease the thoracic spine pain. I also used to add a hot water bottle under my back where I needed relief the most.

Sometimes I would sleep on my side which allowed me to trap the hot water bottle between the backrest and my body another plus point for the sofa.


I have slept on the floor before out of desperation and in the hope that my back would not be distorted as much. I am not sure I would recommend it, that’s why I got myself a hard mattress in the end.




I used to have a saggy latex foam mattress that made me wake up stiff and curled up.

Every mattress has its pros and cons, the latex one accommodated the hip joint/ pelvis sinking into the soft surface, my newer super hard coil spring mattress is sometimes too hard but overall I still prefer it. Sometimes my hip gets sore in the tissue from the pressure, might be worth investing in a soft mattress topper to take the edge off.


In PART-2 of this post (27th Feb) I will share a few lifestyle tricks I have used successfully to further assist my body in trusting me that I will do everything to help it get better.


Get support

If you feel you need additional support on your journey to living a fulfilled pain free life with AS you can get in touch for more personal support. I offer holistic personal training and nutrition and lifestyle coaching locally in Leeds, West Yorkshire, UK and for anyone online if desired.

I look forward to supporting you.

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