4 Sleep Lessons to Help You Sleep Better
Updated: Jan 27
All too often I find myself wishing I could be the one who was snoring away within moments of my head hitting the pillow. I am not as lucky as my wife in that respect. Sometimes it seems like she is asleep before her head hits the pillow.
One of the things my patients talk to me about is sleep. Am I doing it right? Should I be waking up in pain? How much sleep should I be getting? Is it better to sleep on my back or on my side?
Sleep is one of those things that if you get enough of it, you don't think about it, but if you don’t get enough quality sleep, it can have a negative impact on your entire life.
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Chiropractors are trained extensively in the area of sleep. I discuss it with almost every patient that visits me. Even if you come to me for foot pain, during the initial visit I am likely going to ask you about your sleep habits; the position you sleep in, what mattress you are sleeping on, and what hygiene routine you practice.
The following are four sleep lessons to help you sleep better:
Lesson 1: Your mattress probably isn’t doing you any favors.
When I am trying to determine the origin of the pain, sometimes all I can get is, ”I don’t know Doc, I just woke up with it!” which can lead us to a couple of other questions:
What does your pillow look like?
Do you love your pillow?
How old is your mattress?
People are often surprised when I tell them that 8 years is a good length of time to have a mattress. Yup, that $3000.00 mattress that you bought 7 years ago may be on its last leg. Or, if it is a headache or a stiff painful neck that’s got you visiting your chiropractor, it may be your pillow that is the culprit.
The position that you sleep in will determine what I recommend as your new pillow or mattress. Side sleepers can benefit from a different type of mattress and pillow than a back sleeper. Or the dreaded stomach sleeper can… well really, let's face it - they need to try to learn to sleep in a different position.
Lesson 2: Sleep positions matter.
There are 3 main categories for sleeping positions. Side sleeping, back sleeping, and stomach sleeping. Ah, the stomach sleeper. You know who you are: you sleep with your arms by your side directly on your stomach, with your head cranked over to the side.
No chiropractic degree is needed to know that sleeping with your neck cranked to one side (often the same side all night every night) it’s not going to be great for your neck. If you are waking up with headaches and you are a stomach sleeper, you might want to try using a body pillow and at least get the pillow to help you sleep in the semi-prone position. This is the position we are taught to use in first aid; the position that prevents the victim from choking on their own vomit while unconscious. This position is better for your body than sleeping directly on your stomach. Someone once told me that it is as difficult to change the position you sleep in as it is to quit smoking. From my own experience, I completely believe them. I had better not start smoking because I have not been able to change my sleeping posture no matter how hard I’ve tried. This leads to our next lesson.
Lesson 3: Smoking is bad for sleep.
We all know that smoking is bad for you. But aside from all the well-known risks such as cancer and breathing conditions, sleep is also impacted.
Lesson 4: Sleep hygiene is a crucial part of your routine.
Hygiene might be a loaded term for all the teenagers who have recently had “the deodorant talk”, but sleep hygiene is just as important and not as often talked about. There is one thing that is sabotaging the sleep of new generations more than any previous generation and that is the smartphone. We now have the ability to take an unlimited number of cat videos to bed with us.
My number one tip for sleep hygiene is: plug your phone in downstairs, far away from where you sleep. Allow your mind time to slow down without the constant stimuli of lights and sounds. Our brains need some clues that we are ready for sleep. One of those things that cue the brain that we are NOT ready for sleep is the lights and sounds from our smartphones.
Buy a new mattress if yours is older than 8 years.
Pick a sleep position that doesn't have you sleeping on your stomach.
Smoking isn't doing you any favors.
Turn off your phone and leave it downstairs when you are going to bed.
I could write all day about sleep and how we can do it better, but if you would like more advice feel free to book an appointment today.
Let’s all try to sleep just a little bit better.
About the author
Author Dr. Spencer Devenney is a Chilliwack Chiropractor, who graduated in 2009 from the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College (CMCC) He has a clinical interest in all things mechanical. His motto is 'if it hurts to move it, bring it to your chiropractor first.'