A good night's sleep is an integral key to general well being. But sometimes peoples bad habits before they get into their large bed can hinder the otherwise restorative powers of sleep. However we have a few adaptations you can make to your night-time routine, along with good bedroom management, can produce some effective and wide ranging benefits to health, as our simple guide shows.
Do you need a new bed?
To ensure that you maintain the best possible support and comfort, replace your bed every eight to ten years.
According to research those with uncomfortable beds sleep, on average, one hour less than those with comfortable ones. A build-up of moisture - we lose more than a quarter of a litre of sweat a night - and deposits of skin scales also make an old bed unhygienic. And old beds are more likely to harbour dust mites and their allergens which can aggravate asthma sufferers and sufferers of skin conditions such as eczema.
If you suffer from back problems such as lumbago, select a bed with a solid platform or base.
How to get into your bed
Get into the habit of getting in and out of bed in the correct way and you will avoid unnecessary loading on the spine.
To get in, sit on the edge of the bed and lift the top part of your body through on to your elbows and arms. Then, bring your legs up on to the bed - the top part of the body should balance the bottom part - and roll into position.
To get out of bed, roll on to your sides, pivot on the hips, drop the legs over edge of the bed, and push up with your arms bringing the body upright.
What about your mattress?
Beds should be properly supportive - not so firm that your hips and
shoulders are under pressure or so soft that your body sags, causing possible
posture and back pain.
Your mattress should be firm enough to allow shifts of posture during the night. The mattress needs to be comfortable enough to lie on, but able to support and cushion the body's bony curves.
You need to consider your weight, height, build and even preferred sleeping pattern when making your choice. If you and your partner are of different weights consider a 'zip and link'
bed - two single beds with separate mattress types, zipped together.
Water beds, according to manufacturers, have no pressure points, don't sag and support the body without distorting the spine and so may be worth exploring.
If you sleep on a mattress on top of a mattress base you may be risking spinal pain if your back is not properly supported. To increase support, slide a board between the two mattresses.
How to position yourself in bed
When lying down, keep the spine in correct alignment while the bed moulds itself to your natural body contours. Your sleeping position needs to be balanced so that all the joints have an even distribution of stress.
If you sleep on your side, make sure the pillow is thick enough to support the distance from the top of your shoulder to the ear, as you don't want the head to drop down and strain the neck.
To increase comfort when sleeping on your side, put a pillow between your knees as this supports their bony parts and stops them rubbing together.
When sleeping on your back, increase comfort by putting a pillow behind your knees which changes the position of the pelvis slightly so the lower back is in a more comfortable position.
Avoid sleeping on your front, as the natural inclination is to put the face to one side.
Check out your pillows
The correct pillow can help alleviate and prevent a range of complaints including headaches and chronic neck pain, as well as a simple crick in the neck.
Many osteopaths recommend latex pillows as they are soft, supportive, gently resilient and don't lose their shape during the night.
The right pillow should keep the neck in alignment with the upper part of the back.
Beware using too many pillows or pillows which are too thin, as these can
stretch and compress the neck, causing strain and pain.
You know it's right when the spine in your upper back remains level with the
cervical spine in your neck. There should be no skin crease and the pillow or
pillows should be tucked into the neck and shoulder.
Duck down pillows are known to be beneficial for people who suffer with asthma, night wheezing or other respiratory problems as latex inhibits growth of common bacteria, mould or mildew.