Updated: Oct 5, 2017
Sleep, such a wonderful thing. We spend half our lives doing it but for some of us it is so difficult to get a good nights sleep. As a doctor of chiropractic, one of the most common questions that I get asked is what kind of mattress or pillow do I recommend. The answer to that question is not as easy as you think because mattresses and pillows are such a personal thing, and one that might be right for one patient may not be right for another patient.
The best advice I can give is to follow some general rules and tips when going out to purchase a new mattress or pillow. Let's start with the mattress. The mattress should provide uniform support from your head to your toes. There should not be any gaping between your body and the mattress in particular the waist area. A mattress should support the body's weight evenly and allow the spine to stay in its natural alignment.
If you do currently suffer with back pain your mattress may be too soft so placing a board underneath for a short period until your back pain has resolved is advised, however this increased firmness is not good for routine sleeping. Every few months you should turn your mattress clockwise so the mattress wears evenly and you do not end up with indentations where you sleep. Be aware of changes in your life that can impact your mattress or the need for a new mattress. For example, weight gain or loss or a medical condition that has changed the way you sleep or even if you have changed partners could mean that it's time to get a new mattress that accommodates these conditions. If you are awaking in the morning with aches and pains constantly then it is probably time for a new mattress.
When purchasing a mattress from a store I recommend that you lay on it for at least five minutes or longer if you can, simply sitting on it will not give you all the information that you need to make a good decision. The best way to purchase a mattress is if it comes trial period that you can try out the mattress and return if it is not comfortable for you.
Now on to pillows. So often, people spend top dollar for their mattresses and yet they skimp when it comes to pillows. Once again, pillow selection is very personal but there a few guide lines to follow when purchasing a new pillow. A good pillow will keep your neck aligned with your upper back and chest and lower back sections of your spine. When buying your pillow you want to stand facing sideways with you shoulder flush to the wall. Take the pillow and slide it in between your head and the wall. If you have to lean your head in towards the pillow then the pillow is too thin for you. If the pillow is causing your head to tilt outwards away from the wall then the pillow is too thick for you.
We aware of pillows that are made from soft foamy materials, over time the foam breaks down leaving unsupported areas of the pillow which can lead to neck pain. When laying on your side, your head and neck should remain level with your med and lower spine. When laying on your back, your head and neck should remain level with your mid back and spine. Always make sure that your pillow is pulled down flush to your shoulders so that there is no gap between your neck and the mattress that way the head and neck are totally supported.
For smaller, petite women, I would recommend a child's pillow since a full size adult pillow can often cause discomfort and neck pain because they are too large for a smaller frame.
If you continue to suffer with sleep disturbances, you should consult a chiropractor or health care professional for additional care to rule out any other problems that can interfere with a good nights sleep.
Originally posted on the Northborough Patch