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Tips on getting a good night's rest!

The clocks have gone back and the nights are drawing in and I for one feel like hibernating, letting it all blow over and wake up again in the spring! As Chiropractors we get asked a lot about pillows, mattresses and sleeping postures as pain can really affect how well you sleep. One of the key things when addressing your sleep posture is to maintain a neutral spine. By that I want you to think about lining up your neck, mid-back and lower back in a straight line without any unnecessary bends in it.

Firstly, if you sleep on your front - STOP IT! This is not good for your spine. Often your head is twisted to one side, one hip is hiked up and sleeping on your chest actually limits the amount of oxygen you're getting when you breathe.

Let's start with pillow height. If you sleep on your back you will need a low pillow to stop your head from tilting forwards. A high pillow puts a lot of strain on the muscles at the base of the skull and can result in headaches. Conversely, a low pillow will tilt your head back. The orthopaedic wave shaped pillow are generally a "one size fits all" concept for the average sized body so if it works for you then great, if not you'll need to decide between fibre, down or memory foam.

If you are a side sleeper the pillow should be the approximate width from your shoulder to your head. If the pillow is too large your neck will tilt away from the bed, too shallow and you'll scrunch your shoulder up to your ears.

Side or back? Both are absolutely fine but again we are looking to keep the spine as neutral as possible. If you are suffering with lower back pain I really recommend that if you sleep on your back, place a pillow behind the knees to take the tension out of your hamstrings.

If you lie on your side, place a pillow between the knees as this stops the pelvis rolling forward and placing a twist in the spine. You may also find a rolled up towel under you waist helps to support the spine and stop it from bending towards the mattress.

Having a supportive mattress is key to a happy spine at bedtime but like Goldilocks it can take some trial and error to find the right one for you. If you share a bed you really need a medium-firm mattress for it to support you both. If you are both very different shapes and sizes you might want to consider a memory foam mattress so the bed moulds to you or have two separate single mattresses on the bed frame so you can both get the unique comfort you need. Most good mattresses have a lifespan of 7-8 years and quality really does depends on how much you are willing to spend.

Once you've got your alignment right you should be able to sleep more soundly. If you have any questions please don't hesitate to discuss them with your Chiropractor on your next visit.


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