Chronic back pain affects millions of Americans every year. While many people consider weight loss and exercise as possible solutions, they may be overlooking a simple, relaxing way to help ease back pain: better sleep.
Getting better sleep doesn’t have to be complicated, but you need to ensure you have the right information and habits for better rest. With all the information on health and sleep online, it can be hard to figure out what’s true and know what sleep habits are best for you and your life. You’ll need to avoid common sleep myths if you want to overcome sleepless nights, enjoy better health and find relief from back pain.
5 Myths About Sleep and Your Health
To get a good quality sleep, it’s important to understand the real sleep facts and avoid falling for these sleep myths.
1. Snoring Is Normal
Snoring may be common, especially among men, but that doesn’t mean it’s normal or healthy. Snoring can disrupt your sleep and be a sign of bigger problems like sleep apnea. People with sleep apnea have periods of time during sleep when they don’t breathe. They may wake up frequently, sometimes gasping for air. The condition can be life-threatening and increase your risk for heart disease and other serious health conditions.
If you snore, you should speak to your physician about the possible causes to both improve your sleep and protect your health.
2. You Can Get Good Sleep in Any Position
Not every sleeping position is the right one for your body. While most people sleep on their side in a fetal position, others prefer to lie on their backs or stomachs. Each position can have its benefits and drawbacks for your back and your sleep quality.
For instance, if you have arthritis, sleeping on your side or on your back in a recliner can relieve pressure on your joints. But if you have degenerative disc disease, you may want to lie on your stomach to relieve strain on the discs (tissue between your spine bones).
Each of these positions has negatives, too. Sleeping on your stomach may cause hip pain if you bend your legs. Sleeping on your back may cause you to snore more. Both can affect your sleep quality in negative ways.
You will need to try sleeping in different positions to find the right one for you. You can also try placing pillows in different places to improve comfort. For instance, you can place a pillow between your knees when you sleep on your side to better align your spine and relieve knee pain. Each night, try out a new position and then reflect on your sleep when you wake up. Did you feel any pain during the night? Did you wake up multiple times? Do you feel refreshed in the morning? The right position will relieve pain and help you rest.
3. Alcohol Helps You Sleep
Though alcohol may help you fall asleep, it won’t help you get the deep, restful sleep you need. Alcohol can prevent your body from producing melatonin, a hormone that’s important for quality sleep. As part of your sleep and wakefulness rhythm, melatonin helps you fall asleep, stay asleep and wake up appropriately.
By disrupting melatonin, alcohol may cause you to wake up more often, keep you from dreaming and leave you feeling more tired than ever in the morning.
4. You Need a Stiff Mattress to Sleep Well
One of the most important sleep facts to understand is that choosing the right mattress is essential to high-quality rest. The right mattress for good sleep and for a pain-free spine is not too firm and not too soft. Each person may need a different amount of firmness or softness for restorative rest. The mattress should support your body so that your spine can stay aligned all night long. The wrong mattress can lead to back pain that interrupts your day and affects your quality of life.
Remember, you should replace your mattress every 7 years to ensure the springs don’t get saggy. An uncomfortable mattress can lead to back pain and poor sleep.
5. Sleep Doesn’t Really Affect Your Health
It’s not just diet and exercise that affect your health—sleep has a big impact, too. Good sleep can boost your mood and even help heal aches and pains, like back and neck pain. Restorative sleep allows your body to heal cells and relieve pain.
On the other hand, too little sleep can have negative consequences. People who don’t get enough sleep have a higher risk for:
- High blood pressure
Long-term sleep deprivation can have long-term impacts on your health. By developing good sleep habits, you can protect your health and feel rested every night.
How to Sleep Better
Now that you know more the truth about sleep, you can develop the right habits for how to sleep better every night. Though a lot of apps and other technology promise to help you sleep, a few simple tips is all you need for better rest.
1. Create a Great Sleep Environment
Your body needs the right environment for good rest. To sleep better, your bedroom should be cool, dark and quiet. While you can use white noise, the volume should be kept low. Any nightlights should be dim. Invest in blackout curtains if light from outdoors sneaks in.
Your bedroom should also be free of all electronic devices that emit light. No tablets, phones, computers or TVs. These devices can keep your brain too active for rest.
2. Get Enough Sleep for You
All adults—even seniors—need 7-9 hours of sleep. Be sure to set a bedtime and wake time that allow you to get enough sleep. Stick to those times so your body knows when to expect sleep. Keeping a consistent clock is one of the key ways to sleep better.
3. Make Time—and a Routine—to Fall Asleep
Going through the same actions every night signals to your brain that it’s time for sleep. Your routine might include:
- A shower or bath
- Putting on pajamas
- Brushing your teeth
- Washing your face
- Reading for 30 minutes
If you have back pain, you may even include some light stretching before sleep to loosen up and relax your back muscles. However, moderate exercise can make it hard to fall asleep, so be sure to stick with light yoga stretches and nothing more.
Your routine should not include:
- checking your phone,
- watching TV,
- eating or drinking anything with caffeine or alcohol.
These things can affect your brain’s ability to wind down.
4. Invest in Quality Bedding, Mattresses and Frames
Bedding should feel comfortable and help you stay at the right temperature all night. In the winter, you may need a duvet with goose down to keep you warm. In the summer, you need 100% cotton or linen sheets and blankets that are breathable and stay cool.
The right mattress also provides the right support to prevent uncomfortable positions and back pain. While a mattress needs to be at least a little firm to provide support, if it becomes too firm it can hurt points on your body that carry the most weight while you sleep. If you sleep on your side, for instance, a stiff mattress may end up hurting the hip you lay on the most.
A too-soft mattress, on the other hand, will sink under your weight, pushing your spine out of alignment. You want your spine from your neck all the way down to your hips to lie in a nice flat line. The right mattress supports you so your spine remains in a comfortable, neutral position.
Many mattresses currently on the market can help you find this balance. Tempur-Pedic mattresses, for instance, contour around your body’s shape, helping you lie naturally. Adjustable bed bases and mattresses can have both the head and feet moved to fit your spine’s natural curves. Whenever you shop for mattresses, you should try out many types of beds to find the right one for you and your back.
Pillows also play an important role in keeping your neck and back in a proper position all night long. A pillow that is too high puts your head at an extreme angle, which might leave your neck aching in the morning. A pillow that is too flat doesn’t help your head and neck stay aligned with your back. Tempur-Pedic also makes pillows that conform to your head shape the same way the mattresses conform to your body, providing comfort in every position.
Restorative Sleep Leads to a Healthier You
Great sleep and a pain-free back go hand-in-hand. Sleeping in a comfortable position not only relieves stress on your back, but improves your quality of sleep. When you get high quality, restorative sleep, your body can work to heal your painful back.
But great quality sleep does more than just support a heatlhy back—it supports mental health, cardiovascular health, joint health and much more. You owe it to both your body and mind to develop great sleep habits that help you rest easy every night.