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Sleep Your Way to Better Health

healthy sleeper

Have you ever taken a moment to assess your “pillow posture” (how your head is positioned while sleeping)? The position that’s most comfortable and “natural” for you might be creating preventable health problems.

How Many Pillows Should I Use?

Your head and neck should be lined up with the rest of your spine. This is quite difficult to achieve if you’re using multiple pillows. So sleep with just one pillow beneath your head. Make sure it’s thick enough to provide adequate alignment, but not so thick that it angles your head upward. Also make sure it’s not too thin, otherwise your head will tilt down when you’re lying on your side.



Stomach Sleeping

stomach sleeping 2

Try walking around with your head turned to one side. It won’t take long for you to begin feeling pain, soreness, dizziness or neck/shoulder tension. Your body doesn’t like this standing up, and I promise you that it doesn’t like it when you’re lying face down with your head on a pillow either.

The fact is, wrenching your head and neck in this way for even just a few minutes while sleeping can significantly strain the muscles and ligaments of the spine. Repeatedly doing so every night for years slowly adds pressure to the joints and nerves, contributing to spinal degeneration and allowing for the development of a variety of health problems.

There are essentially three main sleeping positions – side, back, and stomach. While comfort is highly subjective, proper alignment isn’t. The best sleep position is one that promotes a balanced spine. Back and side sleeping can achieve this; stomach sleeping cannot. Stomach sleeping can cause damage to your spine and its supportive structures.

Try to sleep on your side:

– Support your head and neck with enough pillows (fold it in half to make it thicker if you have a thin pillow) to keep your neck in-line with your spine.
– Place a pillow between your knees to remove pressure from your lower back and pelvis.
– Hug a body pillow close to your chest with your top arm, making sure not to raise your arms above shoulder height to prevent circulation and nerve impairment. This is probably the main thing that will assist in switching to side-sleeping, since stomach-sleepers want to feel something close to their front-side.

Try sleeping on your back if sleeping on your side is uncomfortable.

– Use a neck support pillow to maintain the arch in your neck. The back of the head should be pretty close, if not directly on the mattress.
– Place a pillow under your knees to remove pressure from your lower back.

How to adjust your lifestyle for maximum healthy sleep:

Keep a regular sleep cycle – by going to bed and getting up at the same time each day will make you feel much more refreshed and energized that if you sleep the same number of hours at different times

Bedroom Environment – where possible keep your room dark and at a slightly cool temperature. Avoid having a television, computer or mobile phone in your room.

Diet – Your daytime eating habits will affect how well you sleep. It is particularly important to watch what you eat in the hours leading to bedtime:
Avoid stimulants such as caffeine and cigarettes
Avoid heavy rich foods with two hours of bedtime, fatty foods are difficult to digest and spicy foods may cause stomach troubles and heartburn.
Avoid sedatives such as sleeping pills and alcohol as the effects are usually short-term and sustained use can lead to dependency

Lifestyle – Our lifestyles are non-stop with ever present technology such as smart phones, laptops, TVs, games consoles etc and we often don’t make time to switch off and wind down. Avoid using technology in the hours before bedtime and make time to relax, such as taking a warm bath, warm drink, reading or listening to soft music.

Stress & Worry – Anxiety directly affects the rhythm of sleep. Anxious thoughts make the heart rate ‘race’ which then causes the brain to become alert and stimulated. Various techniques can be used to stop anxiety and calm the heart rate, speaking overrides thinking and can stop negative thoughts – do this when you start worrying about something before trying to sleep.

Exercise – Regular daily exercise can not only make you sleep more deeply but it is also good for your health, the more you exercise the more likely you are to improve your sleeping patterns. Don’t overdo it – too much exercise especially in the evening can wear you out physically and lead to wakefulness and alertness when trying to sleep. Relaxing exercises such as yoga or gentle stretching can help promote sleep.

In addition to implementing these methods, I recommend seeing a chiropractor to review the overall health of your spine. Improving spinal alignment can make the transition process from stomach-to-side/back more comfortable for you.



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