After I messed up my posture, sleeping was a real issue. Every position was completely uncomfortable. I thought it was because my mattress was too soft, that my spine wasn’t straight enough in bed. I subsequently went through 3 different mattresses within a year, each one harder than the one before until I was sleeping on a futon mattress that didn’t budge at all. It hurt but I assumed it was doing me good.
It wasn’t until I watched a MobilityWOD video where Kelly Starrett was saying that your mattress is likely too hard if you have to cross your feet or tuck one foot under the other knee (like a half lotus) or sleep with an arm over your head that I realized my error.
All of these tendencies are to try and get your lower spine out of extension. Think about it. If you lie down on the floor with your arms laying by your side and with your feet out straight, your lower back will be arched off the floor (as well as your neck tilted back which is why we use pillows). When you sit with your knees pulled up you will notice that your back flattens out and that your spine is neutral.
Basically we need our pelvis to sink into the mattress enough for our lower back muscles not to be switched on all night. If your mattress is too hard and you end up having to cross your feet, then a quick fix is to simply recreate the position with your knees up by putting a pillow under your knees.
Ok so mattress sorted, now onto the pillow. In my experience this has been even harder to source / fix. I’ve bought standard pillows, memory foam ones, tried doubling up two smaller ones, putting magazines underneath a pillow to see if that would help. With everything I tried my neck still felt like crap in the morning.
Randomly it was on a trip to Slovakia with my girlfriend where her friends put us up in Bratislava in their guest bedroom with two odd shaped pillows. At first we had no idea which way around they were meant to be (and I think our friends still use it the wrong way round!). Basically it’s a memory foam pillow by a company called Dormeo (I use their Siena pillow) where each end is rounded and one end is raised up and it’s a game changer for me:
Your put the raised edge (at the bottom of the shot) right up to your shoulders and the curve supports all the facet joints in your neck and the subtle drop towards the centre allows your chin to tilt back to a neutral position. In the Mobility WOD video Kelly was warning that you need to make sure your head doesn’t fall back into the pillow as you end up in a broken position all night and so I was wary of this backward tilt but by putting my hand behind my neck every segment is in alignment and it feels magical. The only problem is that it may take you a bit of time to be able to be comfortable with your head lower than on a ‘normal’ pillow as you are likely used to being propped up higher and having your chin tucked in.
In order to wind down before bed I use the a variety of tools to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system into a state of ‘rest-and-digest’, pictured below:
I first of all arch my upper back (body facing up) over a large 55cm swizz ball to release tension in the upper back in a global way. I then move to arching my thoracic spine gently over the foam roller (mentioned in the mobility chapter) and then use the double lacrosse balls to find individual stiff segments; although in this case I use a softer Yoga Tune Up massage balls by Jill Miller as I don’t want to do anything too active before sleep.
I then use these same balls (taken out of the peanut bag) to massage my Temporomandibular Joint as I tend to clench my jaw as a reaction to stress throughout the day and this can lock up at night time too – there’s a great video by Jill of how to use these balls to release stress in your jaw below.
Last update on 2019-02-21 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
On a lifelong mission to unbreak myself :)