How better quality sleep could put an end to your back pain woes

Oct 16, 2023
The study revealed the little-known connections between our sleep patterns and the health of our spines, adding a fresh perspective to the conversation. Source: Getty Images.

World Spine Day, October 16th, has once again prompted us to reflect on our posture, daily routines, and the condition of our backs.

This year, we’re encouraged to rethink the connection between sleep and our overall health, as a recent study from Emma, a leading sleep solutions provider, challenges common assumptions about the causes of back issues. While many of us blame our jobs, smartphones, or extended Netflix sessions for our back pain, this research offers new insights.

The study revealed the little-known connections between our sleep patterns and the health of our spines, adding a fresh perspective to the conversation.

Emma’s study, which surveyed a diverse group of Australians, sheds light on the impact of sedentary work, subpar mattresses, and excessive screen time on the health of Australians. Surprisingly, a significant 47 per cent of respondents changed their mattresses due to back pain, suggesting that spine health is significantly influenced by factors related to sleep.

Furthermore, the study found that 35 per cent of Australians have experienced bodily pain due to poor sleep habits and low-quality mattresses, citing discomfort (55 per cent), neck/head pain (25 per cent), general body pain (20 per cent), and overheating (14 per cent).

Quality sleep plays a vital role in overall health and well-being. For those experiencing back pain, leading Sydney-based Chiropractor Dr. Taylor Harrison recommends consulting a qualified health professional to assess and modify lifestyle habits to enhance musculoskeletal health.

There are so many hidden reasons why our backs fail us at times, but many don’t realise that sleep can be one of the biggest culprits,” Harrison explains.

“Whether it’s sleeping too much on your stomach, leaning too heavily on the wrong parts of your body as you sleep, or even using a poor-quality mattress or pillow, these are all things that can affect your sleep and lead to associated pain and discomfort when you wake each day.”

Regardless of age, gender, or profession, Dr. Harrison offers five expert tips for Australians to optimise spine health and enjoy better sleep:

1. Reset your rhythms: 

By getting outside first thing in the morning, as well as the evening as the sun is setting, allows you to reset your circadian rhythm, otherwise known as your body clock. Even just a brief walk or stretch outside is enough to send signals to the brain to let it know what it should be doing. In the morning, it wakes you up and gives you energy. Then in the evening, it lets you wind down for the day. This is most important for office workers who spend all day in artificial light then go home to artificial light. Their body benefits from these signals to help reset itself and also is a welcome opportunity to stretch your body as the first and last thing you do each day.

2. Ditch the dodgy bedding:

One of the best investments you can make for yourself when you’re working or studying full time, is a good quality mattress and pillow. You’d be surprised how many clients I see that are still sleeping on a 25-year-old mattress or bought a $2 pillow from one of the big box retailers, and wonder why they constantly feel uncomfortable when sleeping. Having a supportive mattress is critical to a good night’s sleep, matched with a good pillow. Most people will benefit from sleeping on their side with their spine in a neutral position, meaning that they aren’t twisting or bending their spine. For this to happen the mattress must be able to support the spine, while taking pressure off key areas such as shoulders, hips, and knees.

3. Try “Movement Snacking”:

The term ‘movement snacks’ has become increasingly popular in the health and wellness sphere, with good evidence encouraging the addition of small amounts of exercise or movement be done in frequent little bursts throughout the day. Movement snacking could involve quick walks, small neck stretches at your desk, standing meetings etc. This not only helps with maintain energy and focus throughout the day but can aid in overall health and better sleep as a result.

4. Fight the Light:

Did you know that before the creation of the lightbulb, humans slept for an average of 10-11 hours per night? Artificial light (particularly blue light from screens) can be even worse as it stimulates your brain making it harder to fall asleep. Try your best to eliminate blue lights such as TVs and computers at least two hours before bed. Instead of looking at screens, use the hour before bed to prepare for the next day, do some gentle stretching or foam rolling, read or practice some mindful breathing to unwind the body and get it into a deeper sleep faster.

5. Become a Routine Queen (or King!):

A regular routine helps the body to set its circadian rhythm and optimise sleep. Also, the earlier you get to bed, generally the better quality your sleep will be. The reason being that the deep phase of sleep generally takes place in the first few hours of sleeping and in particular, before midnight.

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

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