PILLOW TALK

We are often asked, ‘Which is the best pillow for me?’   Unfortunately, there is no definitive answer to this question as we are all different.   Many people waste a lot of money buying a variety of pillows when in actual fact the issue is not the pillow at all.   Making sure your joints function well and your general health is as optimal as possible will have a positive effect on your sleep.   We do know that fatigue can be responsible for a lot of aches and pains which leads to a ‘chicken and egg’ situation.

When sleeping, the aim is to have your neck in a ‘neutral’ position (not forced too far in any one direction) and ideally lying on your side with one pillow.   The gap between your neck and the bed needs to be filled so the width of your shoulders and the firmness of the bed contribute to how much pillow is required to fill the space.    There are certain things that can have an effect on the correct sleep position – for example, if you have a particular shape, such as a spinal scoliosis (a curve that is structural), this will make one side more comfortable than the other and going ‘with’ your curve will feel more natural (you will also probably prefer a bed with more ‘give’ to absorb the prominent parts of the spine.) Or perhaps a long term health issue such as asthma may result in changes to the shape of your upper thorax.

Waking up out of the blue with a ‘stiff’ or ‘stuck’ neck does not necessarily mean your pillow is the problem: Normally the problem will relate to an activity undertaken the day before such as painting a ceiling, cutting a hedge or even talking to someone beside you for a prolonged period of time!  This situation should settle within a couple of days but if it is does not then you should seek the advice of one of the Osteopaths at the clinic as they will be able to ensure that any predisposing factors are addressed.  For on line bookings click here: http://spsrv02b.sensible-people.co.uk/freehand/cgi/fcmdrycgi-main-v512e.acu  or call 01732 453956.

A common situation is when someone wakes in the night and finds it hard to get their neck into a comfortable position and automatically blames the pillow.   The issue in this case is more likely to be what actually woke them in the first place – most commonly, subconscious stress or worry. Waking during the night can be habit forming and once established is very hard to break.  The golden rule in this situation is never look at the time!  Set an alarm and be reassured that if the alarm has not gone off then it is not time to get up.   If you have any issues which are causing regular sleep disturbances it may be worth speaking to Dr Lindsay Gorrill  our Clinical Psychologist http://www.springbankclinic.co.uk/our-practitioners/lindsay-gorrill/  Alternatively you could try an item that we currently have available at the clinic called a Dodow.  This is a small device imported from France which displays a blue light on the ceiling in a rhythmic pattern to assist with sleep.  It is currently on sale at an introductory price of £35.

There are some shocking pillows around and it is no surprise that as we age we become less able to adapt to different ones.   As you first put your head onto the pillow you will know if it suits you or not.    Bouncy foam pillows are normally a bad sign as they force you into a particular position.   Memory foam pillows promise to adapt to your body but are often a particular moulded shape to start with so will need to be roughly correct in the first place.   A good quality feather or manmade equivalent is adaptable and will not force a position on your spine. 

If you sleep on your front you are probably quite mobile in your neck, but it is sensible to try to avoid using a pillow at all as your neck will be forced backwards as well as into full rotation.

Arthritic neck joints possibly combined with kyphotic posture (bent forward in the upper back) is a case where more pillows may be required as the individual will probably find they are limited to fewer positions that are comfortable.   An arthritic joint in the neck will have less joint space and will normally tend to be slightly reversed in shape: An x-ray report will state things like, cervical kyphosis, reverse curve or flexed joint, meaning it will be against the trend of the rest of the joints.  It may become fused, which in turn may result in less pain at that specific joint but this will make it less adaptable to changes of position, hence the need to get the right support as the other joints in the neck will start to complain.

Another arthritic situation is when someone is very bent forward and the dilemma here is that sleeping with more pillows to support your shape results is potentially accelerating the tendency to flex forward, while not using enough pillow may result in compressing the blood vessels in the upper spine which can potentially make you dizzy and pass out as well as causing pain in the neck. 

Other situations that may affect your sleep position include pregnancy, post-surgery, respiratory conditions, etc.  There are so many factors which may contribute to a ‘good night’s rest’ that the general rule should be, if your bed feels good do not change it!  Just because it is getting a bit old does not mean it needs changing – if it is comfortable, stick with it!