GETTING a good night’s sleep is a struggle for millions of people.
And since the pandemic began, 43 per cent of us find it harder to get a decent kip, according to the Sleep Charity.
It is not all about how many hours you get – your position matters, too.
Sammy Margo, a sleep expert and physiotherapist, says: “Sleeping in certain positions can aggravate all sorts of health problems, from back and neck pain to heartburn.
“Your chosen position could even cause saggy boobs or wrinkles.”
Sammy tells Lynsey Hope why certain positions could lead to a health nightmare.
Freefaller, knee up – hip problems
YOU lie on your tummy with hands up by your pillow and head to the side, but you also have one leg cocked up to the side.
Sammy says: “This is slightly better than the freefall position as your body is slightly rotated to one side.
“But you could still be putting some strain on the front of your cocked-out hip.
“It puts pressure on your back too by pushing your spine into an unnatural curve and spoiling the body’s natural alignment.”
Freefaller – back and neck pain
YOU lie on your tummy with your hands up by your pillow and your head turned to one side.
Sammy says: “Probably the worst position anyone can sleep in, this could leave you with a lifetime of back and neck problems.
“When you sleep on your front, you have to turn your head to the side – otherwise you wouldn’t be able to breathe. That puts a strain on the neck.
“Your lower back bends in towards the mattress, which means it becomes hyper-extended, squashing structures and reducing the space in the lower back area, which may cause aches and pains such as sciatica, knee pain and cramps.
“If you struggle to sleep any other way, you could put a pillow under your tummy to prevent your lower back from arching.
“A pillow underneath the shins may take the strain off the lower back.”
Foetal – wrinkles & disrupted sleep
YOU lie on your side with your knees bent towards your chest, curled up like a baby.
Sammy says: “The most popular side-sleeping position, but if you have too many or too few pillows your head will be kinked towards one side, which could cause strain on the neck.
“Sleeping with your face squashed into a pillow night after night can also cause wrinkles.
“If you sleep like this but cuddle up to your partner at the same time – spooning – this will help your body release ‘happy hormones’ such as oxytocin.
“But you could also find you suffer disrupted sleep – waking up from being too hot or because your partner is snoring or fidgeting.
“This position is still better for you than lying on your stomach, but add a pillow between knees to keep hips neutral.”
Soldier – breathing problems
YOU lie on your back with both arms down by your side.
Sammy says: “It is quite rare for people to sleep on their back. And it’s a very bad position if you snore or suffer from sleep apnoea.
“This is because sleeping on your back pushes your chin forwards, which allows the tongue to fall to the back of the throat, partially obstructing the airway.
“It’s also bad if you suffer from heartburn or acid reflux as stomach acid can move into the oesophagus.
“Back sleeping can also aggravate any pain you may already have in your lower back. Sleeping with a pillow beneath your knees can reduce the strain.”
Starfish – terrible nightmares
ON your back with both arms up by your pillow and your legs sprawled.
Sammy says: “US research found that people who sleep on their backs tend to have more nightmares.
“If you are waking up with bad dreams several times a week, change your position.
“Some people find sleeping with their arms above their head gives them a much-needed stretch – an antidote to sitting in a slumped position with their arms by their side all day.
“If you suffer back pain add a pillow beneath knees and under lower back.”
Log – shoulder pain & gut health
YOU lie on your side with both arms and legs straight down.
Sammy says: “Particularly in older people, lying on your side can cause shoulder problems.
“As you age, the area becomes less fleshy so sleeping on it for six to eight hours a night puts a lot of pressure on the shoulder.
“You could ease any pain by putting something such as a mattress topper between your shoulder and the mattress to create a little cushioning.
“If you regularly sleep on your right side, this can also make it more difficult for your body to digest food.
“It may exacerbate symptoms of conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome.”
Yearner – saggy boobs
YOU lie on your side with both arms stretched out in front of you.
Sammy says: “Lying on your side is not good for your boobs as they get dragged to one side.
“In the log position, your breasts may be supported but if your arms are stretched out in front of you, the breasts will just be dragging down towards the mattress.
“If you have big boobs, it’s a good idea to wear a sleep bra for extra support so you don’t end up with stretch marks or sagging.”
Try Flexfit Non Wired Sleep Bra, £16, M&S
Tips to help you nod off
THE Sleep Charity’s sleep expert Lisa Artis reveals how to get a good night’s sleep.
Regular routine: Keeping a regular sleep and wake schedule helps the body’s system stay in harmony and promotes feelings of tiredness and drowsiness when your body is ready for a kip.
Get natural light: This helps reset our internal body clock and to get over feeling groggy when we have just woken up. It also makes us more alert.
Get out into the natural light as soon as you can after waking up, around the same time every day.
Don’t use alcohol: Although booze is a sedative, it can have a significant impact on the quality and quantity of our sleep.
It tends to become fragile when we have a lot of alcohol and can lead to lots of awakenings in the night – and feelings of being unrefreshed during the next day.
Keep your bedroom cool: Heat, light and noise can impact on our ability to get off to sleep and increase the chances that we wake in the night.
Making sure the bedroom is cool, dark and quiet can improve the quality of our sleep, as can snoozing on a more comfortable and supportive bed.
Hide your clock: It is common to watch the clock when we are awake at night. This can increase our anxiety levels and further prevent us from being able to fall asleep.
It is not necessary to remove the clock altogether, but having the face out of sight will help reduce that anxiety.
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