To Your Health
August, 2010 (Vol. 04, Issue 08)
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Sleep Soundly

By Dr. Kevin Wong

Have you ever woken up from a long night of slumber with a sore neck and wondered what happened? Have you ever heard the alarm clock go off in the morning and realized you didn't sleep more than a couple of hours the entire night? Do you wake up every hour and get frustrated at why it is so late (and how tired you are) and yet you can't seem to stay asleep?

It is amazing how many millions of people lie down at night with the hopes of getting some restful sleep, but never seem to be able to. Of course, there are some genuine health reasons why people may have trouble sleeping, such as sleep apnea, side effects of prescription medications, and pain from debilitating medical problems. Those are just a few of the many causes that might prevent someone from sleeping well. For the average person, however, better sleep can be attained simply by taking some steps that are completely under your control.

It's important to understand that sleeping is as individual an event as exercising, eating right or deciding what to wear every day. Our society makes you think that if you have any old mattress and a pillow, and time to sleep, everything will take care of itself. Not true. Here are a few suggestions on how to make your sleep more individualized and restful.

Your Mattress

Sleep Soundly - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark Most people buy a new mattress when their old one "wears out," meaning it's tattered, torn, excessively stained and/or otherwise unappealing to sleep on. Generally, it is not a good idea to keep a mattress longer than 10-15 years due to the wear and tear you put it through. Depending on the quality, it may last longer or shorter. Going to a store and lying on a mattress for a few minutes is not enough time to make a decision on something you will have to lie on for years to come. You need to test it out in a real sleep environment to make sure you can experience deep, rejuvenating sleep for years. After all, why pay good money to end up tossing and turning every night?

Choose a mattress that has a trial period so that if you do not like it, you can return it and get another. Most good mattresses come with trial periods of anywhere from 90 days to up to five years, depending on where you buy them. Do not buy a mattress if you have no ability to return it. They cost far too much money to have buyer's remorse later.

Again, in terms of which specific mattress type/style to choose, it really boils down to how it makes you feel/sleep. Some people prefer a firm mattress, while others like a softer mattress. As long as it adequately supports your head, neck and back during sleep (meaning you don't sink into it excessively or don't hurt the next day from lying on something that feels like your hard floor), it's what makes you sleep well that matters most.

Sleeping Position

OK, so you've picked out your "perfect" mattress; now how do you sleep on it? From a health perspective, the best position for sleep is on your back with a pillow under your knees. The pillow should be comfortable for you and help take pressure off the small of your back. The second-best position is on your side with a pillow between your knees. The pillow between the knees must be thick enough to keep your thighs hip-width apart. On your side also means you need a supportive pillow (I'll explain what kind of pillow in just a minute).