Tips for a Comfortable Rest
This article focuses on tips for sleeping better, how to best support your sleep posture and how to manage your sleep environment.
Finding Your Body Support
Without a supportive neck pillow, I develop serious neck pain and migraines. Sometimes called orthopedic or ergonomic neck pillows, they are often designed in a contoured wave-like form and support the natural alignment of the head, neck and spine.
If you sleep on your side, there are specially designed contour pillows, and this will be advertised in the description. Materials like memory foam, latex or bamboo fiber help provide consistent, durable support.
Orthopedic neck pillows are more costly than regular pillows, starting at about $30. In my experience, though, buying one is totally worth it! Pillows should be replaced every 1-2 years.
Mattress and Mattress Toppers
My parents always swore that a firm mattress cured back pain. Personally, a firm mattress triggers my SI joint pain!
Whether to use a soft or firm mattress is a decision best made with your physical therapist or chiropractor, and depends on your personal situation and preferences. I use a memory foam mattress cover so my body is supported better than my mattress alone can provide.
Another mattress topper option is the CuddleEwe, which uses specialty wool and is designed to relieve pressure on your body contact points when lying down (e.g. shoulders and hips) by diffusing weight.
Alternatively, there is the N:rem mattress topper, which lets you rearrange panels of soft, medium or firm support where you need them, like puzzle pieces. I have not tried these last two products but have read positive reviews written by chronic pain bloggers.
Avocado Green Mattress vs. Dream Cloud Mattress
Avocado Green Mattress and Dream Cloud Mattress are two popular mattress brands that offer high-quality sleep solutions. The Avocado Green Mattress is made with all-natural materials, including organic cotton, wool and latex, making it an excellent choice for eco-conscious shoppers. It is available in two firmness options and offers excellent support and comfort for those who prefer a firmer feel. On the other hand, the Dream Cloud mattress is a hybrid mattress that combines foam layers with innerspring coils to provide a soft, plush feel that contours your body.
It also comes in two firmness options and is known for its excellent cooling properties. While both mattresses offer exceptional quality and comfort, the Avocado Green Mattress is generally more expensive due to its premium, all-natural materials, while the Dream Cloud mattress is more affordable and ideal for those who want a softer feel. Ultimately, the choice between these two mattresses will come down to personal preferences and needs.
Bamboo sheets are becoming increasingly popular for individuals suffering from back pain. The unique properties of bamboo, including its softness and breathability, make it an ideal bedding material. Bamboo sheets are naturally hypoallergenic, making them a great option for those with sensitive skin or allergies. Additionally, bamboo has moisture-wicking properties, which can help regulate body temperature and reduce night sweats. They are also durable and easy to care for, making them a practical choice for anyone looking for a comfortable and supportive sleep surface. Overall, bamboo sheets can provide a comfortable and supportive sleep surface that may alleviate back pain and improve overall sleep quality.
Additional Pillows for Body Support
Many back pain experts recommend using pillows to support your posture while you sleep. I have to sleep on my back at all times, or else my spine revolts!
In this position, most experts recommend stacking one to three pillows under your knees to relieve pressure on your lower back. Some also recommend placing a small pillow under the lower back (personally I find this uncomfortable, but we are all unique).
If you sleep on your side, bend your knees and put a firm pillow in between to keep your spine aligned. Sleeping on your stomach is not recommended for back pain, but if you can only fall asleep this way, put a small pillow under your hips.
Pacific Coast vs. Cariloha Pillows
Both Pacific Coast and Cariloha offer high-quality pillows, but there are some differences between the two brands that you may want to consider before making a purchase.
Pacific Coast pillows are known for their exceptional comfort and durability. They are made with high-quality materials and are designed to provide excellent support for your head and neck. Pacific Coast pillows are available in a variety of styles and fill materials, including down, feathers and synthetic fibers.
Cariloha pillows, on the other hand, are made with bamboo-derived viscose and are designed to provide a soft and comfortable sleep experience. They are hypoallergenic and resistant to dust mites, making them a great choice for people with allergies or sensitivities.
Ultimately, the choice between Pacific Coast and Cariloha pillows will depend on your personal preferences and sleep needs. If you value durability and support, Pacific Coast may be the better choice for you. If you prefer a soft and hypoallergenic pillow, Cariloha may be the better option.
Managing Your Sleep Environment: Temperature, Light and Noise
For some people, pain itself keeps them awake. For others, with chronic illnesses like fibromyalgia, unrefreshing sleep is part of their diagnosis — research suggests that stages of deep sleep are frequently interrupted.
It is important to minimize disturbances by making sure your sleep environment is conducive to good sleep. I have become really sensitive to light and noise since the onset of my fibromyalgia, and with all the accessories I use, like a sleeping mask, ear plugs or headphones, I joke that I am the 'sleep cyborg'!
Research shows that many people sleep better in cooler temperatures, usually between 60-67 F. It is helpful to have breathable bed linens and blankets.
Good materials include natural fabrics that wick moisture away, like cotton, bamboo or linen. A higher thread count equals less breathable sheets, so if you tend to overheat, this could be an important factor.
I sleep best in absolute darkness, and I'm not alone. Experts say you produce optimal levels of the sleep hormone melatonin in darkness.
This means turning off all electronics, facing your backlit alarm clock away from you, and using heavy window coverings to block out streetlights. I love my blackout blind from Ikea, which blocks all light from coming in through my window.
I also use a sleep mask for those stray beams that come in under the door or through the crack between the blind and the window.
If your partner snores, the dog next door barks all night or the birds start chirping at an ungodly hour, you may want to consider taking steps to prevent these sounds from disrupting your sleep. Earplugs are the first line of defense for most people.
I use silicone earplugs that cover your ear canal instead of being inserted — I find them more effective and I also worry about ear problems from regular plugs. Alternatively, you can play white noise.
White noise works by reducing the difference between background sounds and a "peak" sound, like a door slamming, giving you a better chance to sleep through it undisturbed. White noise includes the sound of static, a fan or heavy rainfall.
Many apps play types of white noise through your phone or tablet using regular speakers connected to your phone or you can also buy 'sleep phones' — headband headphones that can be comfortably worn while sleeping.
Alternatively, you can buy a sound machine that plays pre-programmed white noise. I regularly play white noise rain sounds and it helps me sleep, especially through the early morning hours.
Sleep Products for Better Sleep
- Blissy Silk Pillows: Create an elegant escape with these silk pillows. They help retain moisture, have natural fiber and are hypoallergenic.
- Pacific Coast: Helping you create a personalized holistic sleep experience.
- Cariloha Pillows: Experience luxuriously soft bedding made from bamboo viscose.
- Mypillow: They have a patented interlocking fill that adjusts to your individual sleep needs regardless of your position.
- Ecoden: Their pillows are built with the latest discoveries to guarantee your comfort and support for sleeping.
- Coyuchi Organic Pillowcases: Experience luxurious organic cotton products.
- Silvon Pillowcases: Their signature pillowcase is designed to clear your skin and improve sleep.
- Eva Mattress: Experience luxurious sleep every night with optimal body support and personalized comfort.
- Avocado Mattress: A sustainable brand that offers exceptionally supportive mattresses.
- Koala Mattress: They create pieces of furniture that are timeless so they can be with you for many years to come.
By the time I was finally diagnosed, I had come to see my bedroom as a torture chamber!
I have researched and tried most of these strategies, and my hope is you find some ideas here to transform your torture chamber into an oasis of rest. Sleeping as well as you can is important for your overall health, as well as for managing your chronic pain.
One final note — if self-care strategies are not enough, it's important to talk to your healthcare professional about getting additional help.