Ask the Doctors: ZZZZZ…SLEEP…ZZZZZ

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Q: What is the best way to sleep?

– Kerri, Buffalo, New York

A: Sleep. Ah yes, that wonderful thing we get to do at the end of a long day. I for one love to sleep! It’s during this time, specifically REM or dreaming sleep, that our nervous system works to repair the damage we do to our bodies everyday.

So, what is the best way to sleep? For your mind, it doesn’t really matter as long as you are comfortable enough to get into REM sleep. However, for your body, that’s a different matter.

Oh NO you aren't sleeping on your stomach!

Let’s start with what you should NOT do; sleep on your stomach! This causes increased pressure on your heart and causes sustained rotation of your neck which prevents the proper nutrification of your vertebral discs (assuming you want to breath, this doesn’t sound very good does it!). Over time these discs will become fibrotic and collapse, resulting in degenerative disc disease.

Okay, so back to that question, how should you sleep? Sleeping on your side or back is acceptable. There are considerations that need to be made in each case.

Side Sleeping. When sleeping on your side, I recommend that you use a pillow between your knees to minimize rotation of your pelvis. Also, holding onto a pillow against your chest, that extends up under your chin to prevent your head from flexing forward reduces stress on your neck. A pillow thick (or thin) enough that keeps your head neutral and not tilting toward nor away from the bed is also advised!

Back Sleeping. If you sleep on your back, a pillow (or two) under your knees will reduce stress on your lower back and neck. A pillow just thick enough to support the head is best. Avoid one that lifts your head into any sort of flexion.

Pillow Talk

In each case, we have orthopedic pillows available that can help you achieve optimum support. If you happen to wake up at any point during the night and the pillows are missing, you either have been robbed or you kicked them off. Probably the latter. Re-acquire and replace them, and over time they will stay. Duct tape helps too. (Just kidding)!

The Space Matters!

Lastly, your bed and bedroom will have a large impact on your sleep quality. A firm bed is preferred. When purchasing a new bed, test drive a number of beds to feel which is best. When in doubt, go firmer not softer. The setting needs to be calming. The temperature should be comfortable and is a personal preference. It is very important not to watch television in bed. Why? This neurological distraction will interfere with proper sleep posture and quality of sleep. Your bedroom should be a sanctuary which is restorative and invigorating. Your health and longevity depends upon it!

Restorative sleep is essential for your nervous and immune systems to repair the damage done during your exhaustive and stressful day. These simple steps can help you achieve a more fulfilling and effective night of rest.

Have questions for us about your pillow or bed? Don’t be shy, please ask us at your next visit or feel welcome to drop us an email or ask in the comments section below!

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