Move Better, Rest Better: Part 3 – Sleeping

Sleeping well.

A good night’s rest is very important for our health. We need about seven to eight hours of sleep for optimum daytime function, proper regulation of hormones and good cardiovascular health. Moreover, a healthy sleep environment, including a good sleep ‘set-up’, can increase quality of sleep during those seven to eight hours. Here are my three tips for setting up your bed for the best night’s rest:

  • Medium-firm mattresses are arguably best for supporting your spine. Of course, everyone’s spine is different, but research from Spain suggests that medium-firm mattresses work best, especially when dealing with low-back pain.
  • Pillow height is very important! For side sleepers in particular, pillow height must be enough to fill the gap between your shoulders and your head. A quick way to discover if your pillow is high enough is to find out whether you are rolling forward or backwards at the shoulders when you lie down at night. If you roll forwards, your pillow is probably too low. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to rush out and buy a new one! Try folding up some towels instead and popping them under your pillow. Rolling backwards is a lot less common. If you find you are rolling back, however, your pillow is probably too high and you might have to consider getting a smaller pillow.
  • Make sure you sleep in a dark, cool and quiet room. If you can, put away your electronic devices an hour or two before bedtime. Bright screens tend to reduce the amount of melatonin (sleep hormone) being produced by your body and can hinder the natural sleep process.

So, for those who missed it or just wanted a recap: that was the third and final topic I covered during our first health workshop, ‘Move Better, Rest Better’. I hope you found it informative and simple enough to apply. Look out for more workshops at Croydon Chiropractic Centre in the near future – we hope to see you at one of them!

Yours in health,

Dr Roi Cheng.

Written by Dr Roi Cheng (Chiropractor), 7/8/14

References:

Kovacs FM, Abraira V, Peña A, et al. Effect of firmness of mattress on chronic non-specific low-back pain: randomised, double-blind, controlled, multicentre trial. Lancet. 2003;362(9396) 1599-604.

What Makes You Sleep? Available from http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/sdd/whatmakes.html

Move Better, Rest Better: Part 2 – Sitting

Sitting right.

Let me start this point by saying it outright: Sitting for long periods isn’t healthy! A lot of current research shows that sitting for extended periods can be as detrimental to your health as smoking! So we should try to sit as little as we can. How about getting a standing desk? Or having a walking meeting? There are many ways we can sit less, but sometimes it’s just not possible, so we have to ensure that our seat is set up right as well, supporting our spine.

I tend to follow three simple rules for setting up my seat:

  • Make sure your hips are higher than your knees. Try popping some books or towels under your bottom if you can’t adjust the height of your chair. This keeps your spine up straighter and reduces stress on your lower back.
  • Don’t rely on your backrest. If your seat is set up at the right height, you shouldn’t feel like you have to lean on the backrest for support. Having to rely on a backrest is also a sign that you may have been sitting for too long and need to get up and move about!
  • Watch the position of your head. Is it sitting above your shoulders? If your head is in front of your shoulders, it can add to the strain on the joints and muscles in the back of your neck. An easy way to keep your head in the right position is to imagine an invisible string attached to the top of your head. Now imagine someone pulling that string towards the ceiling. This should straighten out your spine, keep your head above your shoulders and tuck your chin in!

Written by Dr Roi Cheng (Chiropractor), 7/8/14

Move Better, Rest Better: Part 1 – Movement

Movement is important for spinal health and general well-being.

According to the World Health Organization, one in three adults are too inactive. This can increase chances of heart disease and diabetes, as well as heighten risk of falls. It can also decrease bone, muscle and joint strength, and energy levels.

As human beings we are designed to move; this is what our aided our survival and allowed us to thrive in our environment. However, modern society has limited the amount of movement we do.

Why?

There are a few reasons. Firstly, we like convenience. After all, would you rather go to the grocery store or hunt down your food? Secondly, the type of work we do (i.e. sitting at a desk for extended periods) has changed since the days where humans spent their time fashioning tools and, again, hunting. Thirdly, our lifestyle has also become increasingly inactive (for example, we might get home from work only to sit down and watch TV).

Our ancestors were much healthier than we are today. This is because of the food they ate, and also the amount of movement they did.

If we look back at our ancestors, we can summarise their movements in three main types:

  • Slow-paced movements, such as moving around the campsite, were a constant in everyday life.
  • Quick movements, such as fleeing from predators or hunting, were also common.
  • Heavy objects were lifted now and then.

I believe that if we also tried to follow these three simple points, we would get less back pain and feel more energetic, while decreasing risk of disease.

We should also focus on performing functional movements in our exercise routines. What are these, you ask? Functional movements are actions we are built to do in nature – movements such as jumping, running, climbing, pushing and lifting. Movements that involve our entire body, not just one part of it.

Functional movements are very important for developing one of our senses: ‘proprioception’. In simple terms, ‘proprioception’ is the body’s ability to know where each joint is at any given moment. It allows us to coordinate movements smoothly and gives us a sense of balance, helping to prevent injury.

Written by Dr Roi Cheng (Chiropractor), 7/8/14

References:

Stamatakis E, et al. Screen-based entertainment time, all-cause mortality, and cardiovascular events: Population-based study with ongoing mortality and hospital events follow-up. Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 2011;57:292.

Slosberg M. Effects of altered afferent articular input on sensation, proprioception,muscle tone and sympathetic reflex responses. J Manip Physiol Ther1988; 11:400-408.