Welcome to the second article on sleep positions and related sleep importance. I've been interested in sleep positions for the past 20 years because they refer to the five core health habits that we all control – sleep, diet, exercise, body position and mental attitude.
This article will address the issue of stomach sleeping and how it relates to many physical problems, as well as challenges to comfort and the sleep cycle.
Friends, a lack of sleep is no joking matter. It is a serious health challenge to our society. Sleep deprivation creates waves that affect many areas of our society. What are the consequences of sleep deprivation on driving performance for example? The answer is 'not very good' and in some cases 'devastating.' What are the consequences of sleep deprivation on performance at work or in academies? The answer is the same, leading to social stressors. Sleep deprivation and health? A huge stress to our lives and health care systems.
Unfortunately, lack of sleep has been categorized often as heroic – that an individual can perform with so little sleep. We've all heard the saying: "I'll have lots of time to sleep in the grave." Unfortunately, the social stigma of a lack of sleep being seen in a positive light has not been beneficial. It is simply an unwwise and costly habit on all fronts.
Lack of sleep has been related to health issues such as depression, diabetes, heart attack, stroke, and obesity.
To be optimally healthy, we should spend approximately 1/3 of our life sleeping. To do the simple math that works out to eight hours per day. Most health care experts recommend 7-8 hours per night for adults (more for children and infants). Of course we are all unique and can tell over time what works best for us.
50 to 70 million Americans chronicly suffer from a disorder of sleep and wakefulness. Nearly 4 in 10 of Canadians admitted that they wake up with some kind of body pain. Approximate 20% of Canadians are reported to have five hours of sleep or less per night.
I do not mean to cloud the stomach sleep article in fearful statistics, but we must all start to take our sleep – including our sleep positions – very seriously. Sleep importance has been dismissed for too long. It is no laughing matter.
Approximately 1 in 8 individuals sleep on their stomach as their main choice of sleep position. I practiced for 10 years and can tell you that this position produces the most difficult patients. For many years, I struggled to find a solution for my stomach sleeping patients to break this habit and sleep on their side or their back, the two most suggest sleep positions. This is how I became interested in body support pillow development.
So why is not such a bad position to sleep in your stomach? The answers are clear and simple, but require more study and public attention.
Firstly, stomach sleepers lay in a position of extreme neck rotation for long periods of time in order to breathe. Try to lie face down, with no neck rotation and breathe. Can not be done.
It should make sense to all readers that for the body to have the ultimate rest during sleep that the spine should be in as neutral of a position as possible. Neck rotation of course does not fill this desire. When the spine is not in a neutral position, the joints and soft tissues of the spine are placed at stress and the spinal nerves are likely to be traded. The result is a higher chance of tendon, muscle and joint aggravation in the neck as well as reflex muscle reactions such as wry neck.
Secondly, the lower back is placed into extension by the stomach sleeper. This can and will aggravate facet joints of the lower back and again work against the need for the body to heal and energize maximally in a neutral position.
Rib problems are also more likely in the stomach sleeping position due to the extension and rotation of the neck and shoulder in order to breathe. The rib articulation with the upper thoracic vertebrae is stressed very much. This results in ribhead subluxation or, more subtly, reflex protective muscle spasm that we do not know how it started. ' Normal breathing will cause localized pain and you will have a difficult time taking a deep breath in this case.
Lastly, it is called the question that vital organs are compressed during stomach sleep in it is postulated that deep breathing, repair and circulation is compromised when sleeping on the stomach.
So with all these obvious monthly imbalance problems during stomach sleep, why do people do it – especially one in eight? The answer is because stomach sleepers feel grounded and super comfortable in this position. There are many postulates to why this is the case, and I believe it to be an emotional need for the feeling of grounded support, in other words stomach on ground. It may be an evolutionary protection of the vital organs or it may be an organic need for support, I'm not sure! For the researchers out there, this would be a great project.
So how do we stop stop sleeping? Let me tell you it is very difficult. Not only am I a chiropractor but I was also a former stomach sleeper. I have heard all the theories from both sides, as patient and practitioner on how to correct it. None have been very good or helpful, greatly due to the non-attention paid to the subject of sleep position.
Over the last 10 years it is clear to me that the only way to stop stomach sleeping is to prop the body on an angle toward sleep sleep that allows the stomach sleeper to still feel grounded support under the stomach.
I have developed a body pillow that accomplishes this easily and whether or not you decide to track down my pillows, let me urge you strongly that if you're a stomach sleeper, you must get away from this habit. Sleep deprivation, lack of sleep and neck, back & shoulder pain during sleep are challenges to our individual health and the health of our culture.
We must begin to take our sleep and sleep positions seriously.