Why have I been sleeping without my pillow in 2013? It all began during my trip to Europe. My friend, Sara had been doing this and she helped motivate me. With a little research I found out more about why this could change your health dramatically!
Pillows have an affect on spine position during sleep and influence neck stiffness and jaw issues. Jaw issues could be, clenching, grinding or mis-alignment. Pillows these days are designed to cater to back, side and stomach sleepers. It is a big industry! We all know sleeping on the back provides the best alignment. Why? Because... Sleeping on the side causes a collapsing of the body and possible rotation in the spine. Sleeping on the stomach causes a rotation of the head and thus the rest of the body. It is all connected! When you sleep on your back the head is aligned with the spine, the hips and feet. This is also called anatomical position and causes minimal stress to the joints. I realize that one or more of these positions might be more comfortable for you due to habits learned in early childhood. And I am not suggesting you toss your pillow out tonight, but read on if you are curious...
Signs you might need to toss the pillow:
You wake up and hit the snooze button.
You do not feel rested when waking (usually goes with #1)
You experience stiffness in the neck, shoulders or lower back in the morning.
You have been told you grind your teeth and need a mouthguard.
You wake up with a tight jaw.
This is not a delicacy that I tried in Europe, these are your stress organs! When we experience stress (which is most of the day) they release hormones that influence a cascade of events in the body to help cope with the “danger”. The research I read indicates that these keep working at a low level during the night when the head is elevated above the heart. I wanted to see for myself! The first few nights I had trouble falling asleep without a pillow. Determined and stubborn, I kept trying and a few nights later I could sleep an hour or so on my back without a pillow. That threshold has now increased to almost 4-5 hours. You can say its all in my head (ha ha), but I do believe that I wake up more rested on mornings when the pillow is not a part of my sleep. I do reach for it some nights out of desire for comfort, but the experiment continues.
It might be better to try a smaller pillow before going commando, the same way I suggest easing your way of over-supportive shoes. With all of the new shoes on the market that encourage "barefoot" we have to be careful to take small steps. But that is a whole different blog! It is also important to make sure you are tired at bedtime to help facilitate this process, so here are a few tips for fatigue:
Expose yourself to sunlight during the day.
Participate in exercise that makes you out of breath (difficulty talking).
Stay hydrated all day and stop drinking liquids in the evening.
Eat healthy meals that are balanced with fat, protein and vegetables.
Listen to relaxing music, read or take a hot bath before bed time.
No computers, phones or tv an hour before bed!