How to make sure you’re sleeping the right way


People often come to see us for pain caused by ‘sleeping a bit funny’ or sleeping on a different mattress. Others with pre-existing pain feel they can’t get comfortable in bed, or their pain is worse upon waking in the morning

If this is you, or if you are generally prone to episodes of neck, shoulder or back pain, it may be worth re-evaluating your sleep setup…


A good night’s sleep is one of the most significant contributors to our sense of wellbeing, both physically and mentally. But when you are recovering from an injury, sleep is more important than ever, speeding up the body’s natural healing process.

There are two key things that can be the difference between a good night’s sleep and a disturbed, uncomfortable one: your mattress, your pillow setup and your sleeping position.

Bear in mind however; there is no one-size-fits-all. We are all individual, so finding a comfortable setup for you, which allows you a good night’s sleep, is most important.


1. Your mattress…

The mattress you choose is far more relevant in preventing pain than the bed frame. This is because your mattress will largely determine how your spine and joints are supported during sleep. Having said that, your bed base does need to be stable and provide adequate support for the mattress!

As a general rule, a mattress needs to be firm enough to stop you slumping into it, but with enough ‘give’ to allow your hip and shoulder to sink in slightly when lying on your side. This gives your spine the best possible chance of resting in a horizontal position whilst supporting your body’s natural curves.

The type of mattress is largely down to personal choice (pocket sprung, memory foam, latex, etc.), and each have their own features and benefits.

However! Don’t be swayed by the term ‘orthopaedic’. According to the Sleep Council, this doesn’t mean the bed has been professionally assessed or recommended. It just means the mattress is extra-firm, which is not necessarily the best choice for you.

You may want to consider buying a new mattress if:

  • Your mattress is more than 10 years old
  • Its uneven, floppy, lumpy or has protruding springs
  • It’s hammock-shaped with a dip in the middle
  • You consistently wake up with stiff back, neck or hips which eases off during the day


2. Your pillows…

Pillows, pillows, pillows. I’m rather passionate about pillows, because I myself struggled with neck pain and headaches until the perfect pillow came along…

I’ll get into that story in a bit, but first, here are the basics.

Pillows should provide enough height to keep your head and neck aligned with your spine. If you sleep on your side, your pillows will need to be a little higher than if you sleep on your back, to accommodate for the space between your shoulder and head.

If you use two pillows, it may help if the top pillow is softer and more flexible so it can mould to support your head and neck. If you sleep on your front (not recommended if you suffer from neck or back pain!), you only need a very thin, flat pillow to avoid straining your neck.

One of the most common causes of neck pain is having your neck twisted or bent too far in any one direction for a long time.

If you wake up in the morning with a painful neck, it may be because your pillow is not supporting your head and neck in the right position. So if this is you – it might be time to go shopping for some new pillows!

In fact, I have a lot of personal experience with pillows as I myself suffer with neck pain if my pillow is incorrect…

My story…

I used to play a lot of netball, both league and county. As a shooter, I spent a lot of time with my neck extended (looking up), and I have a particularly long neck too… as a result I started waking up with severe neck pain and headaches in my early 30's.

I tried out a shaped pillow to support my neck, and bingo! The pain went. Though I did have to get used to the shape of the pillow first.

However, in recent years I have become much more aware of the chemicals in every day products and how continuously inhaling these can be seriously detrimental to our health.

So my quest was to find a product that wasn't sprayed with fire retardants or made of foam, or any other potentially harmful materials…

And well, long story short: I found one!

It’s both an environmentally and people friendly pillow made from buckwheat husks.

For people who suffer from neck pain or headaches, this pillow moulds to the neck to give it fantastic support. It also can suit different body builds as you can add or remove husks to suit you, plus its naturally anti-allergic.

Note: At Not Just Backs we have these pillows for loan for our patients to try and see if it helps them, too!

Please note that these tips constitute general advice – if your back or joint pain persists, make sure you see a qualified osteopath to work out the cause of your pain and how best to treat it.

Feel free to give us a call on 01722 512 521 and we can book you in for an appointment or consultation. Or visit our new online booking page!

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