Sleep is a powerful tool – too little sleep slows recovery time from injury, and adversely affects overall physical and mental health. Good quality sleep of 8 hours however, can improve the effects of ageing, and improve memory, healing from injuries and optimize well – being.
The National Sleep Foundation of Australia recommends that adults between 18-64 years old have 7 to 9 hours sleep each night, and people over 65 years 7 to 8 hours. Despite this advice, 45% of Australians do not get the recommended hours of sleep.
Poor and inadequate sleep can cause both an increase in the incidence of injury and a delay in the rate of recovery rate of the body, impairing the ability to repair and rejuvenate. Athletes who receive less than eight hours of sleep per night are 1.7 times more likely to sustain an injury.
Professor Matthew Paul Walker is a scientist and professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California, Berkeley. Professor Walker studies the effects of sleeping on mental and physical health with some interesting and alarming results. Listen to his TED talk – a powerful and persuasive presentation on why everyone needs to get a ‘good night’s sleep’.
There is also a link between exercise and sleep. Exercise triggers an increase in body temperature, and the post-exercise drop in temperature may promote falling asleep. Exercise can also help sleep by decreasing anxiety and depressive symptoms.
So, we know that to get 7-8 hours of quality sleep each night is important, but what is the best body position to sleep?
Sleeping positions can have a major impact on quality of sleep and overall health, as noted by the National Sleep Foundation of Australia. Researchers found that poor posture while sleeping can potentially lead to back and neck pain, along with fatigue, muscle cramping and other health issues.
It is generally agreed that sleeping on your back is the best position for spinal health. Sleeping on the back evenly distributes weight across the surface of your body, allowing your head, neck and spine to rest in a neutral position. However, many people prefer to sleep on their sides.
Here are a few recommendations about sleeping positions:
- Sleeping on the back evenly distributes weight across the surface of your body, allowing your head, neck and spine to rest in a neutral position.
- Sleeping on your side can often be more helpful for back pain. If you sleep on your side, try placing a pillow between your legs to maintain a neutral position of the spine.
- Avoid sleeping on your stomach as it distorts the natural alignment of the spine. Sleeping on your stomach can create problems with your spine as it puts unnecessary pressure on your neck due to twisting your head and can over- extend the lower spine for prolonged periods.
- While a firm mattress is generally the best recommendation, some people find that a softer mattress can reduce their back pain. Either way, ensure the mattress does not sag excessively in the middle.
- Sleep with your head on a pillow. There are special pillows available to help with postural problems resulting from a poor sleeping position. For the best comfort the pillow should be under your head, not your shoulders, and be a thickness that allows your head to be in a neutral position and well aligned.
Why not give these tips a try and let us know how they work for you, I’d love to hear from you, Deb.