Written By: James Hayes
Do you constantly wake up in the morning with a stiff or aching neck? Have you considered the reason for your pain is the pillow you are using?
At Dee Why Chiropractic Care it is quite common for people to present to our office with unbearable neck pain after a nights sleep. A lot of the time it is a result of poor sleeping posture and using the incorrect pillow.
When we talk about posture you generally think about maintaining a straight spine whilst going about our day-to-day lives, but it is also very important to address your sleeping posture. When you consider you spend approximately a third of your life in bed it is important to try and maintain the best spinal alignment and support. Poor sleeping habits can create changes in your spinal alignment and your overall posture. This may lead to conditions such as muscular strains, ligament tears and headaches.
Don’t sleep on your stomach
Before we delve into what pillow is right for you, we want to eliminate one of the worst sleeping habits people like to do, which is sleeping on your stomach. We know some people feel comfortable on their stomach but we need to break this habit.
Why is sleeping on your stomach bad?
When we sleep on our stomachs we flatten out our important low back curve that can lead to low back pain. Sleeping on your stomach also makes it harder to breathe and in some studies has shown to increase intradiscal pressure of lumbar/low back discs. Also when you sleep on your stomach you will tend to sleep with your head turned to one side throughout the night. Just imagine turning your head to the right and keeping it in that position for 6-8 hours. This can cause ligament strains, muscle tears and potentially a permanent shift of the vertebra.
Choosing the right pillow
If you are a side sleeper you now have to figure out what pillow is right for your body type. The first thing you need to address is the height of the pillow. Whilst sleeping on your side you want to keep the spine as straight as possible.
The pillow should fill the void between your head and shoulder. So if you have broad shoulders you would go with a higher pillow (high profile) and if you have narrower shoulders you can opt for either a low or medium profile pillow. To get a good gauge of what is the right one, stand up with your shoulders against the wall and then insert the pillow into the space.
Just think of someone with bad posture; they have a hunched mid back and their head is in front of their shoulders. We want to avoid this position as much as possible when we sleep; that’s why back sleepers should have shallower/thinner pillow.
Some people like using contoured pillows and they are ideal for back sleepers. A pillow that is somewhat elevated in lower third is ideal as it will cradle the natural curve of the neck and support it.
Density and Material of your pillow
Got a feather or down pillow? Toss it out! What you need is something with a memory foam/latex material of a medium to high density. These will give you the optimal support throughout your sleep. These tend to be a tad bit more expensive than feather pillows but you need to invest into good pillows considering the amount of time we spend in bed… and they last for years!
Hopefully this answered all your questions regarding picking the right pillow. If you have any more questions contact us today!