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Sleep Ergonomics – Wake Up Pain Free

Asian woman waking in bed looking rested after sleep

Getting a good night’s sleep is something many of us struggle with. Sometimes, it is difficult to relax or our sleep gets disrupted. Getting enough sleep is important for more than just functioning throughout the day; it also has a major impact on our health. Sleep plays an essential biological role in recovery and energy conservation. It has also been shown that sleep is important for neural development, learning, memory, emotional regulation, cardiovascular and metabolic function, and cellular toxin removal.1

Adults require on average 7–8 hours of sleep each night. However, there are some work-related factors that can have a negative impact on one’s length and quality of sleep, such as long or late shifts, travel, and daily responsibilities. Not getting enough sleep can cause excessive drowsiness, which has been associated with an increased risk of work-related injuries.1

Your sleeping posture is also just as important as how you sit or stand, and it can have a great impact on your quality of sleep. This is referred to as “sleep ergonomics.” It is important to ensure that, as we rest, we are in a comfortable and safe position in order to prevent any additional strain on the body. Your body position, mattress, and pillow all contribute to sleep ergonomics.

Here are a few things to consider when it comes to sleep ergonomics:

Sleeping Positions to Reduce Back Pain: How you sleep the majority of the time can have an impact on the quality of your sleep. However, there are a few tricks that can help improve your sleep without significantly disrupting your sleep habits. For example, if you sleep on your side, draw your legs up slightly towards your chest, and put a pillow between your legs. You can also use a full-body length pillow for support. If possible, try not to put weight on your arms; this can cause problems with circulation and place pressure on your nerves, which may cause a pins and needles sensation. If you sleep on your back, try placing a pillow under your knees to help maintain a neutral lower-back curvature. In general, sleeping on your stomach is discouraged; it can create unnecessary strain on your neck which may lead to compression of nerves and muscle tightness or pain. If sleeping on your front is still your preference, try placing a pillow under your pelvis and lower abdomen to reduce the strain.2

Mattresses: Sleeping on a good mattress and pillow is important to support the body and keep it in a neutral position, allowing it to rest and recover from the day’s work and activities. The mattress can help support the spine’s natural curves. It has been found that a sagging mattress can negatively affect sleep quality.2

Choosing the Right Pillow: Staying in one position for too long may create tension in the neck and low back. This makes your choice of pillow all the more important. An ergonomic pillow is designed to accommodate your preferred sleep position and minimize any tension that may result from prolonged time spent in one position. They can be made of foam to help retain your form and offer greater support. They also come in different sizes. The wrong-sized pillow can aggravate any neck or shoulder problems. Your ideally-fitted pillow should support the head, neck, and shoulders, and should adapt to the different contours of these areas—this will optimize your sleeping position throughout the night.2

Being more aware of sleep ergonomics can help improve your sleep, reduce pain caused by poor sleeping positions, and allow you to wake up with more energy the following day. Re-evaluate your sleep ergonomics and see if it makes a difference in your life.

Credit: Canadian Chiropractic Association

References 1) Mukherjee S, Patel SR, Kales SN, et al. An official American thoracic society statement: The importance of healthy sleep. Recommendations and future priorities. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2015; 191(12): 1450-8. doi: 10.1164/rccm.201504-0767ST.

2) Journal of the ACA [serial online]. Proper Sleep Ergonomics. 2011; 48(4): 1-2. Available from: CINAHL Plus with Full Text. Accessed August 24, 2016.

3) Sezgin M, Hasanefendioğlu EZ, Sungur MA, et al. Sleep quality in patients with chronic low back pain: A cross-sectional study assessing its relations with pain, functional status and quality of life. J Back Musculoskelet Rehabil. 2014; 28(3): 433-41. doi: 10.3233/BMR-140537.


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