One of the most common questions I am asked as a spine surgeon is about mattresses and sleeping. When your spine is painful, it often causes severe issues with sleep; less sleep then starts a vicious cycle of less rest causing a depressed mood which has been shown to increase the amount of pain a given problem causes the patient to feel. This increased pain leads to even less sleep. Getting a good night's sleep is important to helping you manage your spine pain, and managing your spine pain is important to a good night's sleep.

The most important thing to realize is that no two human beings sleep exactly the same. The worst thing that you can do is force yourself to use someone else's mattress preference. Mattress choice is very individual. The only one you should ask about a mattress is your own body.

Do you get what you pay for in a mattress? Generally yes, but not always. A more expensive mattress will generally have a more even weight support structure due to a greater number of coils or support points for the body. By decreasing the pressure in any one area and spreading out the pressure, one generally has a more supportive environment to sleep.

How firm should my mattress be? This is the most subjective question. Everyone is different, and the answer I usually give a patient is "ask your body which one it likes the best". In large surveys, generally a medium firmness is preferred by the largest group of respondents.

When my back acts up should I sleep on the floor? The answer is: ask your back. Some will benefit from it, but if you feel worse, then the answer is no. If the only way you can get to sleep is in the chair or the sofa – then listen to what your body is telling you – don't fight your body as your body will always win.

But this {insert official sounding organization here} recommends this mattress! No major orthopaedic surgery organization has endorsed any brand of mattress.

Any other tips to help me sleep?

  1. Get the right pillow for your sleeping style
  2. stomach sleepers= thin pillow
  3. back sleepers= medium pillow
  4. side sleeper= thick pillow
  5. Cooler rooms lower body temperature which hastens onset of deep sleep
  6. Avoid alcohol, caffeine and tobacco several hours before sleep
  7. Moderate exercise an hour or so before sleep helps. Strenuous exercise is not helpful.
  8. The sleeping position that puts the least stress on the spine is on your side, with the hips and knees bent at 90 degrees, and with a pillow between the knees.

If you take one thing away from this blog – please remember my dictum – feels good is good; and feels bad is bad. May all your nights look like this!

About Dr. Shane Pak

Dr. Pak is a board certified orthopaedic surgeon who has been a member of the medical staff of San Gabriel Valley Medical Center since 2007. Dr. Pak received an undergraduate degree from Johns Hopkins University and a medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. Dr. Pak served as the consulting physician to the NFL team, the Baltimore Ravens.

Dr. Pak serves as the medical director of the Orthopaedics & Spine Institute of San Gabriel Valley Medical Center and he is also the Chairman of the Surgery Department at the hospital.

To contact Dr. Pak's office, please call Pacific Orthopaedic Associates at (626) 282-1600

Categories: Wellness