Sleep like a baby with these top tips

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As Chiropractors, one of the most common areas we get asked about is sleep. I have put together a guide to help you tackle some of the issues that might be affecting your sleep.  But bear in mind there are lots of mixed opinions and what is right for one person, isn’t right for everyone!

What position should I sleep in?

Out of all the positions it is equally fine to be a side sleeper or back sleeper; the only position we suggest you avoid is sleeping on your front.  The issue is that in order to breath when face down, you need to turn your head at least 45 degrees to the side and this can contribute to neck pain and stiffness or the classic ‘cricked neck’, which many of us have woken with at some point. 

If you are a side sleeper then try not to develop a favourite side to lie on, as swapping from shoulder to shoulder each night should help to prevent some shoulder problems from developing- think about how the shoulder normally rolls forwards into a very rounded position at night.  Over a lifetime that’s a lot of stress on one joint.

The right pillow

This has to be the most common problem chiropractors hear of, finding the right pillow or combination of pillows.  My advice is if you can, go and try one out in a shop on a quiet morning for a few minutes to actually see if it is comfortable.  Many cheaper pillows work as well as the more expensive ones so don’t feel you have to go in at the upper price range.

As a general rule of thumb, if you always end up sleeping on your front opt for something soft to help accommodate the twist in the neck. If you sleep on your back or side, choose a medium to firm pillow depending on your preference.

The orthopaedic pillows are another option to try later on should you not find anything else helps.  If you get particularly hot at night then I suggest you steer clear of the memory foam sort (which can also be very firm).  We have found that the Tempur pillow is one of the best orthopaedic pillows which is why we sell them at Dixon Health. We also keep a ‘loan’ pillow in stock so you can try it out for a week before buying.


The Mattress Debate

Nowadays there are so many different types of mattresses available and it really can be a bit of a minefield.  Again, don’t be fooled into thinking the more expensive the better, although I’m not suggesting you purchase a mattress for the cheapest amount possible either, unless you want to sleep on a bed of hard springs!  But ask yourself what our ancient ancestors have used for the past thousands of years?  You don’t need something overly fancy, and spending a fortune on something with 10 different layers can just be unnecessary, unless it is the last resort for helping to deal with more chronic pain.

  • If you have no complaints with your previous mattress then opt for something similar to what you have always had
  • Remember it can take 4-6 weeks to get used to something new, and in this time back ache and stiffness is normal
  • A safe choice is usually to go for something ‘pocket sprung’, so each spring is packed individually. This gives you more even support
  • Turn or flip the mattress once a month (check with the manufacturer as some mattress are designed not to be flipped)

Six tips for before sleep

Many people mention they just can’t get to sleep very easily and most don’t know why.  Below are a number of tips to help get you into the right mindset and physical state for sleep, which is very important for muscle and tissue repair, processing stress from the day and many other functions.  The following are considered rules of ‘sleep hygiene’ and help you to create good habits.

  1. Finish up using your mobile phone an hour before bed time (the light of the phone stimulates the brain ready for action)
  2. Avoid coffee or other caffeinated foods/drinks after lunch
  3. Keep the TV in the living room and finish your programme an hour before bed- you don’t want to be stimulating your brain with cortisol and adrenaline (the stress hormones) as a result of watching Phil on Eastenders get into family trouble just before trying to switch off for the night!
  4. Keep the bedroom just for sleeping (if possible…)
  5. Get a good pair of blackout curtains to keep the streetlight from shining in
  6. Have a regular bed time each night, and try to stick to it

If you have already done most of the above and are still struggling with discomfort at night, then don’t forget that the problem may not be in your environment- it might be a problem with your neck or back itself that needs correcting before you can get a good night’s sleep.  Improved sleep is actually a side effect of Chiropractic treatment (yes-some side effects are very desirable!) so you can always call us for an appointment if you would like some assistance.

Sleep is one of the four key “pillars of health” that we often talk about with our patients. Find out what the other three are here.