If you ask most people what constitutes a healthy lifestyle, they will most probably say exercising and having a healthy diet. Many people don’t consider adequate sleep as an important aspect of healthy-living whereas it is as important as dieting and exercising.
In fact, without adequate sleep, it is impossible to reap the full benefits of a healthy diet and exercise. It is during sleep that the body tissues worn out by exercise and work get repaired using nutrients from your healthy diet.
Even the brain, one of the most important part of the body, only gets to rest and rejuvenate itself during sleep. Sleep is therefore essential for your physical, physiological and mental well-being.
When you hear about someone talking about the importance of adequate sleep, your mind usually thinks of the length of time that someone sleeps. Adequate sleep refers to not only the length of time you sleep but also the conditions under which you sleep.
The lighting of your room, sleeping position, the quality of your mattress and pillow et cetera affect the quality of sleep (Source). A deviation from the optimum sleeping conditions not only hinder the process of replenishing your body but may also bring about injury or discomfort in the body.
You may have woken up sometimes and realized a body part that was okay while you were sleeping is now hurting or unwell. This is an indication that the position you were sleeping in is not the best for you.
Up to 70% of people sleep on their side, and experts consider it the best sleeping position. Benefits of sleeping on your side include improved circulation of air and blood, both of which facilitate the body repair process.
Experts also advise individuals with acid reflux to sleep on their side, specifically on the left, to control it by making it hard for acidic content to move towards the esophagus.
Soft pillows and neck pain in side sleepers
Sleeping on your side has many benefits, but it also has some alleged negatives. Under uncomfortable conditions, it often leads to neck pains and back pains. Other body parts may be affected, but the sensitivity of the vertebrae column makes the neck and the back most prone to the injuries.
According to many side sleepers, they are more likely to get a neck pain if they sleep with a soft pillow. This has been repeated so many times that many people have come to believe soft pillows cause neck pain among people that sleep on their side.
When you sleep on the side, your head is inclined downward towards the bed, and this strains the neck. Supporting the weight of the head in while bent like that leads to pain as the vertebrae press against each other. It may, therefore, sound ironical that people say that a pillow, designed to elevate the head and hence avoid the painful bending, aggravates it.
However, there is some merit in this theory.
While sleeping on your side, you would want a pillow that lifts your head to a level that maintains the neck at the same level with the spine. The soft pillows, however, do not support the head to that level. Instead, they head and neck usually end up in awkward positions because the material in soft pillows does not provide stability.
The soft pillow, therefore, does not support the neck, head and shoulders thus predisposing side sleepers to neck pains.
So what do you do to avoid neck pains if you sleep on your side?
The soft pillow in itself is not bad. It is just not compatible with the sleeping position. Each sleeping position has specific pillows that go best with it. For the side sleeper, what you need is a pillow that supports your head, neck, and shoulder in place comfortably.
Orthopedic memory foam pillows are the best solution for this. They are firm enough to support your head and neck without causing discomfort. They also keep a memory in that the pillow material maintain the shape of your head and neck where they lie thus holding your head in a stable position. You will need to buy a pillow that is just right size. Too high and the problem becomes even worse.
This applies to people sleeping in all various the various positions – identify the type of pillow that is best suited for your position then shop for the appropriate size. If you are the kind of person that changes positions while you sleep but still want to use a pillow, shop for the sleeping position that you are usually in when you fall asleep.
Sleep should be a relaxing exercise where your body sheds off the stress of the day. It should not be a source of pain or discomfort. Get the right pillow, and you’ll have that peaceful sleep that you’ve always been looking for.