Mattresses Have a Bad Rap
How "comfortable" a mattress is does not determine how well it supports your body. Before you run out to buy the mattress that makes you feel like you're sleeping on a cloud, followed by you setting a small money pile on fire next to it - heed this message.
The Exception: The Slouchy Mattress
We have all seen this mattress. This is the mattress that doesn't quite have a shape. Or the mattress that seemingly looks rectangular, but then deceptively folds in two when you sit on it. This is not the mattress for you. If your mattress has you slowly being swallowed into a cocoon when you lie on it, that is not good news for you body. If you are lucky or unlucky enough to have a sleeping partner, you do not want to be slowly falling towards the center of mattress throughout the night, eventually ending up smashed up against one another - unless that works for you.
The Real Culprit: Inactivity
Showering, riding the bus, or brushing your hair do not count as activity. All of the joints in your body must be articulated in every range of motion that they are able to. This helps you keep the integrity of the joint. In other words, if you do not move it, you lose it, and then you degenerate which brings you - you guessed it: pain.
Inactivity's Friend: Poor Posture
If you are Mr. or Ms. Slouchy McSloucherson all day, and then you attempt to lie flat for (hopefully) 8 hours every night, how do you expect your body to react? That aching, nagging low back feeling is telling you that you're doing it wrong.
What Getting Vertical Really Does
Resting your body at night is a good thing. In fact, we require it. When we lie down for sleep it allows water and nutrients to rush into your disc. This is good because your discs do not have a blood supply, so normally the only way they get nutrients is through movement or when we get horizontal. There are more details about how the discs in our back operate here.
If your back is unhealthy and your discs have degenerated, when you lie down at night water flows into the disc and it will make your discs swell. This makes your joints angry and they will be sure to let you know in the morning as you try to get out of bed. This is most common for people with osteoarthritis.
The Truth - Growth Hormone
The truth about sleep is that it is amazing, right? The whole idea is that we rest and heal up from the labor, and sometimes stress, of our day. And that is exactly what happens. Growth hormone is released at night. This little hormone is often regarded as the "fountain of youth" for the amount of repair and growth it yields in our bodies. It is because of these properties that growth hormone has the potential for abuse as well, but the jury is still out on that.
What do I do then?
Fix your life. Start a 5 minute daily yoga practice. Treat your body better. Go see a body & brain specialist (i.e. a chiropractor) and get yourself healing right so your body can benefit from the hours of the day when the higher centers of your brain are turned off (also known as sleep).
Lying Down For Success
There are things you can do to get in the most ergonomic position for sleep. (Hint: This does not include the popular fetal position). If your body is going to stay in a sleeping position for several hours/ all night, it should be supported, right? Watch the video below for 3 tips to get you in a better sleeping position. If you like it, share!
Sleep well, my friends,
Dr. Drwencke is a sports chiropractor, speaker, & clinical athlete in San Francisco. Her posts reflect some of the day to day interactions and questions from patients and clients. Dr. Drwencke strives to empower people through injury rehab and sports performance to lead healthy, productive lives.