Is pain stopping you sleep?
Pain is bad enough during the day, but if it’s stopping you sleeping or you wake up in the morning and the first thing you feel is pain, it becomes even more miserable. Pain at night is just horrible.
Here are two things we hear a lot in clinic: “I’ve bought a new mattress” or “I’ve bought new pillows”. This is usually followed by “even that didn’t help”.
It’s worse at night or in the morning
Pain at night or in the morning is common in a lot of conditions and injuries. Unfortunately, this means that people often blame their pillows or mattress for the problem. Don’t misunderstand, if your mattress or pillows are 30 years old and give you no support, then please do replace them. But otherwise, they’re probably not to blame.
The usual reason for your pain at night or it being worse in the morning is that you haven’t been moving. This means reduced blood flow and reduced lubrication in joints. This will make inflammatory issues worse in the morning and joint issues also worse. That equates to a big majority of the problems we see.
So what should you do?
Before spending thousands of pounds on a new mattress, go and see a Physio. Get a full assessment and understand whether the bed is the problem or whether actually it’s a lack of movement, whether you should see your Doctor, or maybe you do need to invest in a new mattress or pillows..
About 95% of the time, it’s not the bed in our experience and so people are often disappointed when their pain doesn’t disappear with the change in mattress or pillows. Seeing someone first can save you a lot of money.
Unfortunately, pain at night, morning stiffness and pain that’s worse in the morning is often the last thing to improve so understanding that is important. However, making sure the joints in the affected area are as mobile as possible before going to bed is really important. So is having some gentle mobility exercises to do before you even get out of bed. This maximises your chances of the first few steps in the morning being less painful than before.
If your pillows or mattress are ancient, maybe it’s time for a change.
If you’ve decided your pillows are in need of a change, then it’s time to test some new ones. People often ask which pillow is best. Simply, there is no one brand that I recommend. Your pillows should fill the gap between the end of your shoulder and the side of your head when you’re lying on your side, and keep your neck in a straight line with the rest of your spine.
What I mean is, when you’re lying on your side, your pillows shouldn’t push your head up or let it sag down. If you’re buying new ones, test them. See what fits for you and feels comfortable.
But which mattress should I get?
Again with mattresses there’s no one answer. It’s all about testing them for yourself and most mattresses now will give you a return period so if you don’t like it, you can send it back. That’s really useful as you often won’t know if it’s going to suit you until you’ve tried it for a full night’s sleep or 10.
However, as general guidance, most people will benefit from a mattress that isn’t too soft and isn’t to hard. Ie. Medium. It should give you some support, without being so rigid it’s uncomfortable. What is too soft or too hard for you though will be down to personal preference.
Should I get memory foam?
Some people love memory foam. If you do, get it. It’s much better now as it’s usually got a firm base to it so you don’t just sink. I don’t like it at all personally so I wouldn’t buy one, but it can really help some people. Try it for yourself and see. That’s the only way to know.
Patients often ask us which position is best for them to lie in. My standard answer is to find one that’s comfy and go with that. If you find a position that you feel comfortable in, chances are that’s a good one for you. Otherwise it wouldn’t be comfy! I never see the point in recommending a particular position if the patient finds that uncomfortable.
Not sleeping is miserable, so don’t sabotage it by forcing yourself to try and lie in a particular position.
Sleep is important
Getting a good night’s sleep is so important to us both physically and mentally. So doing everything you can to get good quality and plentiful sleep is really important. Having said that, please do get an assessment from a Physio before you rush out and spend a lot of money on pillows or a mattress. Often Physio can help improve the pain and will be a lot cheaper and a lot more effective than a new mattress.
If you want to know more about how important sleep is, have a read of “Why we sleep” by Matthew Walker. It’s a genuinely fascinating book, one of my favourite books of all time!
If you aren’t sleeping due to pain at night or you wake up with pain, then book an appointment to see one of our Physios who will be able to help you.