Sleep is the ultimate reset. We’re told to sleep on important decisions, to get a good night’s sleep to stomp out an oncoming sickness, that “it’ll all be better in the morning”. We’ve all had those days where we’ve worked our tails off and climbed into bed for a restful night’s sleep only to realize it’s 11:30 am and we have 106 unanswered emails. As a chiropractor for neck pain, I see everyday how that ultimate reset doesn’t always work and leaves people groggy, unfocused, in pain, and chronically ill.
Good sleep doesn’t just feel great, it’s also incredibly important for our overall health. Good sleep:
- Leads to eating fewer calories
- Improves concentration and productivity
- Maximizes athletic performance
- Positively affects emotions and social interactions
- Improves immune function
- Allows the body and mind to process learned information and recharge
- Is critical to the body’s natural healing process
Poor sleep is linked to higher body weight, depression, increased inflammation, and a greater risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.
Not to mention waking up after not sleeping well creates a monster of a human being capable of leveling entire cities.
Those suffering from chronic neck pain may already be in a compromised sleep state and the way they sleep may be adding to the problem, preventing the healing effects of sleep from working their magic. We know that the fate of humanity rests on our ability to provide our patients with neck pain relief and to help them adopt healthy sleep habits that won’t reinforce the chronic nature of their pain.
Tucking In Properly
It’s entirely possible that as we’re getting tucked in we may be experiencing neck discomfort from a day hunched over a computer or lounging on the couch binging Bridgerton. Adding some light stretching into our bedtime routine after a warm glass of milk and before we kiss the poster of Uncle Jesse goodnight, may help us lay our heads down with greater ease. Gentle range of motion exercises work wonders to relax the body.
We also need to kick the habit of scrolling through our phones right before bed. Looking down at our phones puts extra stress on the neck that can lead to pain. Tech neck is a phenomenon that we’re up against all day. Bedtime should be free of this postural distortion wreaking havoc on our necks and backs throughout the day.
Not to mention, the blue light that our phones emit messes with our precious circadian rhythm. The light delays the production of melatonin, the most important sleep hormone, and tricks our bodies into thinking that the sun is still out when really it’s just the glow of all the gold in Steve Job’s bank account.
There are a variety of positions that we can take as we dream, but not all of them will lead to a good morning. We want to find a position that reinforces the natural curves in our spine and avoids strain and pain.
For back sleepers:
- Use a thin pillow – this will allow the upper spine to stay in it’s natural slight forward curve
- Try a cervical pillow – this pillow supports the neck and head to keep them in a neutral position
- Use a supportive mattress – while it may feel lush, a soft mattress can cause too much sinkage and a rounding of the back.
For side sleepers:
- Use a thicker pillow – the pillow should be a height that keeps the ears stacked vertically and keeps the neck in a neutral position. If the pillow is too high or low, the neck will bend and cause pain over time.
- Keep chin neutral – try to avoid tucking the chin, if sleeping in the fetal position. This will cause the head to bend forward, the opposite of its natural position.
For stomach sleepers:
STOP. Stomach sleepers place the most stress on the cervical spine and cause the neck to be in unnatural positions for hours, 8 if we’re lucky. If it’s taking time to get adjusted to a new position, use an ultra thin pillow or no pillow at all to help reduce stress on the spine when sleeping on the stomach.
Rise and Shine
Waking up with a stiff neck is certainly not ideal, but it does happen. We may have slept at an awkward angle or be experiencing a delayed reaction from a previous injury or an eventful dream may have caused a sudden movement that strained or sprained the neck. Unfortunately, or rather fortunately for me, this is not a dream interpretation blog.
- Ice or heat therapy – ice reduces swelling and numbs the pain while heat soothes tight joints & muscles and promotes relaxation.
- Gentle neck stretches – these stretches will help to loosen tight, fatigued muscles and strengthen the muscles that stabilize the neck in its proper structure.
If a stiff neck is accompanied by a severe headache, fever, tingling or weakness in the arms or hands, or other troubling symptoms that prompt the thought “somethin’ ain’t right”, give us a call or schedule a time to meet with our amazing doctors. Sleep like this is possible:
Neck pain is in every household, school, and workplace in America. Yes, neck pain is more common as we age and our neck muscles weaken, but our society is stuck in a bunch of bad habits that cause neck pain to run rampant. Poor posture, sitting for extended periods of time, tech neck, not exercising or stretching, and sleeping poorly are all reasons that we deal with neck pain on a daily basis.
Our chiropractic care focuses on long-term solutions and ways to prevent pain from happening in the first place.