Frequently Asked Questions
Sleeping-related concerns are among the most common questions we get asked in our chiropractic centres. When a person wakes up with pain—usually stiffness or achiness of some kind—it is very natural to come to the conclusion that there is a problem with some aspect of their sleeping process.
Do they have the wrong pillow? Is their position correct? Maybe it is their mattress? What mattress do they need to ensure that they wake up feeling rested and refreshed? Is a soft mattress better or a firm one?
The fact of the matter is, if someone is experiencing pain when they wake up, the pain is rarely caused ONLY by their mattress, or sleeping position, or their pillow. These factors can be important, but usually, these areas are adding stress to an underlying injury in their spine and nerve system. They are making an existing problem worse and are not the cause.
The mattress, or pillow, or position are usually the EFFECT, not the CAUSE.
At the same time, we can do a number of things to make sure that our sleeping habits are as stress-free as possible to reduce the rigours of sleep and to help us feel energized and recharged when we wake up.
We’ll work through a list of frequently asked questions related to sleeping concerns in the next two posts so that we can help you enjoy great sleep.
1. What Position Should I Sleep In?
Managing your sleeping position can be very challenging. Once you fall asleep, all bets are off, because you likely move around throughout the night. I’m sure we have all woken up in an awkward position, wondering “How the heck did I end up like this?” Your sleeping position can affect the stress and tension you experience in your spine.
Let’s look over a few common positions people sleep in.
Don’t Sleep on Your Stomach!
Sleeping on your stomach is the worst position because, unless you have a hole in your bed for your face, you will have to rotate your head and neck to one side in order to get to breathe and feel comfortable.
This fixed, rotated position will create stress and tension on your cervical spine and can lead to muscle strains and spinal joint inflammation and pain. If you are a stomach sleeper, break this habit today!
Sleeping on Your Back is the Best
Sleeping on your back in a neutral position is the most recommended position. You will also want a small(low) pillow to support your neck.
If it is comfortable for you to sleep on your back without a pillow, this is a good option as well. Personally, I regularly sleep on my back without a pillow.
Sleeping on your back (with or without a small pillow) will lead to a minimal amount of stress and tension to your spine and nervous system. Do your best to establish this position as a habit.
Again, sleeping on your back is the recommended position.
Side Sleeping Also Can
Sleeping on your side can also be advisable, but you will need a larger (higher) pillow to keep your cervical spine (your neck) supported, in an inline and neutral position.
While sleeping on their sides, some people prefer to position another pillow (possibly a bolster, or what some call a “body pillow”) between their legs to keep their pelvis in a neutral alignment. I would say this is optional, but give it try to see how it works for you.
Side sleeping is a good “second best” option.
- Never sleep on your stomach!
- Try to sleep on your back in a neutral position with a small(low) pillow. Eliminating the pillow is another good option
- If you have to sleep on your side, this is fine, but use a larger(higher) pillow to support your neck. Try to position a pillow between your legs to ease any low back tension that may be present.
2. What is the Best Pillow?
Questions about the type of pillow one should use are also very common. There are a lot of expensive options heavily marketed out there. Some chiropractors even sell very expensive pillows themselves to try to supplement their income. Don’t fall for this and don’t buy these fancy “orthopaedic” pillows.
As stated above, if you sleep in the recommended position on your back, a standard small pillow (or no pillow) should be sufficient.
Even more, recommended than a standard pillow is to loosely roll up a bath towel and to place that underneath your neck. This soft “neck roll” will support your normal neck curve and lead to a more neutral posture.
Examine your pillow and make sure it is not too high and that it does not thrust your head too far forward, causing your chin to be pulled in when you are laying on your back. Your pillow should not be too firm.
Try the rolled-up towel technique or no pillow at all. At first, making this change may be uncomfortable, but in time you will adapt and you’ll see the benefits of supporting your neck while you sleep and not supporting your head.
In general, the position you sleep in is far more important than the type of pillow you use.
The best thing you can do to improve your sleeping habits, feel more rested when you wake up, and to have more energy throughout your day is to get your spine checked for spine problems and nervous system dysfunction.
Chiropractic naturally restores the movement and alignment of your spine and improves the health and vitality of your nerve system. Amazing health breakthroughs are possible with optimal nerve supply.
Align your spine, maximize your life.
Let’s Take Your First Step to a Pain-Free Life.
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