Health is a billion dollar industry in the United States with diet, training and supplements coaxing Americans to live better and longer. But, one of the most overlooked areas for optimal health is the ability of the body and mind to recover using a good night’s sleep.
Insomnia and interrupted sleep often contribute to many adverse health issues. Lost sleep can sometimes be prevented by a simple adjustment or recognition, but the key is taking time to analyze your rest habits. The following are a few common mistakes people make that may affect their sleep.
1. Sleeping on Your Stomach
Speaking as a chiropractor, this is one of the worst things you can do to your back that is easily changed. This position adds pressure on your spine and muscles depending on which side your head rests. Either way, pressure is exerted on the neck and upper back and can often travel to the lower back as well. The imbalanced pressure creates instability and forces the body to work unevenly. Over time, sleeping on your stomach can lead to pain, muscle stiffness and spasms.
Solution: Try sleeping on your back or sides.
2. Sleeping on Old Mattresses
According to one of the largest bed manufacturers in the world, Sealy Corporation, the average life span of a quality mattress is 8 to 10 years. Thus, most Americans are using beds that are outdated and lack the mechanical ability to assist in the sleep cycle. Old mattresses with worn coils and insufficient strength lead to a severe lack of spinal support and subsequent restless sleep.
The constant tossing and turning of the restless sleeper can sometimes be related to the body searching for comfort and a well supported position. Many patients with over-used mattresses report that they feel like they ran a marathon upon waking in the morning.
Solution: Check with your manufacture to determine the average life span of your mattress along with the amount of weight your mattress has to support on a regular basis, then do the math. Do not continue to use a mattress past its prime. We wouldn’t do this with our car tires, so we definitely shouldn’t do it with something we spend 6-8 hours on every night.
3. Sleeping With the Wrong Size and/or Worn Out Pillows
Similar to mattresses, our pillows have a life span as well. Many of my patients report using the same pillow for over 10 years! Your pillow might have some sentimental value but it may be costing you your spinal health. Too thick or too thin pillows can cause problems as well. If your pillow is too thick or thin then your muscles will have to work extra hard to maintain spinal balance and support while sleeping.
Solution: Invest in a good cervical or orthopedic pillow that keeps your spine in proper alignment, whether you are a side or back sleeper. The important thing is to make sure the pillow you use provides good cervical support.
4. Not Sleeping with Proper Knee/Leg Support
Most side sleepers often neglect using leg spacer support, and the same goes for back sleepers who lack knee support. This causes unnecessary pressure on your spine and over time can lead to pain and health problems.
Solution: The goal is to minimize the amount of spinal pressure while you sleep. One of the easiest things you can do to reduce spinal pressure is to place leg supports appropriately. Side sleepers can stick a pillow in between their legs and back sleepers can place it under their knees.
5. Sleeping with TV/Electronics in the Bedroom
Watching television and/or exposure to bright lights has been proven to keep you up at night and suppress your body’s natural sleep chemicals. Melatonin, the chemical that controls our internal body clock, is disrupted when someone uses an electronic device for only two hours before bed. Teens are most susceptible to this habit with the constant stimulation of electronic influences.
Solution: Get the TV out of the bedroom, and limit your time using electrical devices near bedtime. Ideally you should stop viewing all of your electronics (TV, tablets, smart phones, etc.) at least one hour before bedtime.
6. Sleeping with Pets
Move over Smokey, to the floor you go. If your pet knows not to hog the covers or spread out onto your side of the bed, then this may not be an issue. But chances are this is not the case.
Our feline and canine friends tend to move around a lot during the night and this is almost guaranteed to lead us to another night of interrupted sleep. Cats especially are nocturnal and are known to be on the prowl, so cat lovers be alert.
Solution: Sorry pet lovers, but the only solution is to get them out of the bed.
Now that you’re armed with some ideas on getting a better night’s rest, why not incorporate these simple rules to improve your health. Proper sleep Proper sleep in some cases has been proven to help with weight control, increased focus, reduced risk for cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure, help fight depression as well as many other health benefits. Sweet dreams!