Everyone has a poor night’s sleep now and then, whether due to stress or jet lag. In general, one lost night of sleep will leave you feeling miserable but will not have long-lasting effects on your mind or body. The more nights in a row that you have disturbed sleep, though, the more compounding effects you will experience. Here are a few tips for better sleep.
The proper use of pillows can have a dramatic effect on your nightly sleep. The goal is to gently support your head and neck in a neutral position. Pillows that are stacked too high will cause your neck to twist, while those that are too flat will not provide a proper gentle slope. Exactly how best to use pillows depends on your preferred sleeping position.
Back Sleepers: Sleeping on the back is considered the ideal position. Place a soft but supportive pillow under your head and another underneath your thighs. Keep your arms at your sides if possible. If you have acid reflux, elevate your head slightly to keep your stomach below your esophagus.
Side Sleepers: Side sleeping elongates the spine and is a highly popular position. Use a cervical pillow or a regular pillow designed for side sleeping beneath your head. Also add a thick, firm pillow below your ribcage. This alleviates shoulder compression and reduces the risk of shoulder dysfunctions.
Stomach Sleepers: Stomach sleeping is tough on your back, neck, and spine, as you must turn your head to the side to breathe. It commonly leads to nerve compression and numbness in the hands and arms, and can even lead to arthritis due to joint compression. If you are unable to break the habit of stomach sleeping, use a flat pillow to minimize neck angling and a soft pillow under your abdomen to reduce pressure on your back and spine.
Adapting to Sleep Cycle Changes
Whether you are struggling through the first day of daylight savings time or are flying halfway around the world, your body’s natural functioning will be thrown off balance. Minimize the effects by preparing in advance. Starting a week before your sleep cycle will change, slowly back up or push forward the times you go to bed and get up. The goal is to gently adjust your body to your destination time rather than having to adapt all at once.
When you arrive at your destination, make an effort to exercise regularly and eat at locally appropriate times. Get lots of sunshine and sleep according to the clock rather than your body’s signals. It could take a few days to fully adapt, but if you have prepared in advance, you can enjoy yourself during the transition.
Creating a Routine
Known as sleep hygiene, a consistent bedtime routine is essential to better sleep. Some people like to take a hot bath or shower. Some meditate or read a book or write in a journal. Some play soft music. Exactly what you do is less important than the fact that you do it consistently, sending signals to your body that it is time for sleep. However, there are a few things you should steer clear of:
- Electronic devices emit blue light that can interfere with sleep, so avoid using them in bed
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol, which can disrupt sleep cycles
- Resist the urge to check your work email or engage in stressful conversations
- Although exercise can help you sleep, strenuous workouts can stimulate endorphins that keep you awake. Stick to light restorative yoga or similar relaxing movements
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If you are ready for the latest treatments for your pain or injury, we invite you to contact the Manhattan Physical Therapy and Pain Center today at (212) 213-3480 to learn how we can help.