Proper rest is key to good physical and mental health. The spine needs proper rest, but it’s important even when doing nothing, to do it right. Studies show that people who consistently get less than five hours of horizontal sleep time have an increased incidence of lower back disc problems. Back and neck pain can make sleeping difficult, so here are some tips to help you sleep in bed without hurting your back.
1. Use a mattress that doesn’t sag. A bed that’s too soft gives no support and sags, places continual stress on the joints and ligaments of the spine. Firmness of the bed depends on body weight; the heavier the person, the firmer the bed needed. One easy trick to try before replacing your old mattress, is to place a thin sheet of plywood between the mattress and box spring.
2. Lying face up. Don’t sleep with your head on 2-3 pillows, this pushes the head forward. Instead, use a pillow that cradles the neck in a natural position. To help relieve pressure in the lower back, a pillow or two can be placed behind the knees to gently flex the legs. An alternative technique is to raise the entire foot of the mattress 6-8″.
3. Side-lying. The key to prevent neck problems when lying on your side is to support the neck so it is level. If the pillow is too thick it will bend your neck. If the pillow is too thin patients will often lie on their hand which can also lead to carpel tunnel syndrome in the wrist. The hips and knees can be bent, but try not to sleep curled up in a ball.
4. Face down. Do not sleep on your stomach, it twists the neck to the side and puts pressure on the joints of the lower back. If due to severe pain you must sleep on your stomach, then place 2-3 pillows under the abdomen to relieve pressure from the small joints of the spine.
5. Getting out of bed. Sitting up in bed or falling often aggravate back symptoms. Be careful to turn onto your side slowly, then swing your legs off the side of the bed and press up to the sitting position with your arms.