At Nottinghill Family Wellness Centre Chiropractic Clinic in Oakville we are asked daily about how a person should sleep. The Oakville Based Chiropractors all agree on one thing – the harder the mattress the better. Have a read below to help fix any pain you are getting from your bed and sleeping position !
Quick Fixes to Help You Sleep
Sleep is the time during our day that we let our bodies rest and recover. We want to make sure that we are comfortable and are not waking up in pain. It is understandable that many people sleep in different positions throughout the night. However, many like to favor one relative to another. Whether you sleep on your back, your side, or your stomach, the following are different strategies that you can do to optimize the position of your body when you sleep!
If you experience neck pain and you are a back sleeper, usually the problem is that you are using too much pillow under your neck or the pillow is too high up on your head. This can cause your neck to be flexed (chin close to your chest) for 8 hours straight!
As a society, many of us sit a large portion of our day. Tell me someone you know with good posture… When we sit, work at a computer, work at a desk, or use our mobile devices, we are constantly hunching forward with our necks flexed. This constantly loads all the great tissues like muscles, ligaments, and joints at the back of the neck to keep our head upright. If you do something enough, your body has a way of recognizing that a certain posture is “normal”. Hence, more hunching, more neck flexing, more use of your muscles and tissues and eventually pain.
Sleep is the optimal time to give your body a break and let everything recover. Why would you want to do this to yourself at night too?
Give yourself a break when you sleep by getting rid of any excess pillows (you should only need one, rolled up if need be). Try placing your pillow closer to the top of your shoulders rather than sitting so high up on your head. It helps to keep a nice curve in the spine of your neck.
Another common problem with back sleepers is low back pain. People who are prone to anterior pelvic tilt (bum sticks out) naturally have an increased curve in their lower back. If you sleep with your legs straight, it can exaggerate the curve of the lower back and cause the joints to jam into each other. Do this for 8 hours and no wonder you’re in pain. To fix this, place one, two, or even three pillows under your knees. This flexes the hips slightly and opens up the joints of the lower back, alleviating pressure.
Some people find placing a pillow under the low back is helpful however this one is unnecessary. If you find it helps, go for it!
If you sleep on your side and wake up in the morning with neck pain, this fix is for you.
A big part of this problem is the thickness or the number of pillows that you place under your head while you sleep.
Here’s a solution:
If you are sleeping with two pillows or a very thick one with not much cushion to it, your neck will unnaturally curve upward towards the ceiling. When you do this, it jams the joints of the spine in your neck into each other on the side closest to the ceiling. Do this for 8 hours a night and it’s no secret why your neck hurts! This is more common in people who have narrow shoulders!
A good indicator if your pillow is too high is that you are waking up with pain on the side closest to the CEILING. For example, if you sleep on your RIGHT side and you wake up in the morning with pain on the LEFT side of your neck (the ceiling side).
To fix this, get rid of the second pillow, or find one that is less thick. You can even move the pillow closer to the tops of your shoulders.
If you are sleeping with a very thin pillow your neck cranes in the opposite direction towards the floor. The jams the floor-side joints of the spine in your neck. This is a lot more common in people with broad shoulders!
An indication that your pillow is too thin is that you are waking up with pain in your neck on the side closest to the FLOOR. For example, if you sleep on your RIGHT side and you wake up in the morning with pain on the RIGHT side of your neck (the floor side).
This is an easy fix. You can either roll up the pillow you currently use, get a thicker pillow, or add a second thin one.
Here is another tip to help you side sleepers protect your low back, hip and knees.
Normally side sleepers tend bend their knee towards their chest with their hip turned inward and the knees butting up against each other.
This causes 3 problems:
- The low back is rotated. This places strain on the muscles, ligaments, and joints of the spine. If you’re waking up with low back pain this could be the root of your problem.
- The top hip is internally rotated which can jam the head of the femur (thigh bone) into the edge of its bony socket (acetabulum). This is especially a problem in people who have a larger head of their thigh bone or more prominent bony socket compared to the average person. It can create a pinching sensation and is not comfortable! It also can create a lot of pain in people who have degeneration of their hip joint which we fancy people like to call “osteoarthritis”.
- The knees collide into each other. The knees are very bony and anyone with a knee problem understands that this is not pleasant!
Here’s a solution:
- Place a nice soft pillow between the knees to separate them. This keeps the low back in a nice neutral position, keeps the hip aligned nicely, and keeps the knees separated from each other. Many people get a lot of relief and find that their sleep is greatly improved using this strategy.
Give it a try tonight!
For all you stomach sleepers out there who get morning neck pain this is for you!
Sleeping on your stomach is probably the worst position you can sleep in. Your neck is spun around like an owl and extended backwards from the pillow your head is propped up on. This smashes the joints in your neck for all night! The muscles surrounding the joints in your neck start to freak out and tighten up. It feels like you’ve had a vice grip clamped around your neck all night!
You really should be trying to sleep on your back or your side. You can read above for help with those positions. However, some people find it very hard to make the switch.
So for those who are finding it tough to switch it up, here is a way you can try to manage:
- Take the pillow out from under your head to underneath the arm, shoulder and left side of the body that your head is rotated towards. If your head is turned left, place the pillow under your left arm, left shoulder left side of the body. You can even place a second or third pillow to wedge up your torso a little more.
- Leave your head on the mattress. That’s right, no pillow under your head. It’s surprisingly more comfortable than it seems!
- Placing the pillow under your arm, shoulder, and body rotates your torso to line up nicer with your head. Now your head won’t be rotated as much relative to your torso. This alleviates pressure on the joints in your neck! Try it!
I talked about neck pain with sleeping on your front side above. Low back pain is another common complaint with this sleep position.
Some people are prone to having an increased curve of their low back (hyperlordosis). This could be caused by several different reasons. However, lying on your stomach doesn’t help the issue. It facilitates extension of the low back. In other words, it increases the curve of your lower back. With people who already have an accentuated curve, this can be a problem!
Your spine is made up of a bunch of different bones. Where two of these bones meet and interact with each other is called a joint. Anytime you compress the joints in your spine for an extended period, it’s not going to feel pleasant!
The key is to try to get your low back into a more neutral position. If you combine the strategy above and prop up your torso and shoulder with a couple pillows, you can place one or two more beneath your lower abdomen/pelvis area.
This acts as a wedge to drive up your hips which rounds out your lower back into a better position. Your joints take less of a beating, and you’re waking up feeling like you just spent a night at the Ritz-Carlton.
Try out these strategies tonight to help you get a better sleep and reduce your morning pain!