Part 6 - Comfort in your Sleeping Position

The latest thinking in healthcare now suggests that there is no right or wrong way to sleep. Finding comfort depends on the physiology of an individual - their weight, shape and size.

It is true to say, however, that side-lying and back-lying sleeping positions are both more popular and more beneficial than front lying for the majority of people. While
prone (front-lying) sleeping is better at preventing snoring at night, it can cause pain and dysfunction to the neck and lower back.

In both side-sleeping and back-sleeping positions, a pressure-relieving mattress can alleviate muscle pain and joint stiffness by:
• Easing pressure at the shoulder and pelvis
• Supporting the neck and back

Side sleeping
The human body is wider and heavier in the pelvic area and wider but less heavy in the thoracic area. To provide adequate support this means that the mattress should be firm enough to provide a comfortable night’s sleep yet soft enough to prevent the transfer of all pressure through the shoulders and pelvis.

Back sleeping
The greatest interface pressure for those choosing to sleep on one’s back is channelled through the pelvis. To distribute this pressure more evenly, a mattress should be soft enough to enable the body to adopt a comfortable
sleeping position.
Choosing a mattress is a personal choice that should always take into account the sleeping position and physiology of the sleeper. It is for this reason that mattress companies typically offer a range of different solutions, rather than one single sleep surface.

The mattress

Despite the fact that sleepers spend a third of their lives in bed, most people still do not know how to effectively test drive a new mattress or pillow to ensure they provide support, pressure relief and temperature regulation.
Lie on your back on the mattress. Slide your hand (palm down) between the small of your back and the mattress.

Too Firm – There is a gap between your hand and your back
Too Soft – You struggle to fit your hand in
Correct – Your hand slides through easily but is loosely
touching your back.

Over time, all mattresses deterioriate and need replacing as their tensions change. By continuing to monitor the support offered by a mattress over time, an individual can assess the quality of their comfort and sleep over time to establish when their mattress may need to be replaced.

The pillow
A number of common neck problems, including cervical strain and cervical discogenic pain can be exacerbated by poor use of pillows. To combat neck problems it is necessary to assess the pillow or pillows used.

Back lying – Your pillow should be just high enough to support your head, whilst keeping your chin in a relaxed position.
Side lying – Your pillow should be high enough to make up the gap between the point of your shoulder and head, benefitting both the neck and the thoracic spine.

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