There are so many things we’re told we need to abide by during our waking hours to help maintain and promote our “best selves.” You’d think once you’re all PJ’d up and done for the day you might be able to relax a bit, right?
Wrong, of course. As it turns out, there are good and bad ways to sleep, too, and if you’re doing it wrong — which, let’s face it, most of us probably are — you might be doing yourself a whole bunch of avoidable injustices. Poor sleep can drain your mental abilities while also putting your physical health at risk; it can affect your memory, concentration, mood, weight and balance; it can result in lovely things like diarrhea, constipation, cramps, bloating and irritable bowel syndrome; it also heightens the risk of heart disease, blood pressure and diabetes, all while lowering your immunity and sex drive.
You get the point: Bad sleep isn’t good.
“Without proper sleep, you can’t enjoy life, be productive or creative,” says Alison Francis, aka Anandi, The Sleep Guru. “I’d say in order of survival, it’s water, then sleep, then food! A good night’s sleep means you wake up feeling refreshed mentally and physically. That means you’ve had enough REM, non-REM and light sleep to cleanse the mind and recharge the body.”
And you know the best position to sleep in to achieve such a good slumber? The position that, sadly, only about eight percent of us are likely to favor: on your back. “It’s by far the healthiest option for most people,” reports Sleep.org, and Anandi whole-heartedly agrees. “Sleeping on your back allows the head, neck and spine to remain aligned,” she says. “However, it’s useful to have something under your knees and to have a decent mattress. Your head should also be a little elevated, which may help with snoring and any acid reflux from the digestive system.”
But what if you can’t sleep on your back? “The way to change your sleep position is to persevere! In order to persevere, you have to make sure you’re extremely comfortable, so it’s a position you like. Make sure the pillows and mattress are of good quality memory, so the body is supported, rather than creating pressure spots that will be uncomfortable and make you want to move.”
And the alternative for the uber-stubborn among us? “Sleeping on your side with a pillow between the knees is very comfortable,” she says. “Same rules about mattress and pillows — comfort is the key — and remember the golden rules of good sleeping: Eat early and light so the body isn’t trying to digest food in the night, which will create heat and interfere with deep sleep. Avoid alcohol, as it will interfere with REM sleep. Turn off technology by 8:30 p.m. and start winding down to avoid any brain stimulation or suppression of the sleep hormone melatonin.”
In other words, if you want to wake up sprightly and be the best you possible the next day, you just have to follow a whole bunch of not-very-fun rules. And if, after reading that, it seems like passing out sideways at 3 a.m. during a Netflix binge might be the more realistic move, well, this is perfectly rational behavior, too.