Sleep deprivation has a significant negative impact on our health. When we consistently don’t get a good night’s sleep, our performance and safety is compromised. Getting as little as one and a half hours less sleep than needed can reduce alertness during the day as much as 32 percent.
Loss of sleep affects cognitive functioning leading to a poorer quality of life and an increased likelihood of occupational injuries and automobile accidents. Conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, depression, even cancer can be linked to chronic insomnia. In the United States, 50 to 70 million adults do not get enough hours of good sleep.
Following are some of the common causes interfering with sleep.
- Stress at home and/or work.
- Chronic anxiety
- Certain medications
- Certain heath problems like sleep apnea
- Uncomfortable sleeping habits and environment
If we can eliminate stress, anxiety, medications and health problems as culprits for not sleeping well, perhaps we need to consider the fact that maybe our sleep posture is costing us a good night’s sleep as well as affecting spine wellness and causing back pain. So when we turn in for the night, it’s wise to remember these tips:
Keep Your Spine in a Neutral Position
The Mayo Clinic says that adopting a neutral spine position can help us avoid back pain at night. Switching to a foam mattress can help. Try to sleep in the back or side position. Also choose a pillow that supports a straight spine. A too-thick pillow can cause the neck to bend incorrectly toward the ceiling, and a too-thin pillow will cause the head to bend the other way.
Use Posture Pillows
Posture pillows rather than regular foam or feather pillows are worth the investment. There are several different types; they can easily be ordered online. Stay away from pillows that are made of mushy foam. The weight of the head can displace this type of foam. They will also give very little support. Instead choose firmer foam or materials that support the head by pressing back. Don’t believe any description that supports universal fit when it comes to purchasing a posture pillow. Look for one that is consistent with the shape and size of your own body.
The position we sleep in calls for different ways to use pillows:
Pillow positioning for back sleepers
Back sleepers can get relief by placing two pillows underneath the back of the knees. This helps reduce strain on the lower back. The lumbar spine is flattened; therefore, less force is put on the pain-sensitive facet joints of the spine. This position is the best overall way to help the back to rest comfortably. In fact, many people find that this is the only way they can sleep during a severe bout of back pain or when recovering from spine surgery. Lying on your back, the head and neck should remain level with the upper back and spine. The pillows should not be so thick they cause the head and neck to be propped up or angled away from the body.
Pillow positioning for side sleepers
Side sleepers can put a pillow between the knees to help keep the hips neutral if the hips are wider than the waist. The head and neck should remain level with the mid and lower spine. Finding yourself sleeping on your side with one hand propped under the pillow is a clue that you’re not getting proper support from that pillow. Use a firm pillow between the knees to prevent the upper legs from pulling the spine out of alignment. This will reduce stress on your lower back and hips. Pull the knees slightly toward the chest. Use the pillow under the head to keep the spine straight. A smaller pillow or rolled-up towel placed under the waist can help support the spine.
Pillow positioning for stomach sleepers
Stomach sleepers should try a different position. We do NOT recommend this position because it can create stress on the back putting the spine out of position. However, stomach sleepers can keep the spine in better alignment by placing a flat pillow under the stomach and pelvis area. A pillow placed under the hips helps reduce the curvature of the lumbar spine. The pillow for the head should be flat or eliminated.
If you are experiencing back pain for any reason, call our office today at 425-778-9600 for a consultation.
— By Dr. Waldron