Many people struggle to get a good night’s sleep. There are a few important things you can do to get the critical sleep you need to feel good and function at your best.
Could you please start us off with a reminder to everyone why a good night’s sleep is so important for our overall health?
Dr. Luke Stringer: Yeah, absolutely, Liz. Sleeping is obviously a critical component to how we function both on a physical and physiological level, and the amount of sleep that we get is really important too. So, research is pretty clear the right amount of sleep is between six and nine hours. So too little or too much can actually have a detrimental effect on how we feel and how we function, again, physically and physiologically.
But the key portion to sleeping is when we enter REM, rapid eye movement. This is where we essentially allow the body to function into what we call the parasympathetic nervous system, which is where we kind of rest and digest. So, that’s when we clean cells and essentially just kind of reboot the bodily systems so obviously the next day we can be up and functioning. So, getting a good night’s sleep is critically important. It’s not just listening to your mother.
What are some changes people can make in their nightly routines and in their bedrooms that can help them fall asleep and stay asleep?
Dr. Luke Stringer: Great question. And there’s so many out there, and it all depends on kind of who you’re speaking to and the books that you’re reading. James Clear wrote a really good book called Atomic Habit. And he states in his book that there’s purposes for each room.
So, for example, your living room might be to watch TV with the family. Dining room might be to just eat dinner with the family. Your study might be just to work. So, your bedroom should be just for sleeping. So, try and make it a room where you’re just going in there to sleep, and you’re not on your tablet, on your phone or watching television.
Also, there’s some good research coming out, just limiting your screen time. Blue light kind of excites the nervous system. So if you’re staring at your screen just before you go to bed, you’re actually kind of stimulating yourself, so that can interfere with your sleep. We can switch off the wifi, so you put your phone on airplane mode, so we’re not getting interference with the wifi signal. How dark your room is really important, too. So, blackout your blinds.
I feel like the four biggest changes that I personally made in kind of my life to assist my sleep was those four things. Bedroom is for sleeping, black out the blinds so it’s completely black, limit my screen time after 8:00 PM, and then turn on my phone onto wifi. And all those little things add up.
Now there is obviously more that you can do. Supplementing with herbal teas. Valerian root’s a great one. Supplementing with melatonin, et cetera. But any of that stuff you need to be reaching out to your healthcare provider just to make sure it’s good for you to take and how to take your dosage, et cetera. There’s so much out there that can be done to kind of tweak your sleep patterns for sure.
Can exercising during the day help people get better sleep?
Dr. Luke Stringer: Yeah, absolutely it can. I actually read a research study on this recently, and getting exercise daily is pretty important for just functioning at an optimal level. But when you are exercising is critically important, so you don’t want to exercise too close to bed because obviously when you exercise, it releases endorphins.
Endorphins make us feel better and function better, but also excites us and wake us up. So, if you’re trying to get to bed at 10:00 PM, but you’re working out at 8:00 PM, that’s going to be difficult for your body to kind of reset and adjust and switch from being switched on and moving to resting and digesting while we’re sleeping. So yes, exercise is absolutely going to help with our sleep patterns, but make sure we’re exercising at the right time.
For people with sleep apnea or snoring problems can chiropractic adjustments help?
Dr. Luke Stringer: Absolutely. It all depends on where you’re at with the spectrum, right? Sleep apnea can be due to septal defects or palate defects or lung dysfunction. If you have sleep apnea, you are obviously snoring, but if you’re snoring doesn’t mean you have sleep apnea. So, let’s focus on the snoring specifically.
I feel snoring is just a direct consequence or can be a direct consequence from just functionality of the spine and the diaphragm. We’re in that chronic poor posture. Our head is shifted forwards, our shoulders rounded. And when we breathe, it’s all coming through our chest. And as we’ve discussed on our previous podcast, good posture is where the ear is sitting on top of the shoulder, the shoulder blades are back. It opens up the diaphragm, and obviously you’re going to have better diaphragmatic and breathing function when you are having good posture than poor posture.
We’ve had plenty of patients, we actually had one come in on Monday who came in specifically for pain, neuromusculoskeletal pain, neck pain, upper back pain. But when we did a deep dive and went into this patient’s goals, their goals were to snore less at nighttime so they could have or they could hold down a relationship better. So, we just started off some treatment, and it’s all focusing on obviously reducing that patient’s pain and dysfunction, but at the same time, really improving that posture. We’ve only seen him a couple of times. He’s already said he’s feeling the benefit and snoring less, which is awesome.
If people are experiencing back pain or neck pain, do you have any suggestions for how to get better sleep?
Dr. Luke Stringer: Absolutely. To stay on the postural thread, how you set yourself up to sleep at nighttime is critically important. So, if you’re laying on your front, it’s obviously no good because your back’s arched, that puts you in an extension and then your head’s rotated so that creates tension, shortens muscles and lengthens muscles in the neck and the upper back. So, you sleep on your front, that’s a position that we don’t really want to be in.
That said, I feel like front sleepers, it’s an innate thing for them. My wife sleeps on the front, and she’s a chiropractor and she knows it’s no good for her spine. She tries to sleep on her back and her side, and essentially ends up on her front. So that’s kind of a tricky one, but if we can avoid the front sleeping, let’s do so.
If we’re laying on our back, that’s probably the best position to sleep. You just want to make sure the body landmarks are in alignment. So, imagine you’re laying flat in your bed, someone’s looking from the side. Your ear should be on top of your shoulder. So, you’ve got, imagine in your mind’s eye, too much of a pillow, it’s going to raise your head up and your ear’s going to be in front of the shoulder. That’s going to create neck tension. Then obviously if you don’t have enough of a pillow, your head might sink backwards behind your shoulder and that’s obviously going to create stress and tension in your neck and upper back. So, try and have that neutral position. And then again, your shoulder should be aligned with your pelvis or a nice neutral torso and obviously legs flat. And if you’re looking from a bird’s eye view, then your nose, your sternum, and your pelvis should be in alignment.
And then on your side, you want to be sleeping where the shoulder’s just rolled underneath you. And if you’re looking head on, so you’re looking at a person in the face, same thing, nose, sternum, and pelvis should be in alignment. And then that pillow’s really important. If you’ve got too much of a pillow, it’s going to create an acute angle between your ear and the shoulder that’s not touching the mattress. That’s going to create a lot of pain. And typically for us, that’s where a lot of our acute patients come from. And obviously if you’re sleeping on your side, and you don’t have enough pillow, then you’re going to have an acute angle between the shoulder and the ear of the side that you’re sleeping on. So just try and get in that neutral posture. If you check out our YouTube channel, Advanced Health Chiropractic South Loop, we’ve got a ton of sleep videos on there.
And if you really want to get deep dive into it, we are a corrective care office. So, we take x-rays on our patients. The shape of your spine also dictates the type of mattress you have. So, for example, you have a lot of curve in your lower back and you’ve got the anterior pelvic tilt, you want to be sleeping more on a firm mattress than a soft mattress because a soft mattress is just going to increase that curve further. Where the counter of that is if you are hypo orthotics, you don’t have enough curve and you’re sleeping on a really hard mattress that curve’s not going to be allowed to be induced. So obviously you want more of a softer mattress because when we’re laying on it, that little bit of give’s going to allow that curve to come into the spine and that’s obviously going to benefit the spine.
All those things are things that you can do really immediately and that can definitely make a positive impact on how you’re sleeping and obviously how you’re feeling first thing in the morning.
If you are interested in speaking with Dr. Luke Stringer visit www.southloopchiropractor.com or call (312) 987-4878 to schedule an appointment.