We all know that sleep is important, but we don’t necessarily know why. It helps our body to recuperate, gives our body downtime from its metabolic functions to grow and develop, and helps with memory and learning.
When we don’t get enough sleep, it can have a massive impact on our health: Research into sleep deprivation has shown that there are changes in brain functions that can lead to memory loss, depression, a lack of concentration and behavioural changes.
Many factors can lead to sleep deprivation including:
- Poor diet
- Bad sleeping positions
- An old mattress
In order to get to sleep, a decent mattress that offers support is vital to get us in a good, comfortable position, ensuring a good night’s sleep.
What are the best and worst positions to sleep in?
At our chiropractic centre, one of the first things that we talk to all new patients about are the dos and don’ts of sitting, standing and sleeping. In fact, one of the major causative factors of disc herniation in the spine is poor quality and quantity of sleep.
A herniated disc refers to a problem with one of the disc between the vertebrae that stack up to make your spine. This condition occurs when some of the softer disc pushes out through a crack in the tougher exterior.
Sleeping on your back
This is a great position for supporting your head, neck and lower back. To avoid any type of lower back stiffness or discomfort, sleeping with an extra support under the knees is recommended.
Sleeping on your side
This is the most popular sleeping position for most. To keep your neck and shoulders relaxed and free from potential injury, it’s best to choose your pillow wisely, as well as your mattress. Consider looking at your body from the side: if your head is too low, it will be tilting to one side; too high, and it’s tilting to the other side, stretching your neck and leading to discomfort.
Sleeping on your stomach
This is the worst sleeping position: not only does it place extra stress on the upper half of your spine (the cervical and upper thoracic area), but also strains your stomach muscles.
If you often wake up with a stiff neck or back in the morning, it can be from sleeping in this position, as you are extending your lower back and rotating your head to one side for a prolonged period of time. Just try doing that during the day while sitting (say looking out of the window to your side), and see how long you can tolerate it!
How else can you improve your sleep?
There are other factors that can affect the quality of your sleep, regardless of your sleeping position.
Replace your mattress (and pillows)
If you have a sore back or neck in the morning, you may well need to invest in a new mattress and pillow. We recommend a new mattress every 8 years, and a new pillow every 1.5 to 2 years.
If you’re struggling to decide which is the best style for you, take a look at our Bed & Mattress Guide for more information.
Ensure your bed is big enough
You need to stretch, turn and move without waking, or being woken by, your partner.
Not only will it stimulate your brain, making you restless, but it may mean you need to go to the bathroom more!
While avoiding caffeine may seem like an obvious tip, it’s also one of the most common among the tea-and-coffee-drinking UK.
For more information, see 7 Sleep Mistakes You Don’t Know You’re Making.
Get to sleep between 10 pm and 1 am
Optimum sleep time is found in the early hours of the morning, so ensuring you are fast asleep by then is vital to allow our bodies to recuperate.
Even light, regular exercise can improve our quality of sleep, but not late in the evening, as it takes time to downshift into a rested state ready to go to bed.
Meditation is also a very effective way of unwinding to help you get a better night’s sleep as it relaxes both the body and mind, which can be particularly helpful after a stressful day at work.
Check out these meditation techniques to help you sleep
Educating ourselves on the importance of getting quality sleep can help us to lead a healthier lifestyle. Follow these tips and enjoy a better night’s sleep.