You wake up.
However, you don’t actually feel rested, and your body aches. Did you really sleep during the 7-9 hours?
If this sounds like your morning inner dialogue, it may be time to update your sleep hygiene including position, pillow and mattress.
We update our phones and backup our computers often but forget to update and backup the devices that support our bodies in rest- a state that is necessary to life.
In 2011 The National Sleep Foundation found that 92 percent of people say a comfortable mattress is important to a good night’s sleep. (1)
Where, how and with what you sleep is definitely important.
3 Things to Update
As with all aspects of sleep, your position is influenced by preference. Stomach sleepers, watch out! Sleeping on your stomach can cause pressure on your nerves from twisting your head and neck.
Becoming a back sleeper may assist in relieving morning neck pain. (3) In addition, sleeping on your back evenly distributes weight across the body, minimizing pressure points and ensuring proper alignment of your internal organs. Evidence suggests that actively alternating which side you sleep prevents pain and possible scoliosis. (2)
Once the body is in a better position, we can examine the accessories in order to optimize quality of rest. The pillow should position your head so that it’s in a healthy, neutral position.
Your nose needs to be in line with the center of your body, or your spine. Sleeping with an overly thick pillow causes your neck and head to be bent upwards. Conversely, sleeping with an overly thin pillow causes your head and neck to be bent downwards.
(3) One solution is trying a memory foam pillow that molds comfortably to the shape of your neck. A pillow can also be used between the knees for side sleepers to keep the hips, pelvis and spine aligned.
Like your position and your pillow, the type of mattress varies with preference. However, sleeping on the wrong mattress can cause or worsen lower back pain. Lack of support from a mattress reinforces poor sleeping posture, strains muscles and does not help keep the spine in alignment, all of which contribute to low back pain.
The natural curves of your lower back and spine should be comfortable and supported in order to avoid muscle soreness in the morning. Studies have found that medium-firm mattresses usually provide more back pain relief than firm mattresses. (4)
Ways to Help
Taking time to stretch in those first moments before getting up can also assist in soothing back and neck pain. Lie in bed, and slowly take an inventory of how your body feels taking slow deep breaths. Here is one simple stretch that you can do:
Lie on your back with your legs straight and place a long strap around your forefoot, holding the ends in either hand. Pull on the strap to lift your leg straight up, keeping your knee straight, until you feel a gentle stretch behind the thigh. Keep your tailbone grounded on the bed/floor. If you have any pain in your back, you can bend the opposite knee and bend that foot flat on the ground. Hold for prescribed time.
Check in with a Physical Therapist, like those at James Fowler, on how to properly execute a Hamstring Stretch. If your neck and back pain persists even after position, pillow and mattress updates, make sure to check with a doctor as well.(5) A more positive and pain free morning dialogue is just a backup away.
- Huffington Post. (https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/09/mattress-sleep-health_n_4740435.html) 2/9/2014.
- Cleveland Clinic. (https://health.clevelandclinic.org/2015/12/sleep-position-causing-back-pain/Cleveland Clinic) 1995-2018.
- National Sleep Foundation. (https://sleep.org/articles/prevent-neck-pain-while-sleeping/).. 2017
- Veritashealth.com (https://www.spine-health.com/wellness/sleep/choosing-best-mattress-lower-back-pain). 1998-2018
- James Fowler Physical Therapy. (http://jamesfowlerpt.com/). 2018.