Sleep is essential for healing, rejuvenation and restoring your energy. Correct sleep posture ensures you get the maximum benefit from the time you spend sleeping. As an expert of the spine and central nervous system, below is a list I have compiled, of the major prerequisites required for a peaceful sleep.
When sleeping, the natural, neutral curves of your spine (when viewed from the side) need to be maintained. To achieve this ‘neutral’ position, sleeping on your back is essential. The cervical (neck) and lumbar curves (lordosis) need to be supported. Chiropractic or Orthopaedic pillows are designed to fill in the space made by the neck curve and have a hollow for the head, which prevents forward head posture. Your arms should be by your side and not above your head, a sleeping habit indicative of poor postural curves.
When there are normal neck and thoracic (mid-back) curves, breathing through your nose is more likely. We are designed to inspire and expire through the nose (3 times more capacity for air). Nose breathing aids in oxygen exchange, immune system function and the prevention of snoring. Mouth breathing increases the likelihood of eyes, ears, nose and throat infections.
This means that if you sleep on your stomach it is not possible to have your spine in neutral. In this position your head must be turned to breath. In addition, it normally involves one arm being placed above your head and the opposite knee and hip being flexed. Sleeping on your side, although better than lying on your stomach, still causes changes to ‘normal’ spinal curves. Rarely will the trunk not be flexed (assuming the foetal position or part-there-of). Lying on your back uses gravity to your advantage. This helps unwind the postural stresses of daily sitting and slumping. If it is uncomfortable to sleep on your back it is a sign your spinal cord is under postural tension. Misalignment of the spine and poor posture (subluxations) dictates your sleeping position. Get a family member to take a photo of you in your favourite sleeping position and look for yourself. Being in this position for eight hours every night makes this postural pattern further engrained.
Your Mattress needs to be one of quality. It must be firm enough to support your overall spine but have enough compliance to fill in your postural curves. Example; in a hammock you loose all your postural curves. Whereas lying on the floor will definitely support your overall spine but you will not have your normal hollows supported, hence not be comfortable.
Stretching (yoga) before you go to bed unwinds your spine and spinal cord. When inflammation, caused by poor posture and micro-trauma (repetitive strain), occurs during the course of the day, it means you wake up stiff and sore the next morning. When your spine and mind is well balanced, you are breathing properly, disciplined in relaxation techniques, participating in cardiovascular exercise and have an innate diet, you are well on the way to sleeping more efficiently and effectively.
Written by Dr Howard Cameron: BSc (Anatomy/ Physiology) & Masters in Chiropractic from www.teneriffe-chiro.com