Sleep is a critical part of your overall health. This guide is dedicated to showing you how to get a better sleep through better support and alignment. These guidelines are a part of my Health Guides series.
Welcome to the Guide to Better Sleep. In this guide, I provide my perspective, as a Physical Therapist, on the physical things you can do to have a better sleep, especially the best way to sleep with osteoporosis. I will cover the following topics:
If you have osteoporosis, you need to be concerned with compression fractures. Compression fractures can cause back pain and can disturb sleep. Further, if you have one compression fracture, you are at risk of more compression fractures. To reduce this risk you will need to take appropriate measures. I discuss many of these in this better sleep guide and also in my blog post, How to Treat a Compression Fracture.
We know that your overall quality of life improves when you have a good night’s sleep so we should do each of these things well.
When you sleep well your ability to perform exercise and your balance improves. So sleep becomes a really critical part of overall health and wellness of all parts of your body.
I encourage you to check out my review of several important books on how to improve your sleep.
I hope that this guide is a good source for you to go to if you’re currently not having a good night’s sleep or if you’re looking for ideas or suggestions on positioning when sleeping.
The foundation for a good night’s sleep is a good mattress. Therefore, let’s start this guide to good sleep with how to choose the best mattress for sleeping. Specifically, I will cover how a good mattress can help you sleep better and how to support the space between your ribcage and pelvis while you sleep.
You want to support your body as best as possible. A medium to firm mattress seems to be regarded more highly for people.
Ideally you want to spend time on different mattresses and try them out for comfort. Pay attention to how you feel after you sleep at a friend’s house. If you get invited to sleep over and you have a great night’s sleep, find out what kind of mattress it was. The same goes for pillows.
Once you successfully find the best mattress for you, the next thing is supporting the space between your ribcage and pelvis while you sleep.
When it comes to sleeping comfort is key. Your sleep position is key determinant in the comfort of your sleep. Some people prefer a side sleeping position while others are more comfortable sleeping on their back. The tips in this blog are not just for someone who’s had a compression fracture but are helpful for any type of back pain or neck pain from motor vehicle accidents to common sprains and strains.
I’m going to cover this because it’s equally as important whether you’re a side sleeper or a back sleeper. In either case, you need to support the space where the ribcage ends and the pelvis starts. We have a little space there that tends to be unsupported when we’re sleeping, whether it’s on our side or on our back.
Here are the steps to creating a support for the space between your ribcage and pelvis:
This is not something that you have to do if you don’t have back pain. But certainly if you have back pain, it just gives you more support. Individuals with disc pain will appreciate the support. If however, your back pain is coming from spinal stenosis or facet joint irritation you may benefit from the support while on your side but should not use it if you are a back sleeper.
Another idea, suggested by Physiotherapist Mark Edwards, is to find the correct size of support that you require and rather than making a belt, roll it up and place it under the bottom bed sheet. Your weight will hold the support in place.
In the video above I demonstrates the best posture to sleep for neck pain. I show the correct sleep posture for neck pain and how to sleep for better neck posture. I also cover Dowager’s Hump pillow and the best Dowager’s Hump sleeping position.
One of the symptoms of forward head posture is neck pain. Often, if you wake up in the morning or during the night and your neck pain is worse, then your pillow is definitely one of the contributing causes.
When we think about the optimum pillow or the support that we need when we’re sleeping, a lot of it has to do with what position we sleep in. When we’re sleeping on our back the only thing that needs support, if we have good alignment, is the arch and the small of our neck.
If we tend to have a bit of a forward head posture, we’re going to need to support that space. Otherwise, our head is going to fall back. The more forward your head is, the more pillow you’re going to need to support. But know that if you continually support yourself when you’re lying on your back, you are never going to have an opportunity to actually get a little bit of a stretch and to gradually bring yourself back.
In many movies you always see the actor in bed with two big pillows. But this is terrible for the average person because it puts you back into the same head forward posture. Your spine never gets an opportunity to elongate.
If you’re a back sleeper, try to minimize your pillows as much as possible, so that you have the support just in the small of your neck. You don’t really need anything under your head.
But if your head is not yet comfortable going all the way flat, do use the smallest pillow you can under your head and still support your neck. Pillows should not be underneath your shoulders.
If you’re a side sleeper, however, then you are going to want to have a pillow that allows you to fill in the space between your shoulder and your neck. A pillow that is little bit flatter in this situation works, and the other pillow can be used between your knees and ankles. you want your chin to line up in the middle of your breastbone.
I hope these tips help you have a better night’s sleep and wake up pain-free.
Many of my clients are side sleepers but they need some coaching on side sleeping and shoulder pain. The tips below also apply if you have neck pain and side sleep.
I will cover and demonstrate how to sleep to avoid neck pain. This is also appropriate for people who experience back or shoulder pain as well as neck pain. Here are the steps you should follow:
Another topic I cover with my clients is the importance of recovery position. Sleeping in recovery position is for people who are side sleepers. You need to be flexible in your chest and shoulders to be comfortable with this position. My clients who are tight in the shoulder don’t particularly like this position. But it is an excellent position in that it keeps your back in a very neutral position.If you can do it, I encourage you to give it a try. Here are the steps you can follow:
In the video above I demonstrate the recovery position.
If like to read or watch TV in bed you might want to pay attention to the next section of the blog.
We see so many of the role models that we watch on TV and in movies, sleep with pillows. Usually they have, at least, two pillows, and sometimes they’re even more upright than I am right now.
That’s great if you’re in Hollywood and you’re getting paid big bucks. But if you’re just going to sleep, and want a good night’s sleep, I highly recommend that you follow these tips:
If you are still determined to read in bed here are some safe suggestions:
Finally, ensure that your pillows are underneath your head and neck, and not underneath your shoulders.
Back sleepers will need to make modifications to their sleep position to avoid back and neck pain. In the video above I cover best sleep positions for people who sleep on their backs. These recommendations help you avoid neck and back pain from sleep. I suggest that you have support in small of your back, your neck and under your thighs while you sleep.
Here are the sleeping tips for back sleepers:
Those of you who are looking for a little bit more support in a pillow and you are not in a position to go and buy all these different expensive pillows can use this easy solution — at least temporarily. Find or create a roll that’s going to support you at the neck.
In the video above I cover how to create a simple sleeping pillow for neck support. Here are the simple steps:
This is often a solution that I use if I’m in a hotel room. I rarely like their pillows. I’ll take the thinnest of the pillows, if I’m choosing to sleep on my back, I create a little roll and slip it into the pillow case. Often, I will just use the rolled towel alone.
For my husband who likes to sleep on his side, I use a pillow the thickness of his neck to shoulder length and place a rolled towel at the base of the pillow case.
Creating an ergonomic pillow for yourself whether you’re lying on your back or on your side to provide the support you need for your neck is this easy.