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Did you know that 1/3 of our lifetime is spent sleeping? Therefore, making sure that our sleep is good quality is very important. When we sleep, our body uses this time to recover from daily physical and mental stresses. Good sleep has many benefits such as reducing injury risk, reducing inflammation, decreasing pain and allows our brain to commit new information that we have learned to memory.

As physiotherapists, we are often managing patients who are not getting a good night sleep due to their pain, or are waking up with issues from poor sleeping positions, particularly stiff necks or backs. Fortunately, there are some simple ways to address these problems.

One of the first considerations is a person’s pillow. When patients experience neck pain from sleeping, our physios may recommend a more supportive pillow to keep the neck and spine in a neutral posture, which can prevent the small joints in the spine from being compressed. There is no ‘perfect pillow’ as everyone’s body is different, so speaking to your physio is definitely the best option. Below are some examples of good and bad pillow support.

Another major factor in sleep quality is a person’s mattress.  Just like a pillow, there is no perfect mattress for everyone. If you are waking with low back or neck pain, your mattress could be a factor. Your physio can give you some tips for working out whether the mattress is the problem, and help with some strategies and treatments for your pain before you spend money on a new mattress.

The Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) endorses different mattress ranges that work by evenly distributing your weight through your bodies’ muscles and joints to decrease pressure on your spine.  Just ask your physio for some suggestions if you’re looking for a new one!

Another consideration is sleeping position. Sleeping on your stomach can increase neck and lower back pain as it can put your spine in an extended position which can cause the small joints in to be compressed and become irritated. If you are a stomach sleeper and are experiencing pain, your physio can help provide some great suggestions to improve your spinal position and minimise your pain.

Finally, here are some simple tips for getting a better night’s sleep:

  • Have a nightly routine, try to have a set time for bed, and use tools to wind down such as a cup of tea or reading a book.
  • Eliminate blue light use one hour before going to bed. (Phones, TVs)
  • Reduce caffeine intake late in the day
  • Go to sleep in a cool room (reducing your core body temperature by a few degrees, you can trigger your brain to release sleep hormones.)
  • Reduce daytime naps
  • Perform regular daily exercise

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