Imagine after a day of turmoil and stress, you have a distorted sleep which makes you crankier the next day. Relatable? What are the factors that break the normal sleep cycle? In spite of getting tired, sometimes it is difficult to have a sound and peaceful sleep because we don't follow what it is now called as "sleep hygiene". Sleep hygiene is a broad term that involves mainly your sleeping postures, supports and habits. It is essential that your body is supported and maintained in a good posture even while you're sleeping so that the next morning you don't wake up with a sore and or stiff neck and back.
Sleep is associated with brain functions like concentration, productivity and cognition. Our sleep patterns have a direct effect on our behaviour and performance. Vitals like blood pressure, blood sugar levels and heart health are at low risk if an optimum sleep habit is practiced. Sleep also allows the body to regenerate and recover well and has a positive influence on the immunity as well. Most importantly, it preserves our mental health to its healthy state.
While it has so many benefits to offer, let's have a quick go-through the essentials of a good sleep.
Sleeping Aids : The mattress and The pillow
To have a good night slumber, a mattress of ergonomic standards and firmness is the key. It provides an even surface and prevents aches and pains. Too soft or too firm of a mattress can cause discomfort, thus leading to painful mornings. Pillows should be used adequately to maintain your spinal alignment. If you lay on your back, it should be able to accommodate your neck such that the natural neck curvature is maintained; if you lay on your side, it should not bend your neck too much on one side; if you lay on your back, excessive chin down should be avoided and head tilted on one side to promote uninterrupted breathing.Sleeping Postures :
Each one of us has a unique sleeping posture, but is it good enough for our sleep quality and health? What is it then, that people call it the "ideal sleep posture"? As a general rule of thumb, an ideal sleep posture is where your body is maximally supported in a way that does not break your sleep due to discomfort or sudden twitch in the muscles while you change positions during your sleep. As far as the kinetics is concerned, your head-spine-legs should be linearly aligned to avoid neck pain, back pain or any other discomfort.
While you may doze off to sleep and lose control of your posture throughout the night, there are certain measures you can take to set yourself up for good posture while you sleep. The three basic sleeping postures: On your back, on your side and on your stomach with their variations are discussed below:
Sleeping on your back :
The best one to prevent any kind of pain or discomfort. When you are sleeping on your back, it is easier for the head, neck and spine to be maintained in alignment and in their neutral position. The head and neck should be supported by an adequate number of pillows and to reduce stress on your lower back, pillows under the knees can keep up the comfort. In case of upper back issues, holding a pillow under your arms can be supportive.
Variation of lying on your back is the starfish and the soldier postures. Starfish posture is when you are lying on your back and your arms and feet are spread out to the sides and relaxed. The soldier posture is when the arms are completely flat at their sides.
Sleeping on one side :
Most common sleeping posture assumed. This is good for the back to attain an optimal posture. Strain on the lower back and hips can be reduced by placing a pillow between the knees. There may be a need for extra pillow support for the neck, just to make sure that it is not excessively angulated and head-shoulder alignment is linear.
Sleeping on the left side has benefits of maintaining a normal heart function, best in pregnancy to boost circulation and prevent weight on the liver, promotes lymphatic drainage, prevents heartburns in the night and improves liver and spleen function. This posture is also good for those who snore.
Variation of this sleeping posture is the foetal posture and the log posture. In the foetal posture, the legs are bent up and towards the stomach with the arms resting together at the side. This can be supported by placing a pillow under the arm and in between the knees. The log posture is when one is completely straight while lying on one side of the body.
This posture has the maximum potential to cause pain or discomfort. The neck should be as close as possible to the midline position. Small flat pillows underneath your chest or abdominal region can help you sustain the posture of the neutral spinal curve and provide adequate support. People who already have neck and back problems should avoid this posture. Variation of this sleeping posture is the free fall posture. It is lying on the stomach with head turned to one side. Arms typically hold the pillow or will rest on either side of the head while the legs dangle freely.
We all have our own patterns and positions of sleep. If any of these are causing pain and discomfort, it’s worth playing around with pillows and supports to try and make your sleep better. Other cues of a good sleep are avoiding exercises, stimulating activities, foodstuffs an hour before, stick to a routine that causes you to grind, avoid frequent naps and eliminate noise or use of phones or tablets just before you sleep. Lastly, have a scheduled sleep time so that our waking hours are the most productive and pain free!
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