Sports Medicine
Sports Injury Prevention & Rehabilitation

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A Good Night's Sleep

A Good Night's Sleep: Mattress, Pillows and Sleeping Position

I don't know about all of you, but I typically have trouble falling asleep at night - my mind is racing with a million thoughts, or I exercise too close to bed, or I just can't sleep. I've spent years battling with mattresses, pillows, and trying to find a comfortable sleeping position, all that are comfortable, don't leave me barely being able to walk in the morning, and that will allow me to actually sleep.  I know that a lot of us in the Bay Area live our lives rushing from one thing to the next, stressed at jobs, and just about life in general, trying to squeeze in all of our activities, so we all really need to be able to at least get a good night's sleep! I've heard from a lot of our patients that they've been having similar problems - they don't know what to look for in a mattress; they can't find a pillow that works for them; the position that they sleep in makes their back/neck ache in pain...

 Sleeping in a poor position or on an unsupportive mattress places a lot of stress on the back neck and shoulders and can lead to pain. This article explains how to choose the correct mattress and pillow and the best sleeping positions. Frequently back and neck pain can be eased by the use of an appropriate mattress and pillows.

What's the Best Mattress to Stop Low Back Pain and Neck Pain?
The best position for the spine at night is to be gently supported in spine neutral, this means that the spine maintains its natural curves. If using a spring mattress, lie down on your side, you need the hips and shoulders to sink in a little so the spine stays straight. If the mattress is too hard, the hips and shoulders won't sink, which means your waist drops down onto the mattress curving the spine. If the mattress is too soft, then your spine doesn't get enough support.

What's the Best Sleeping Position to Stop Low Back Pain and Neck Pain?
  • Sleeping on your side: This is generally considered to be the healthiest sleeping position for your spine. Use a pillow between your knees to stop the top leg dropping down and causing rotation at the spine.
  • Sleeping on your back: You may wish to place a pillow under your knees. This tilts the pelvis and takes some pressure of your spine.
  • Sleeping on your front: This is the position most likely to cause neck problems. Avoid sleeping on your front if you can. If you do sleep on your front try not to turn your neck too far to the side. Placing a pillow under your chest may help you to achieve this.

What's the Best Pillow to Stop Low Back Pain and Neck Pain?
  • A quality pillow of the correct size will make a huge difference in the amount of neck pain suffered.
  • If sleeping on your side the pillow should be thick enough to support your spine in a neutral position. Look for a pillow that is fills the depth from your ear to shoulder without pushing your head up, or letting it drop down.
  • When sleeping on your front its best not to use a pillow

How do I Choose a Mattress to Stop Low back Pain and Neck Pain?
  • Get the best quality mattress that you can afford – your spine will spend a lot of time on it in the years to come.
  • A quality spring mattress is a good option. The amount of springs is one of the key factors. The more springs there are the more individual support each area of the body will get.
  • Don’t rush into buying a mattress take your book and pillow along to the showroom and don’t be shy to  lie down for a while.
  • If you are not going to be sleeping alone make sure you and your partner try the bed out together. If one partner is significantly heavier than the other, consider a two part mattress that zips together in the middle

How Often do I Need to Change my Mattress to Stop Low Back Pain and Neck Pain?

  • If you start to get a more uncomfortable nights sleep, or wake with increasing amounts of back pain or stiffness it may be time to change your mattress.
  • Look at the mattress without sheets on, if there are big hollows that don’t recover when you take your weight off then it may be time to change your mattress.
  • A good sprung mattress will have a lifespan of around 10 years.

What about Memory Foam for Low Back Pain and Neck Pain?
Memory foam is a substance that conforms to your body weight and heat to provide all areas of the body in contact with the mattress with equal support, a quality memory foam mattress should support the spine in a comfortable spine neutral position.