7 Ways to Relieve Knee Pain at Night and Sleep Better

7 Ways to Relieve Knee Pain at Night and Sleep Better
November 5, 2021

Trying to fall asleep with knee pain can be incredibly frustrating! You’ve had a long day and just as you’re finally ready to drift off to a peaceful sleep, that knee pain kicks in, keeping you awake and disturbing your precious rest time.  It’s at this moment when you’re wondering just how to relieve knee pain at night.

Many people suffer from this pain-induced insomnia. The nagging pain prevents you from falling asleep to the point where you feel exhausted the next day and your pain only feels heightened (since proper sleep is such an important part of your overall health and wellbeing).  

It’s a horrible cycle that needs to be broken! Keep reading to discover some potential solutions on how to sleep with knee pain. In this article, we’ll cover: 

  • Why is knee pain so bad at night? 
  • Easy tips on how to relieve knee pain at night so you can get to sleep
  • Longer term solutions you can also consider 


Why is My Knee Pain Worse at Night? 

Experiencing knee pain at night is both:

1. A reflection of what's happening to your body physically

2. How you’re mentally perceiving that pain when trying to relax and prepare for sleep.

You may be physically experiencing more knee pain at night from:

The Day’s Activities:

Daily stresses on the knees – from walking, running, and even sitting in certain positions – can all add up and hit you hours later. This is especially true if you’ve engaged in any out-of-the-ordinary activities that overexerted the knees, such as jumping exercises or a particularly challenging hike.

Nighttime Inflammation:

When you finally settle to rest after the day’s activities, inactive knees actually start to swell up. This is because when you’re not moving, your body doesn’t naturally lubricate your joints as much. The synovial fluid inside the knees isn’t circulating around the joints at the same rate it does when we’re active. This explains why after a few hours of lying still before or in bed, your joints start to feel stiff, less flexible, and often painful. 

You may be mentally feeling more pain at night because:  

You’re Not Distracted:

Once you’re in bed, you’ve slowed down enough to actually notice the pain. You’ve put away your smartphone and with it all the distractions from the day. Those mild to moderate pains that you ignored when you were going about your day now seem more intense as you’re lying still in the quiet with little else to focus on. 

While some of these factors are out of our control, let’s focus on how to relieve knee pain at night and how to sleep with knee pain right now. 



How to Sleep with Knee Pain Tonight

The time has come when you’re about to get ready for bed. You’re looking for some immediate solutions on how to relieve knee pain at night, tonight. Here are some things you can try to find more comfort and relieve your pain so you can get to sleep: 



1. Stretch it Out

Before even getting into bed, you want to do everything you can to make your knees more comfortable. In general, stretching before bed can help to improve blood flow and relax your body and mind.

To minimize knee pain specifically, engaging in some basic knee stretches will help release built-up tension. It will be soothing to feel the tightness in your knees start to loosen. Try: 

Standing Hamstring Stretch:

  • Stand on one foot with the other extended in front of you–heel on the floor, toes up. Bend your upper body forward and bend your standing knee as you sit back a bit. Hold as long as comfortable. Switch sides. 
  • You’ll feel a stretch in the hamstring of the straightened leg. This will loosen up your hamstrings – which support your knees. 

Quad Stretch:

  • You can even do this one lying in bed if you want to. 
  • Simply lie on one side, bend your top knee, pull your foot up to your butt, hold as long as comfortable. Switch sides. 
  • This will stretch out your quad, relieving pressure from the kneecap.

2. Relax with a Bath

Another tip on how to sleep with knee pain is to reduce the amount of time lying awake in bed as much as possible. That means you need to actually go to bed tired and ready to fall asleep. Establishing a repeatable bedtime routine that winds you down could help you fall asleep faster if you are able to stick to it over the long term.  

One of the most popular soothing nighttime rituals is having a warm bath.  Spending 20 minutes in a warm bath before bed can help to soothe aching joints, relax your mind and body, and potentially help sleep arrive more quickly.

Baths are great for knee pain because they: 

  • Remove some of the gravity that puts pressure on your knees 
  • Can increase blood flow
  • May help reduce swelling and inflammation
  • Support the legs

Plus, one study found that bathing 90 minutes before bed in water at 104 to 109°F (40 to 43°C) helped people fall asleep an average of 10 minutes quicker than normal!

If baths aren’t your thing, there are a few other best practices you can turn to when it comes to falling asleep faster, including:

  • Make sure the temperature in your bedroom is not too hot. 
  • Keep the light out with blackout blinds.
  • Leave phones outside the bedroom. 
  • Use earplugs to cut out noise. 
  • Avoid eating a large meal near bedtime.
  • Avoid drinking too much to prevent waking up to go to the bathroom. 


3. Adjust Your Position & Use a Cushion

Don’t underestimate the importance of finding a good sleeping position. This is especially important for those suffering from a torn meniscus, iliotibial band syndrome, knee bursitis, knee osteoarthritis, or chondromalacia. By adjusting your position in bed and introducing a pillow, you can add much-needed extra support to painful knees and cut down on discomfort. 

  • For those with arthritic knees: try sleeping on your side with a small pillow between your knees. This provides better knee support and prevents your knees from knocking together. 
  • For those who are back-sleepers: try sleeping with a pillow under your knees. This offers support while keeping your knees slightly bent to prevent bones from pressing together at the painful joint.
  • For anyone else: It’s worth trying out completely new positions to see which ones work for you.



