Chiropractors and Physical Therapists Talk To Us About Sleep

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We all know the positive effects sleep can have on our mental health, muscle recovery and general well-being. Few things can replace a night of restorative sleep! However, many people often overlook the important links between sleep and spine health, including posture, back pain, and more. To help you learn more, we asked leading chiropractors and physical therapists about the relationship between sleep and spine health and what you can do to protect your spine and get a night of quality sleep. See what the experts have to say:

What Is The Connection Between Spine Health And Sleep? How Can Chiropractors Help?

Seth Means, Okanagan Integrative Health

“Chiropractors can help improve sleep in a variety of ways. When most people think of chiropractic care, they think of getting a spinal adjustment. Spinal adjustments as well as manual therapy can help improve the mobility and function of the joints of the spine. Reducing the stiffness of these joints reduces muscle tension and stiffness of the neck and back. Relieving the spine of these stiff areas reduces pressure points, allowing for greater comfort throughout the night.”

Dr. Jason Loth, Nevy Health
“Chiropractic is the restoration of the function of the neuromusculoskeletal system including the nerves, muscles and joints. Any time there is lack of mobility within the nerve, muscle or joint, especially of the spine, it can cause discomfort or pain and this could lead to the inability to sleep well.

Restorative sleep is a deep sleep (meaning cycling through all 4 stages of sleep including rem sleep) and if you constantly come out of your sleeping state because of your pain, your body will not become rested, recovered or repaired resulting in ill health.”

Rebekah Drum, DC, Network Family Wellness Center
“Receiving chiropractic care can help improve sleep by improving the health of the nervous system. More ease in the nervous system allows for the whole body to relax which can improve length and quality of sleep. Reducing the amount of flexion in your spine while you sleep can also be beneficial.”

William Charschan DC, CCSP, ICCSP,  Charschan Chiropractic and Sports Injury Associates
“A chiropractor can improve the way you move using methods such as myofascial release to improve how you move, manipulation of the spine and extremities which also improves the way you move and exercises to retrain the body away from poor movement patterns. Mattresses will support what you put on it. If your posture and body mechanics are good, the mattress will support that.”

Dr. Lev Kalika, DC New York Dynamic Neuromuscular Rehabilitation & Physical Therapy
“Chiropractic can improve sleep by improving spinal alignment which in turn allows muscles to relax, causing better and deeper sleep. Improved sleep promotes pain relief. Poor sleep is one of the most important contributing factors to chronic back pain. Often people with chronic back pain have poor sleeping habits. So, going to sleep on time and not doing the things which excite your mind before bed can improve sleep quality by breaking the vicious cycle of pain, poor sleep, then pain again.”

Dr. Jeffrey Klein, Broadway Chiropractic and Wellness
“When you’re stressed out your nervous system is in a “Fight or Flight” mode. Which makes it hard to sleep. A chiropractic adjustment will calm your nervous system down to relax the body so you will be able to get a better night sleep. Chiropractors can also help people with sleeping disorders by advising on sleep solutions, like the best type of pillow for someone’s neck, back, and legs; and sleep positions, for instance. Nobody teaches us these matters at school, but sleeping is something we must do every single day.”

Jesper Aggergaard/Unsplash

What Are Your Key Tips For Protecting The Spine During Sleep?

Jeff Williams DC, FIANM(us), Creek Stone Integrated Care
“In generalities for sleep positioning, I typically recommend sleeping on the back with the knees bent and a pillow underneath the knees. Or sleeping in the fetal position with a pillow between the knees. Sleeping on the stomach tends to put the lumbar spine into increased extension and is not typically recommended.”

Dr. Gbolahan Okubadejo, The Institute for Comprehensive Spine Care
“Strengthen your core muscles. Strong core muscles help to keep your spine aligned and avoid added pressure being placed on your back. Engaging your core muscles in everyday activities is a helpful way to lessen back pain in the present and the future.”
“Stretch. When your back muscles are weak they cannot sustain the movement of everyday life and are likely to ache. Stretching not only makes these muscles more flexible, but it strengthens them as well.”

Allen Conrad, BS, DC, CSCS, Montgomery County Chiropractic Center
“Finding a mattress that supports the lumbar spine is essential in preventing low back pain. We recommend a firmer bed for side sleepers due to its reinforced lumbar cushioning. A firmer mattress will help those who sleep on their side avoid spinal compression with its reinforced support zones in the shoulder and low back regions. This keeps the spinal column in anatomical position while sleeping, which will help prevent pain for low back injury patients.”

Dr. Andrea Luise, Lakeway Spine Center
“I often recommend that patients set themselves up for optimal sleep with the right support based on their sleeping posture. If they sleep on their back, using support under their knees will help to give the lumbar spine more support. Bending the knees reduces the natural curvature of the lumbar spine, so that the back is better supported. If they’re a side-sleeper, then I recommend using a thicker pillow under their head as well as hugging a body pillow, with the base between their knees and the upper part between their arms. This helps to neutralize their spine horizontally.”

Jordan Duncan, DC, Silverdale Sport & Spine
Sitting slouched in the few hours before sleep (e.g. watching television on the couch) puts the spine in a position of flexion, a disadvantageous posture for the discs of the lower back. This makes the discs more vulnerable during sleep as they tend to draw in fluid and increase their pressure while we are recumbent.
If you spend time sitting prior to sleeping, choosing a chair that promotes optimal spinal posture will put your back in a better state compared to sitting with a slouched posture.

Willam Charschan DC,CCSP, ICCSP, Charschan Chiropractic
For those with spinal pain, they do best with a mattress that allows the shoulders and hips to sink in. Many of today’s foam mattresses allow for this as well as the hybrid designs that use spring and have the upper layers of foam which can be anything from memory foam, a memory foam composite or other designs. Standard box spring mattresses are designed to support the hips and shoulders. Someone with back problems may find these less comfortable to sleep on.

Dr. Don Nixdorf
“Since the body is not flat and a good bed usually is, the unevenness of our body will benefit from the top 2-3 inches being a softer material often foam being the top layer of the mattress that is necessarily firm to avoid sagging. Do not sleep on your stomach. Sleeping on your stomach will create an arch in the lower back which will eventually aggravate the lower 2-3 vertebra of the spine and their associated tissues including nerve and disc. In addition the 7 vertebra of the neck twist and turn for long periods to right or left to allow you to breath, eventually aggravating the vertebra and the associated nerves affecting not only neck muscle pains but arms and hands. Sleep on either side that is comfortable or your back.”

We’d like to thank this great panel of chiropractors and physical therapists for taking the time to weight in on such an important issue of restorative sleep. Try making yoga and meditation a part of your nightly routine and experience the wonderful benefits! If you find yourself still struggling to get quality rest, we recommend checking our list of best mattresses for back pain and the mattress buying guide.

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Andrew Warren

Andrew is a Charlotte, NC native who learned the importance of a good night’s sleep in college after too many late nights in the library. Today, he helps connect Mattress Clarity’s array of resources with people looking to get a better night’s sleep. He enjoys researching the links between sleep and health, nutrition, and exercise as well as finding practical ways for people to improve their sleep quality.