Almost all of us have said at one time or another, “I’m going to lie down on the bed.” Unfortunately for most this is an accurate statement as most are actually lying ON the bed rather than lying IN the bed. This difference can have extreme effects on your health and overall enjoyment of life.
Most beds, whether of spring or foam construction, even memory foam, relegates the sleeper to lying in a condition that does not allow for the hips and shoulders to properly sink into the bed. This position causes several anatomical problems that can affect both sleep quality and spinal health. They include:
- Unnatural curvature of the spine. The best condition for spinal health during sleep is for the spine to be the same as when standing in the upright position. If the shoulders and/or hips are not allowed to sink into the mattress, then this proper spinal position is not possible. Most spring and foam beds have a solid, continuous surface that, by nature, pulls from the surrounding linked material. This restricts the ability of the bed to properly conform to the body, creating a “hammock” effect. Allowing your spine to be in an unnatural position all night can potentially create both short and long term back problems, certainly aggravating any existing conditions. Plus this unnatural position can disrupt sleep patterns, robbing essential quality sleep time.
- Pressure on the body’s natural pressure points. Some of the most critical pressure points on the body (places where both nerves and capillaries are affected most by outside pressure) are the shoulders, hips and ankles as these are places where the bone is nearest. When pressure is exerted at these places during sleep, the body must readjust. This readjustment most of us call tossing and turning. Some of us are more susceptible to this pressure than others, but for almost all pressure will cause the need for readjustment. To readjust the sleeper usually needs to be in some state of wakefulness, which may be so brief we do not remember (these brief periods of wakefulness usually referred to as “microarousals”). But to most these can break up normal sleep structure, robbing the body of the slow wave sleep and the mind of the REM sleep we need to properly rejuvenate during our hours in bed.
- Sleeping on the back or stomach. Most research has shown that sleeping on one’s side, particularly what is usually referred to as the semi-fetal position, is preferable for both sleep quality and spinal health. Often when no position lying on one’s side allows for comfort, then the body naturally reverts to the back and/or stomach position to spread the pressure over a larger surface area. As we know back sleeping can produce excess snoring and other related problems that not only disrupts sleep for the individual, but can also be extremely disruptive to the sleeping partner. In this case the disruption in the quantity of quality sleep necessary for good health can be devastating to both parties.
Zoning of a mattress to allow the shoulders and hips to sink into the surface is a good way to mitigate pressure and produce the potential for the back aligning position needed for proper spinal health. Don’t be fooled by unsubstantiated claims of mattress conformity.
And don’t think that 5 minutes, or usually less, testing a mattress in a store actually allows enough time to determine if the bed will conform to the body, as these ridiculous “test runs” can never duplicate conditions of night after night use. In fact, for those with back problems, a way too firm mattress in a store might produce quick relief by compressing the disks and pinching the nerves in those disks. This disk compression can, over time, exacerbate back problems, not allowing for disk rejuvenation.
Look for a mattress designed to conform to you, not one that requires you to conform to it. Proper zoning that allows the mattress to conform to the hips and shoulders is one good way to encourage better sleep and natural spinal positioning. So get zoned in for a healthier and happier you.
Author: Eric Hinshaw