Trouble sleeping? Follow our hints and tips for a better nights sleep.April 22 2020
How do you feel when you wake up in the morning? Are you feeling refreshed and ready to start your day? Or groggy and in need of some extra shut eye? How much sleep do you need and what’s the best position to sleep in to help those aches and pains? Let’s talk sleep, and how to get the best night’s rest.
Routine, routine routine.
It is so important to programme your body for sleep- just like a baby who needs the repetition of knowing its bedtime pattern of bath, milk, bed, it’s the same for us adults- we need to prepare our bodies and unwind for a good night’s rest.
Get Prepped for Bed:
For an hour before bed start your wind down routine- get the chores done before this- if your body is busy- it won’t be in sleep mode. Turn all screens off- yes- switch off your phone and most importantly the news at the moment. Our phones emit a blue light which affects the production of melatonin- the hormone that controls our sleep, making it harder to fall and stay asleep. You can get blue light filters for your phone which help to reduce this.
Have a bath or shower: research shows that having a warm shower or bath before bed can help you fall asleep faster, your body heats up and then quickly cools down and this change in temperature is a signal to the brain that it’s time to sleep.
Sleepy tea time: there are so many wonderful night time teas available- chamomile and lavender based teas can really help.
Avoid caffeine: it can be tempting to reach for a strong coffee if you’re feeling tired during the day to help you feel more alert. It does not replace sleep! It can temporarily make us feel more alert by blocking a sleep-inducing chemical in the brain called adenosine and increasing adrenaline production. Once in the body, it will take about 6 hours for one half of the caffeine to be eliminated from your body. Say no to that double espresso after lunch!
Sleep sprays: pillow sprays or a few essential oil drops containing lavender on your pillow can be wonderfully calming and help relaxation.
Meditation: if you’re struggling to switch off, meditation and mindfulness can really help you to unwind- try the apps headspace or smiling mind to help with this.
Habits: Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time EVERY day! This includes no longer than an hour lie in at the weekends to avoid re-setting that body clock!
Darkness: Street lamps and light mornings can contribute to sleep interruption so black out blinds can help to keep our bedrooms nice and dark helping our natural body clock.
Temperature: The optimal suggested room temperature to aid sleep is between 16-18 degrees Celsius (60-67 degrees Fahrenheit). A cool room boosts melatonin production which helps sleep so turn the heating off and open the window!
Exercise: It is important to exercise regularly but avoid it a few hours before bed time.
Alcohol: avoid alcohol close to bedtime, it may help you to feel sleepy but it can lead to a disrupted sleep later in the night.
How Much Sleep Do I Need?:
The National Sleep Foundations states that research shows that most healthy adults require 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. Children and teens need even more. The average amount of sleep in the UK is 6 hours per night. Sleep is a restorative process so it is important to get enough sleep for your body to rest and repair. During sleep our brains organise what we have learnt that day and that process helps us to imprint it into our long term memory. When we’re more tired we’re more likely to forget things!
Does Sleep Affect My Low Back and Neck Pain?
We have probably all experienced how everything is much more difficult to manage when we are tired- we’re more irritable, snappy and sensitive and the same goes for our musculoskeletal system. Research shows that one of the most important predictors for pain intensity is the number of hours sleep the night before. New research shows that sleep deprivation increases our sensitivity to pain by numbing the brain’s painkilling response.
How Should I Sleep?
The best positions to sleep in are on your side or lying on your back, especially if your low back is feeling sore. A pillow can be placed between or under your knees to help to take the pressure off the lower part of your spine. Try to avoid sleeping on your stomach as this can stiffen and irritate the delicate joints in our neck and low back, and exacerbate neck, low back pain and headaches.
What Kind of Mattress and Pillow Should I Use?
As your chiropractors we are always available to give advice on this subject as it is a very individual choice. The golden rule is that you will get what you pay for but there is no need to take out another mortgage!! Memory foam mattresses are very popular but can be very warm so it is not a good option to go for if you are a “hot sleeper”. They do tend to be very expensive so do often come with a trial period. Pocket sprung mattresses are a great all rounder. Do try to go for a good quality brand which often offers a “split tension” so you can have a different firmness on each side of the mattress. The male and female pelvis are different shapes and often require a different amount of support, for example firm and medium. There is the choice then to add a topper (feather or memory foam) if you require another layer of support.
A shaped pillow that helps to maintain and support the natural curve in our necks can be very helpful. We have different pillows available for you to look at in the clinic so please ask your chiropractor who can advise which one may be the most suitable for you.
Hopefully all of these hints and tips will encourage you to get a good night’s sleep! Let us know which tips you have tried out or what other things help you to nod off! Please don’t hesitate to speak to your chiropractor if you are having trouble sleeping- we are always on hand to offer advice.