June 22nd, 2018

To Your Health: Good posture beneath the covers can aid in sleep

By Gillian Slade on February 19, 2018.

To sleep, per chance to dream.

We don’t often realize the value of a good sleep until we are deprived of it. While we can’t control all aspects of sleep, our posture in bed can make a difference.

Most of us will spend a third of our life asleep and therefore it may as well be comfort-enhancing sleep.

For those of you who grind your teeth, lying on your back may improve things. Your jaw muscles are more likely to relax while you are on your back and your arms are at your sides, the experts say. You may need to find a pillow that will support your neck comfortably when lying on your back.

There is another advantage to sleeping on your back — fewer wrinkles in your face. If you sleep on your side you are likely “ironing” some folds into your face.

Most of us find it more comfortable to sleep on our sides but if you have a sore neck, sleeping on your back may help because it will keep your neck straight.

Sadly if you are inclined to snore, then lying on your back is going to exacerbate that issue. Lying on your stomach alleviates the snoring but can result in other problems such as contributing to nerve compression, so that is not a good idea.

Heartburn and acid reflux could keep you up half the night. It might be related to eating a large meal too close to your bedtime or it may simply be part of the aging process — gastro-oesophageal reflux. It is better to lay on your right side, stretch your arms out in front of you and bend your knees a bit. Apparently this works because your gut is attached to your stomach on the left side. By lying on your right the food can move through the digestive tract more easily. Elevating your head beyond your usual pillow height is also helpful.

It is the time of year when many of us are dealing with colds and nasal congestion. Extra pillows are a good idea, and lying on your side helps to drain nasal passages.

A painful back can make sleep challenging. Experts seem to agree that lying on your side, left or right, is best. Bend your knees and endeavour to align your hips with your body. A pillow placed between your knees is often a good idea.

There are some theories that a good sleep all depends on the mattress you are sleeping on. You could pay as much as $30,000 for one.

For generations people have been on a quest for some sort of mattress to improve sleep. An animal skin may have been the first base on which to sleep. That evolved into a “fabric” envelope stuffed with grass, leaves, straw, or coir from coconut husks.

It was the Egyptians who found that lifting the “mattress” off the floor was beneficial. It was easier or more convenient physically and warmer on cold nights. Cold air falls so the floor was coldest.

How well you sleep will not only make you less cranky, more attentive and focused, it will improve your heart and even have an impact on your weight, experts tell us.

Here’s to a good night’s sleep and all the associated health benefits and here’s To Your Health.

To Your Health is a weekly column by Gillian Slade, health reporter for the News, bringing you news on health issues and research from around the world. You can reach her at gslade@medicinehatnews.com or 403-528-8635.

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