Sleepless In Soweto Snoozing soundly
Most women have trouble scoring between the sheets – scoring ample shut-eye, that is. In fact, according to the South African Society of Sleep Medicine, women
aged 30 to 60 are among the most sleep deprived members of society thanks
to demanding schedules at work and at home.
But it’s not just about the number of hours you clock – quality is also key. And the
way you lie down is a major factor in the quality of your slumber. Snoozing in the wrong position can cause muscle cramping, impair circulation and leave you hurting come morning.
And for the millions of women with pre-existing aches (such as a sore back), a bad sleep pose can spark a vicious cycle of pain and insomnia.
The good news? It’s pretty easy to switch up your mattress stance. Read on to improve your sleep patterns, starting tonight. >
Lie on your left side “Because of where our organs are situated, sleeping on the left puts less pressure on the
lower oesophageal sphincter,” says sleep specialist Priyanka Yadav. (That sphincter is the hatch that food passes through on its way to the gut. When it’s stressed, burning stomach acid can creep back up, irritating
Lie on your left side with your arms resting comfortably in front of you. Bend your knees and curl your legs
slightly towards your upper body in a semi-foetal position.
If you have particularly bad heartburn, roll onto your back and use a few pillows to prop up your chest and head.
Lie on your side, with your legs supported
Some 40 percent of women suffer spinal issues, according to the Clinical Journal of Pain, and many of those originate – or get worse – between the sheets, because a wonky sleep pose can throw off spinal alignment for hours, says Dr Robert Rosenberg, an osteopath who specialises in sleep medicine. The key is to keep your spine in a neutral, naturally curved position. Lie on your side and put a slight bend in your knees, stacking your hips in a straight line (letting your top hip flop forward will rotate your lumbar spine, creating more pain).
Place a firm pillow or two in between your knees so that your legs are propped about hip-width apart. Your arms can relax out in front of you. If this feels funny at first, don’t give up. Sleeping with extra padding takes practice.
Lie on your side, propped up
Anytime you’re congested – be it from allergies, a sinus infection or just a cold –
avoid snoozing on your back. Doing so means your mouth can fall open during the night,
drying out what’s stuffed you up (hardened mucus can keep you congested, says Rosenberg). Instead, lie on your side with an extra pillow under your head and let gravity help with drainage. Don’t forget that when your head is up high, your arms will need extra support, so hug a pillow. Arrange your legs in a comfy, slightly bent pose.
Shoulder pain has many culprits (a heavy handbag, slouching), but chief among them is a thorny side-sleeping position. Sleeping on your side can both cause and alleviate shoulder
pain. It’s all in the particulars, says Rosenberg. Many women make the mistake of tucking their bottom arm under their head, which strains the brachial plexus, a network of
nerves that controls the shoulder, arm and hand. “It’s like sleeping with a five-kilo weight on your arm, and it pinches the nerves,” he says. First, keep off your sore side. Lie on your painfree side with your legs slightly bent. Extend your bottom arm straight out in front of you, then bring it in, using both arms to hug a pillow to your chest. As with back pain, avoid flopping your top leg forward (to help alignment, place a pillow between your thighs). If both shoulders are aching, switch to a back pose and keep your arms relaxed at your sides.
Lie on your back
Weird but true: when you’re moody, bloated and crampy, avoid curling up in a ball in
bed – or passing out on your stomach. Lying on your side lets gravity tug on already-tender breast ligaments (ouch!); lying face-down puts excess weight and pressure on your uterus,
causing irritation and more cramping, says Rosenberg. Get your best PMS shut-eye
on your back. Place a pillow under your knees to keep your lower spine from arching too much, which could amp up soreness in the lower back. Keep your arms neutral at your sides. (If you’re still sore, try putting another pillow under your knees for even more lower-body support.)
Lie on your back
Around 15 percent of women have bursitis, also known as “runner’s hip”, a painful condition that stems from inflammation of the hip joint. Ouch-all-night bursitis can
make sleep seem impossible, but there is a solution: get off your side. “Sleeping on your injured side is the last thing you want to do,” says Yadav.
Side-lying poses put undue pressure on your hips, pushing them into the mattress. Dozing
on your back gives your hips a break from the near-constant
stress of walking and sitting all day. If it feels good, prop a pillow under your knees for added support.
An achy jaw
Lie on your back, face-up
Night-time teeth-grinding, or bruxism, is a genetic condition that affects about eight percent of adults. It has been linked to stress, anxiety and sleep disorders; it also does a painful number on your teeth and jaw – and can even change the shape of your face. If you suspect you grind at night, lie on your back and face the ceiling. This allows the lower jaw to fall
into a natural position and the facial muscles to relax, says dentist Carolyn Taggart-Burns. “I tell my patients to sleep on their back with their lips closed but teeth open,” she says. To
lower your chances of turning your head, try to keep your arms straight at your sides (people
often subconsciously turn towards a bent arm).
A stiff neck
Lie on your back
Those pancake-flat pillows you’ve had since varsity aren’t doing your neck any favours (ditto for those extra-puffy numbers you found on sale). A pillow that puts your noggin on an upward or downward slope can compress the cervical spine, strain neck muscles and cause
soreness – especially if you’re lying on your stomach or side, says chiropractor Laelle Martin.
Most people with neck pain benefit from sleeping on their back with their neck in a neutral
(read: straight) position, which involves finding a pillow that supports that alignment. Keep your arms relaxed and at your sides; don’t let them sneak up behind your head. If you know your neck pain stems from something like a herniated disc, ask your doc about skipping a pillow altogether and sleeping with your head flat on the mattress, which can help straighten the neck.
All Fitness___By Malia Jacobson