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A Better Night's Sleep

Woman in fieldWe spend an average of 33 percent of our lives sleeping.  Having the right pillow should be a priority, not only for comfort, but also for playing an intricate role in supporting the head, neck, shoulders, hips, and spine.

When used properly, pillows can help alleviate and prevent injuries.  They serve the purpose of keeping proper body alignment while sleeping. At the same time, they relieve pressure and counterbalance different points of the body, thus making it very important that a person’s pillow fits their unique body shape and coincides with their preferred sleeping position.

For those with injuries, specifically, spinal disorders, finding the right pillow can be particularly important for allowing the spine to rest and heal.  Nowadays, there are many options when it comes to choosing the right pillow, not to mention the many options of pillow fillings and the overall level of support.  Regardless of the number of options, selecting a pillow should in the end be based on individual comfort.

The human neck has a natural curve forward to help sustain the weight of the head, and it is important to preserve this curve while sleeping. This is why selecting a proper pillow height that is favorable to your preferred sleep position and body size is important. Generally, a pillow should maintain a height of 4 to 6 inches to support the head and neck depending on your preferred sleeping position. Selecting the proper pillow height will help keep your head in a neutral position and prevent muscle strain when waking up in the morning from either too much prolonged flexion or extension of the neck throughout the night.

For those who are “back sleepers”, then your pillow height should be lower than if you’re a side sleeper. This is again to support the natural curvature of the neck. Additionally, placing another pillow or two between the knees will help ease the pressure on the spinal column joints. Sleeping on your back with a pillow under the knees is the most recommended position for people battling a severe bout of back pain or following spinal surgery as it helps the back to rest most comfortably.

If you are a “side sleeper”, your pillow should be slightly thicker than normal to compensate for your shoulder height while helping to support the head and neck so the spine maintains a naturally horizontal line. Bending the knees and placing another pillow between the knees keeps the spine in the neutral position and helps maintain proper pelvic alignment. A firmer pillow between the knees is usually recommended for the best pelvic support.  Adding this simple support between the knees can prevent back pain and allow the back to heal and rest better while sleeping.

Sleeping on your stomach places the most stress on your back and neck while sleeping. It is advised to avoid sleeping on the stomach if possible, especially if one is already experiencing spinal pain. If sleeping on your stomach is the preferred method, then using a very flat pillow is recommended or not using a pillow at all can work, so that the neck is not being forced into a strained position.  Additionally, placing another flat pillow under the stomach or pelvis is recommended to help with the lower back’s natural alignment.

Using the best pillow for both comfort and support can make a major difference in alleviating or avoiding spinal pain and muscle strain, as well as getting a good night’s sleep.

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