Pillow Talk

Get into some pj’s, get comfortable- and now let’s talk about where your head rests every night.  Sleep posture is so crucial to how you feel during the day.  If you consider the fact that you spend approximately 8 hours per night in the same position (unless you toss around a lot), it makes sense that this position can really affect your spinal health and resulting symptoms the following day.  If this is the position that we generally spend 1/3 of our life in, we should aim to get it right!

English: A pile of pillows.

A pile of pillows. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Imagine I told you to sit at your desk with your head turned to one side for an entire hour.  You would call me crazy (and this time you have an actual reason to say it!).  Why would you be opposed to sitting this way?  Because your neck will “tense up”.  Now imagine that I asked you to sit that same way for several hours.  You wouldn’t want to do it.  This is why your medical doctor / physiotherapist / chiropractor / kinesiologist / etc. will advise you NOT to sleep on your stomach!  Having your neck twisted to one side all night is not a good position for your spine and will result in muscle imbalances as well as the problems associated with that.

Do you ever wake up with a headache?  Do you feel that your neck is tense first thing in the morning?  These are indications that your pillow may not be offering the right support.

Now that we’ve established that you should NOT sleep on your stomach, the remaining common body positions are side-sleeping or sleeping on your back.  You need to choose the right pillow to suit your needs depending on your sleep position, body type, and individual preference.  Pillows are such a personal thing. It may take time to find the right one for you.

Here are some tips to help choose the right pillow for each of those positions:

English: A body pillow.

A body pillow. Source: Wikipedia

Side sleepers generally need a thicker pillow with more support to keep the spine in neutral.  Try a pillow made of denser material to ensure that your spine is kept in its natural horizontal line.  If you sleep on your side you should also consider putting a thick pillow between your knees to keep your spine aligned and to avoid twisting at the pelvis.  If the pillow between your knees ends up on the floor night after night, try hugging a large body pillow and wrapping your knees around it.  If you are lonely, a bonus is that you get to be the big spoon without all the hassles of a real relationship.  And your spine will feel good too!

Back sleepers can get away with a thinner pillow or a pillow that has specific neck support.  Mainly, you want to ensure that your head is not tilting forward or backwards when you sleep.

For example, a contoured pillow might be the right choice for you if you sleep on your back and feel that your neck is stiff in the morning.  Some people love the contoured pillow and some people cannot get used to it.  Before investing the money, try this easy trick:  roll a towel up (experiment with the thickness), secure with elastic bands and then put it into your pillow to support your neck. It should sit below your head and just above your shoulder.  The best placement is to put your towel roll inside your pillow case (over top of the pillow), at the bottom part closest to where your shoulders will be.  Lay with your shoulders BELOW the pillow and your head above the roll.  Some side sleepers also benefit from this roll, it just depends on you and your neck.  Also, if you suffer from lower back pain, try a pillow under your knees when you sleep on your back.  This can help to take the stress off of the lumbar spine.

Try it tonight for better spine health!  Remember, more support on your side and never ever sleep on your stomach.  It’s a very personal thing- everyone finds comfort with something different but if you have headaches or a stiff neck in the morning, consider trying other options using these guidelines.  Sweet dreams!

Speaking of getting comfortable, here’s a laid-back song for my Coachella video of the post: 

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4 thoughts on “Pillow Talk

    • I bought a new, firmer pillow at the Home and Garden show recently… I’ll test it out and let you know what I think! I’m generally a side-sleeper though, so I need a firmer pillow…

  1. Pingback: Eyes Wide Shut | dr mariam ashraf

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