Previously on the blog we’ve written about ways to get a better night’s sleep and tips about keeping your room dark, and avoiding electronics before bed can improve your ability to get to sleep and stay asleep longer. They don’t address the most important foundations for a truly better sleep, however.
In order to get quality sleep, where you don’t wake up with aches and pains, you need to look at the foundations of your bedroom – your mattress and pillows.
How Old is Your Mattress?
If you’re like most people when you moved into your home or apartment you found a nice bedroom set that appealed to you, purchased a mattress and new bedding, and thought you were set for life.
You probably vacuum your mattress regularly, maybe you rotate it or flip it once a year, but when did you last think about replacing it?
For a piece of sleep equipment that you use daily for ideally seven to eight hours a night your mattress can wear out quickly. It is recommended that you upgrade your mattress every five to eight years. In eight years, you’ll have spent 25,000 hours in your bed!
When choosing a mattress, you want to take into account how you sleep (side, back or belly) and your body type. Look for a mattress that allows your spine to remain aligned in your preferred sleeping position.
A good tip to remember when trying mattresses is that it should be ‘Not too firm and not too soft‘.
A new mattress is definitely an investment, but making that investment in yourself can reduce back pain by 57%, shoulder pain by 60% and back stiffness by 59% according to a study that looked at individuals who had purchased a new mattress within the past 28 days.
If you’re not comfortable sleeping on your current mattress, but not quite ready to invest in a new one yet, you can look at getting a memory foam mattress topper to extend the life of your current mattress. Mattress toppers come in a variety of thicknesses so you can customize how much additional support or softness you are adding to your existing mattress and also help to keep your mattress cleaner.
A hypoallergenic mattress cover is also a smart investment. It will protect your mattress from stains and protect you against bacteria and dust mites. It can be removed and washed each time you wash your bedding.
The proper pillow is key to a restful sleep. A mattress is the foundation, but given that a mattress is flat, you can’t maintain a neutral spine alignment unless you add a pillow. The type of pillow you choose is again connected to your sleep position.
A side sleeper will likely want a medium to high height pillow, and something with some squish to it, like memory foam. Side sleepers often wrap one arm around their pillow, so if it is too firm or too puffy that won’t be comfortable. It is also important to select a pillow thick enough to support your neck that keeps your head & nose parallel with the mattress.
Back sleepers don’t need as much fluff to their pillow, but will want something a bit firmer to support the head so it stays aligned with your spine.
Is it a Good to Sleep on my Stomach? Not Really!
For several reasons, sleeping on your stomach is not recommended. Lying on your front increases stress and undue pressure on the natural spinal curve of the lower back. Secondly, unless you can breathe face down through your pillow, stomach sleepers have no choice but to twist their neck to one side. This position is often the culprit behind sudden neck pain after waking up. If you are currently a stomach sleeper, start to consider sleeping on your side or on your back, your neck and lower back will thank you!
Once you’ve determined the height of the pillow you want, you can start to experiment with other factors such as whether you want a pillow made of a fabric that wicks moisture away, such as microfiber or bamboo, or if you want to go with something antimicrobial, natural or eco-friendly.
Pillows Aren’t Just for your Head
Many women who have been pregnant will have tried sleeping with a pillow between their knees to ease hip discomfort, but this is a technique anyone can employ. Sleeping on your side with a pillow between your knees maintains the alignment in your spine and hips and reduces strain on your hip joints. If you are a back sleeping, an extra pillow underneath your knees keeps your spine properly aligned and can reduce lower back and hip pain.
It’s recommended that you switch your pillows out every two years so it might be time to go pillow shopping!
Before you invest in a new pillow or mattress, consider booking a Virtual or In-Person Consultation with our Chiropractor Dr. Kevin Ho. It would a great opportunity to discuss your overall spine health and how it can be optimized through better sleep.