GETTING into and out of bed is something we all do each day, and the activity would appear to be routine … that is, until we get hurt or experience some level of pain somewhere in the body.
The ordinary task of sleeping can become something of an extraordinary effort when you wake up in the morning feeling symptoms of pain and stiffness instead of being recharged and refreshed. Without a good night’s sleep, you can’t adequately recover from just about any mental, physical or hormonal stress. We spend about one third of our entire lives on this earth in the horizontal position, so let’s see if we can find ways to improve this activity with the following suggestions.
If you are a side, back, or stomach sleeper, protect your position: Make sure you have several pillows around. Use a pillow under the knees if you are on your back. For side sleepers, I suggest a pillow between the knees and another one to hug to avoid prolonged over-rotation positions. If you are on your stomach, you need good neck range, or not have a neck problem … otherwise you could develop one!
Protect your hands: Running and sleeping are the two most notorious triggers of dormant hand and wrist injuries. If you have pain or swelling in the hand or wrist, it is best to wear a wrist guard while you sleep until the problem resolves. A bent wrist or hand under several hours of compression while you sleep can easily and subtly go unnoticed and cause pain by the morning.
Hydrate and replenish: Had a physically demanding day? Perspire a lot? Stressed? Sleeping activates the parasympathetic nervous system, and that means your body is in an ideal state for digestion and absorbing nutrients. Optimize hydration, digestion and your supplement regimen by taking your products about one hour before you go to sleep. It will prolong the time nutrients stay in your digestive tract for better absorption. B vitamins can have a stimulatory effect, so don’t take those too close to bed time.
Avoid the (blue) light: Blue light emission from electronic devices and screens also have a stimulatory effect on the brain. It maintains cortisol levels (an adrenal stress hormone) on high when it should be low at night. Avoid electronic devices before bed, or wear blue-blocking glasses (goggles cover better, less sexy though). Worn a few hours before bedtime, it can help prep your brain for downtime and perhaps get you to sleep more easily.
Wake up and move before getting up: If you have lower-back-region pain or wake up stiff, then perform a series of pelvic-tilts, knee extensions and knee-to-chest moves before sitting up. These three moves should be done while on your back or side. They help to decompress your spinal joints and prepare muscle tissues for weight bearing. Pain can indicate swelling, inflammation or irritation when you wake up with symptoms. Best to get it checked out!
The rubber ball trick: For those with morning foot pain, this could be an indicator of a plantar fasciitis. Usually the pain is at the bottom of the foot for the first few minutes of walking but improves thereafter. Instead of getting up and walking around, try using a rubber ball to roll out the bottoms of your feet, even for just one minute. The plantar fascia gets stretched in the process and your feet often will be in less pain when you start walking. Golf balls are too small and slippery, tennis balls are too soft. Lacrosse balls are the best!
Don’t settle for sleep that gets you functional. Get the kind of sleep that is restorative, the kind that makes you and your body thrive for the new day. Sleep is the kind of activity that requires both quantity AND quality, and if you are not getting both, you need to check yourself before you wreck yourself!
Dr. Adrian Pujayana has been providing drug-free solutions for health and wellness to adults, athletes and youth since 2000 through his private practice at Family Chiropractic Center of South Pasadena, a place for strength training and nutrition-based health care. For comments or questions, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.