Ahhhhh…sleep, who doesn’t enjoy a good night’s rest? Especially after working a twelve hour shift at Women’s East or at Hamilton Place Mall when you are on your feet most of the day. Besides resting and feeling refreshed, it is the time your body repairs all the damage you created when you worked in the yard for 6 hours straight. Sleep also rests your mind and makes it so you can focus again. I always tell my patients, one third of your life is spent sleeping, make sure it’s a good one every night.
Questions always arise from patients about sleep. How much is too much or too little? What is the best position to sleep in? What kind of pillow is the best to use? What’s the best mattress to buy? Why do I wake up sore? All of these questions have pretty much, ran through all of our minds at one time. I will try to help answers these questions to give you a better understanding of your body and what is needed for a better night sleep.
When we sleep our bodies repair the damage we create. It also restores energy. If you get a good night sleep you actually need fewer calories the next day to complete your tasks.
Your body recovers by the means of tissue growth and repair from hormones that are released when you sleep. White blood cells become more active to attack bacteria and viruses.
Good sleep lessens your chances of getting depression and helps your brain sort out all the info it learned that day. Helps you remember the important stuff you will need in the future. Also helps with decision making.
You need about 7-9 hours of sleep to be well rested. Now everyone is different, some need a little more and some a little less. My sister needed 10 hours of sleep growing up or she was a cranky little one to put it nicely. Sorry….Danielle, you still love me.
Sleeping on your back or sides are the best sleeping positions. Sleeping on your stomach actually can stress your body. When you lay on your stomach your lower spine is arched too much. This is known as hyperlordosis. This causes extra stress on your facet joints. These facet joints are nerve tissue rich and will cause pain. Ask any pregnant woman how their back feels with their hyperlordosis in the 3rd trimester.
When you sleep on your stomach you also have to turn your head to one side to breath. This is very stressful for your cervical spine. Many chronic headache sufferers are stomach sleepers in my practice. I always advise them to try to change their sleeping positions to help facilitate healing and to reduce exacerbations.
When it comes to finding the proper pillow everyone is different. If you sleep on your side your pillow should be thin enough that your head extends slightly back to improve breathing. If you’re a side sleeper, your pillow should be thick enough so your head and neck is not angled up or down. Your neck should be straight, parallel to the mattress. I sleep on my back and side so I use two pillows. I use a down pillow when I sleep on my back. When I roll on my side my down pillow usually supports my neck, if it doesn’t, I have a thin pillow I pull down under my down pillow for that extra support to straighten my cervical spine.
A common complaint from my patients is that they wake up sore. One of the problems could be their mattress. I advise them to look at their mattress and see if they can see a dip in the mattress. Dips in your mattress are a sign of it breaking down and losing their support for your body. Sometimes the dip may be on your partner’s side or their weight causes you to roll towards them when you sleep.
When buying a mattress don’t fall for their marketing prowess. It is their way to make you want to buy their product and to charge way more than is needed. Your mattress should be firm and supportive. It is ok to get a pillow top as long as it’s not too thick. You can always soften up your mattress later if need be. You can run over to Walmart on Gunbarrel and they have a great selection of mattress toppers. You can even cut them in half if your partner wants their side a different firmness. The problem with a softer mattress is not a lot of support but also you cannot make it firm if need be.
One third of your life is spent sleeping; make sure you try to get the best night sleep you can. Your body will thank you.
At Total Health Chiropractic…We’ve got your back!
Christopher M. Lewis, D.C.