4. Try Heat and Cold Therapy

Now that you’ve found a comfortable position in bed, try 15 minutes of hot or cold therapy.  Hot and cold sensations can help reduce swelling and manage pain. 

  • Heat Therapy: Working the same way on your body as a warm bath, a heat pad warms the knee joint which relaxes muscles and improves blood flow and circulation to the area. 
  • Cold Therapy: Conversely, cold therapy works by reducing blood flow to the knee and nerve activity, numbing the sensations of pain. Applying an ice pack wrapped in a towel against the joint will help to relieve swelling, inflammation and sharp pain. 

The key is to combine both hot and cold therapy. The heat will provide the initial relief but it’s important to follow with the cold to prevent blood from pooling in the knee. And always remember to remove the hot or cold pack before actually falling asleep! 



5. Try a TENS Therapy Device

TENS and EMS therapy is a combination of therapies similar to those used in clinics and physical therapists. They are great options for those who contend with knee and leg pain from work, activity and every living. TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) and EMS (Electrical Muscle Stimulation) work in tandem in devices like DR-HO’S Pain Therapy System which can help to temporarily relieve knee and leg pain through nerve and muscle stimulation: 

  • TENS is a form of nerve stimulation that uses safe, gentle electrical currents to target the nerves and override pain signals sent to the brain. In addition, TENS therapy is thought to trigger the release of endorphins, which are natural hormones produced by our bodies to help relieve pain. 
  • EMS is a form of muscle stimulation that causes healthy muscles to contract and release.  As these muscles move, TENS and EMS machines can increase local blood circulation, bringing nutrient-rich, oxygenated blood to those muscles. 
  • Combined, TENS and EMS can work together to provide targeted, deep, penetrating relief from pain caused by work, activity and daily living.



To use this device, simply place pads on your knee, plug the pads into the device, and adjust the mode and intensity to your individual preference. You’ll feel gentle electric currents on your knee, which people often describe as a soothing massage-like sensation that feels great!

A Therapy and Support Band can also be a useful accessory here, since it’s specifically designed for knee pain. You just wrap the band around the knee and it provides extra support while delivering that relaxing TENS and EMS  therapy.

With any TENS machine,  you just need to make sure that the device turns off before you sleep. All DR-HO’S pain therapy devices come with a self-timer for 10, 20, and 40 minutes. So if you fall asleep wearing it, it’s no problem!



6. Wear a Knee Brace

If you’re intrigued by the therapy support band, a full knee brace could also be beneficial.  Simple sleeves that fit tightly over the knees offer short-term pain relief through compression therapy.  This works to combat that nighttime inflammation and stiffness you’re experiencing lying in bed.

Plus, you can also wear this throughout the day if you feel additional swelling. Knee braces are common and cost-effective products usually available at your local drug store. 



7. Try and Take Your Mind Off It

Last but not least, try simply just taking your mind off your nagging pain. While easier said than done, it’s best to distract yourself. Try:

  • Using a meditation app. These offer guided meditations, bedtime stories, or soothing nature sounds.
  • Practicing breathing exercises. Focus the mind on counting each breath.
  • Listening to an audiobook or podcast. Specifically, something light, fictional, or humorous is an amazing distraction. Plus, it will put you in a great, relaxed mood optimal for sleep. 

In addition, there are a few things you should start thinking about longer term if nightly knee pain becomes a serious problem in your life. 



Longer Term Considerations on How to Relieve Knee Pain At Night

1. Don’t overuse your knees: Pay attention to your activities during the day. Overusing the joints can make the discomfort worse. 

  • Take breaks if you're walking long distances.
  • Don’t continue any activity that brings on the pain. 
  • Avoid stairs whenever possible.

2. Weight Loss: Weight loss will reduce the amount of strain and pressure you put on your knee joints.

3. Engage in regular (but safe) exercise: Regular, light exercise improves blood flow and helps joint health. Good low impact exercises for knees include the following, but always be sure to consult a trusted healthcare professional to ensure the physical activity you’re doing isn’t doing more harm than good. 

  • Swimming
  • Biking
  • Light walking
  • Elliptical 




4. Take care of your feet: Knee pain can start in the feet and radiate upwards. Make sure your shoes provide the proper support and aren’t worn out. Individuals with higher foot arches should also be seeking out additional support with insoles. 


5. Consult your doctor: If chronic nightly knee pain persists, you need to tell your doctor.  They will be able to accurately assess your individual circumstance and suggest additional therapeutic methods such as physical therapy.



Let’s Summarize: How to Relieve Knee Pain at Night

  • You’re not alone, many people with pain find it difficult to fall asleep.
  • Knee pain tends to swell up at night due to lack of movement.
  • There are a variety of solutions on how to sleep with knee pain, such as taking a bath or using TENS therapy. 
  • In the long term, bigger lifestyle changes may be needed.

Living with knee pain, especially pain that flares up at night is a daily challenge! We understand just how frustrating it all is. We hope this article on how to sleep with knee pain has helped you understand your pain and empowers you to take action to reduce your knee pain – so you can finally get some much-deserved rest.


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