For anybody who deals with chronic, acute or intermittent pain, sleep can be problematic. Clearly, lack of restorative sleep can exacerbate pain, making us tired and unable to cope with regular life stresses the following day. Yet, good sleep can be difficult to obtain when the sleep positions don’t allow us to relax relatively pain-free.
Mattresses, couches and recliners: does it matter? It appears that you don’t necessarily need the newest mattress, but you do need to have a mattress that doesn’t create pressure points. Bursitis patients, however, need to be sure that they don’t sleep on too firm a mattress.
Couches contribute to a great deal of neck, back and shoulder pain, because they are not meant to be sleep surfaces. They do not provide adequate neck and back support. If you regularly fall asleep on the couch, you need to move yourself earlier to the bedroom.
A full recliner (and also an adjustable bed) is often a very effective solution for pain patients. Because it offers so many positions, there are more options to experiment with. Full recliners and hospital beds are also much easier to transfer in and out of to a standing position, which is helpful for hip, leg and back pain sufferers.
If you have had a recent surgery and spent time in a hospital bed, try to remember which positions in the hospital bed gave you the greatest relief. What angle did you keep your legs? Your head and shoulders? Did you lie on a particular side?
Pillows matter. Shoulder pain sufferers often have the hardest time finding a comfortable sleep position, but adding pillows to the mix can be helpful. Neck pain patients need to ensure that their pillows are not so large that they cause the neck to flex. Memory foam pillows are good, as are feather pillows that compress nicely, if you don’t have allergies to feathers. (Feather pillows do need to be replaced more often than foam pillows.) If you haven’t purchased pillows in a while, there are lots of varieties to experiment with: body pillows, small roll pillows, as well as pillows with various gradients in size and firmness. You can be creative, too. Often a rolled up hand towel is the perfect size.
Sleeping on your back is the typical sleep position for those recovering from spinal surgery. For those who are not used to this position, it can be a chore to fall asleep. Be sure to elevate your legs with pillows, so as to minimize the strain on your back.
Sleeping on your side is the most common recommendation for lots of pain patients, including those with osteoarthritis, bursitis, spinal stenosis as well as hip pain sufferers. Pregnant women should also sleep on their side for prevention of lower back and hip pain. For some patients, sleeping on the side can be made even more comfortable with a pillow placed between the bent knees, or by placing long body pillows along the back or stomach. Some people get more relief in a sleep position that includes a fairly straight body and legs; others prefer a more fetal, curled-up position.
Shoulder and hip pain sufferers should sleep on the unaffected side (if the pain is limited to one side).
Sleeping on your stomach is often recommended for patients with degenerative disease. A firmer mattress and a very thin pillow placed under the stomach and hips are also helpful. Sleeping on the stomach is not recommended for patients with neck pain.
Old sleep habits die hard. But it is important not to quit a new position just because it doesn’t feel natural. It can take a few weeks to for a new sleep position to stop feeling strange. Give the process time and really evaluate if you are getting a longer, more rejuvenating sleep before making any further changes.