We have all woken up with a stiff neck or sore back and immediately thought, “I must have slept the wrong way”.
Most people are aware that poor sleeping posture can cause neck, shoulder and back pain. However the important role that it can play in provoking headache attacks tends to go unrecognized.
Considering we spend almost a third of our life in bed, we ought to pay more attention to our sleeping posture. Perhaps you have an ergonomic chair at work but what about the mattress and pillow on your bed?
A good mattress and pillow can certainly help your sleeping posture. Mattresses and pillows also wear out and need to be replaced regularly.
However it is even more important to look at the way you lie in bed.
Although we change our position many times while we are asleep, we all have a favourite position. This is the position that we adopt automatically as we drift off to sleep, the one we continually return to during the night. Hence it is the position that we spend the most time in. Video studies have shown almost everyone is able to identify it reliably.[5b]
Do you prefer to sleep on your side, on your back or on your stomach? There is some disagreement among scientists and doctors as to whether sleeping on your side or your back is better for the spine.
However all are agreed that sleeping on your stomach is very bad for the spine and should be avoided.
Stopping sleeping on your stomach may be one of the most effective things you can do to stop your headaches. Just what it is wrong with sleeping on your stomach is discussed in the next section.
Having good sleeping posture means that when you are lying in bed in your usual position:
- Your pillow and mattress should support your head and body so that your spine retains its three natural curves, just as when you are sitting or standing.
- Your spine, and especially your neck (cervical spine), should not be twisted to one side – your shoulders and hip bones should be aligned.
The position of your arms and legs should not put any muscles in either an overly shortened or overstretched state. For example, avoid crossing your arms tightly against your chest as shown in the photo.
Awkward positions such as this, when held for hours on end during sleep, will cause or reactivate muscular trigger points and worsen existing muscle imbalances.
Our postural habits are so ingrained that we are mostly unaware of them. It is a good idea to demonstrate the way you usually lie when you go to sleep to your manual therapist and ask them to comment on any possible problem areas that they notice.
This is an excerpt from Stop Headaches Naturally | Chapter 8 - Postural Tips For Sleeping
“The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will interest his patients in the care of the human body, in diet, and in the cause and prevention of disease.”
Although there have been many medical advances since Edison’s time, the doctor is unfortunately still “giving medicine”.
The traditional approach in Western medicine has always been to diagnose a particular disease or condition from known symptoms and then to treat it with medication, surgery or various procedures.
This focus on diagnosis and treatment worked well for infectious diseases, but is not very useful for multi-factorial chronic diseases like cancer and cardiovascular disease.
At the population level, the emphasis has shifted in favour of understanding the underlying causes of disease, and prevention through improvements to lifestyle.
However this has not really been translated to the individual patient-doctor consultation.
It is not just the doctor’s fault – patient expectations also contribute to this situation. Patients sometimes complain they have not got value for money if they don’t leave clutching a prescription, but just discuss factors like diet, exercise and sleep with their doctor.
Or if the doctor does recommend various lifestyle changes, patients frequently ignore this advice and keep looking for “the magic bullet”.
And when the patient is in pain, many doctors feel helpless if they can’t provide some form of pain relief.
This is an excerpt from Stop Headaches Naturally Chapter 6.8 - The focus of Western medicine is on treatment rather than prevention