Poor sleep is a common complaint in a Physiotherapy practice.
Typical complaints include having to change positions frequently due to discomfort, having morning ‘stiffness’ that last for around 30 minutes, having to get out of bed throughout the night because of discomfort and waking with headaches.
Improving sleep while dealing with an acute or ongoing painful condition is important, as the body cannot heal as well without a good sleep pattern. If you are tossing and turning due to discomfort it is best to get up and out of bed, try to move around, try some gentle exercise or movement before getting back into bed.
To help fall asleep a new technqiue called 'congnitive shuffling' developed by Luc Beaudoin, a Simon Fraser University professor, can be very helpful. The technqiue involves either focusing on words or random objects to change your brains focus. You can read more here or listen here for more information. Professor Beaudoin also developed an app called 'MySleepButton' that helps coach you along the way. The website for the app also has some great tips here. While this technique was developed for stress and insomnia the technique can be helpful to improve sleep loss due to discomfort and pain.
It is useful to ask a client to show the position that they sleep in. This position can then be adjusted, incorporating a variety of pillows to find a position that is more comfortable. Generally speaking a side sleeper should consider a pillow between the knees whereas a back sleeper should consider a pillow underneath the knees.
The type of pillow used with patients that complain of neck pain or headaches is considered.
The type of pillow recommended depends on the body type and the position that they sleep in. As a general rule a thinner pillow is better for those that sleep on their back while a thicker pillow is better for those that sleep on their side. The goal is to try to support the neck in a comfortable ‘neutral position’. Most people do not do well with the older cervical pillows made of foam, though the newer memory foam pillows seem better. Most people do well with regular polyester fill pillows. If that doesn’t work then a feather, water-filled or latex/memory foam pillow can be purchased. There is a huge amount of personal preference in pillows. Many cannot part with their favorite pillow, even if it is 20 years old!
Mattresses are supposed to have a life of around 10 years.
Some signs that you need to replace your mattress are an increased sag in the mattress, springs that pop or if the mattress has become lumpy. As well, consider a new mattress if you are increasingly waking up more stiff and sore than normal. There are a lot of new materials being used in construction including wool, silk, bamboo, latex foam, memory foam, etc. The bottom line is that you need to test a lot of mattresses, keeping in mind your budget. Initially when testing mattresses you should try a range of firm to plush mattresses to find which balance of plushness vs. support you prefer. You can then try to narrow down your decision. When testing a mattress you should lay on the mattress in different positions with your partner to check for comfort. The mattress should not sag towards the middle. As well there should be very little movement felt when your partner rolls over. There are countless types of mattress construction and brands so you definitely have to get out and try the mattresses before you buy. Plan on spending a lot of time trying out a variety of mattresses.
Signs you should consider changing your mattress
- The mattress has an increase in sag or a ‘valley’
- The mattress has lumps in the top or springs that are popping
- Waking with stiffness or soreness
- Waking when your partner rolls over or get out of bed
- Having to frequently change positions