Sleep is a basic human function. We literally can’t survive without it. It has a direct impact on our health and wellbeing. For example, sleep helps to consolidate declarative (conscious, fact-based) and non-declarative (performance-based) memories in adults.
Also, long-term deficiency in sleep has been demonstrated to be clinically as- sociated with diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and premature death.
Yet, as something we perform daily, we tend to ignore the benefits of getting enough sleep. There are many reasons we may not get a comfortable night’s sleep, preventing us from waking up feeling refreshed. One aspect that we can exercise relative control over is proper sleep hygiene.
Tips for a good nights’ sleep
Getting your best sleep
The position we sleep in is a major factor that affects sleep. There are four basic sleep positions: on your back (supine), on your stomach (prone) or lying on either the left or right side. Generally, the safest sleep position is supine, because the body is in a neutral position; there is no gross contortion of any major body part or appendage.
However, while supine may be the safest sleeping position, it may not always be the most comfortable for everyone. For example, individuals diagnosed with sleep apnea may find this position intrusive especially since it could promote snoring. Also, for some, it may not be a comfortable position in general. Thus, on the side would be the next best sleep position option.
Side sleeping provides a relatively safe bio-mechanical position for the head, back and limbs. This position can be assisted with the use of a small pillow placed between the knees or under the upside arm. This could provide additional support and stave off pain or stiffness when you awake.
EXTRA TIP: If you are experiencing pain in the neck, limbs or back (which can prevent supine sleep), it is generally recommended to sleep on your side, with the painful side “to the sky” (i.e. pain side up).
Finally, we come to the last and worst sleep position—stomach sleeping. This position, while it may be comfortable for some, can result in a multitude of issues. For example, sleeping on your stomach can restrict airway flow and lead to pain in the neck or back. Pain can occur in the limbs, neck or back due to the fact that this position can not only compress these regions, but you could also potentially sleep for hours with torsion (i.e. “twist”) in these areas. This could lead to a strain or sprain.
A healthy sleep routine
Developing a healthy sleep routine, including what you do throughout the day, can affect the quality of sleep you get at night. A recent study in the American Journal of Health Promotion found that getting regular exercise can actually result in improved sleep throughout the night.
Getting a good night’s sleep can be a struggle. According to the journal Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, rosemary is an effective sleep aid. The study found that rosemary had significant effects on enhancing memory performance, reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression—and improv- ing sleep quality in university students.
Working on sleep hygiene is no dif- ferent from working out in the gym or learning a new skill for work. It takes time to find out what works for you and what’s safe for you! There’s always a balance between what feels good and what is safe.
NOTE: Nearly everyone has an occasional sleepless night, but if you often have trouble sleeping, contact your healthcare professional.
More Inspiration: Check out this cool article on how sleep cleans your brain according to new research.
Authors: Drs. Marco and Paolo De Ciantis are Toronto- based chiropractic doctors and co-owners of Sports Specialist Rehab Centre. The identical twins specialize in pain and injury prevention, working with a range of patients from athletes looking to improve their performance to individuals who simply want day-to-day tasks to be easier, in an effort to restore optimal well- being. They are regular contributors to Optimyz print and digital editions.