Bill Ferguson
Registered Osteopath, Cranial Osteopath, Acupuncture and Sports Injuries
Tenterden Osteopathic Clinic
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Special Topics

Are you Sleeping Comfortably
Do you need a new bed

Maybe the old faithful mattress or bed has finally given up the ghost, or maybe waking up isn't the pleasure it used to be and you feel the bed is to blame. So how do you go about choosing a new bed?

Here are a few tips:

Before you Leave Home for the Shops to purchase a New Bed

Check that your bed really is the problem. Lie in your bed, on your side with your body fairly straight. Use whatever pillows you would normally use while you sleep. Take away the blankets covering you. Get your assistant to make a series of dots along your back to show where the tips of your vertebrae are (Tip: use an eyeliner pencil or a lipstick that will wipe off easily). Then get your assistant to take a digital photo, in line with the edge of the mattress.

Have a look at the picture and check that your spine is not distorted, if your bed is too soft you will have a convex curve to your spine, if your bed is too hard, like in the photo below, you will curve in a concave direction. Ideally the bed will support you so that your spine is straight.

Spine concave meaning bed is too hard
Slight concavity at waist - bed too hard.

In this image you can see that the mattress is too firm. The model is not supported well because her hip is unable to sink far enough into the mattress and the lower part of her spine has a concave curve.

In the next image I have deliberately exaggerated the hardness by putting a folded towel under her hip to show the effect of an even firmer mattress.

Spine concavity increased  meaning bed is far too hard
Using the same bed as above but with a towel under the hip area to simulate a harder mattress increases the concavity of spine meaning the bed is far too hard.

The next image shows the effect of supporting the waist area with the folded towel. This is how a well supported spine should look, so if your mattress supports your spine in this sort of alignment (without having to cheat with folded towels) then it is doing a good job.

Spine straight - the bed is the correct firmness

Using the same bed as above but with a towel under the waist area to simulate a softer bed brings the spine into good alignment, meaning the bed is the correct firmness. If your mattress supports you as well as this you are fine.


In the Bed Shop

Armed with the information from the previous exercise you are ready to shop. Lie on the selected bed, on your side with your body fairly straight, just like you did for the photograph. Your hip and shoulder should sink in just enough for your spine to be supported. Get your helper to check that your spine is not distorted, if the bed is too soft you will have a convex curve to your spine, if it is too hard you will curve in a concave direction and you will feel pressure on your hip. Ideally the bed will support you so that your spine is straight.

When you are in the shop your assistant won't be able to put dots on your spine and take a photograph but having already done that at home you will know what it feels like and what you are looking for.

Buying a new bed - in the shop
Buying a new bed - in the shop

The mattress needs to be comfortable to lie on and soft enough, with sufficient "give", to support and cushion the body’s bony curves. Don't be embarrassed to lie on the bed for twenty minutes or so in the shop if there is going to be uncomfortable pressure on your hip or shoulder you want to know it before you buy!

Not Everyone Sleeps Alone

A "standard double" bed is 4 feet 6 inches wide but a "standard single" bed is 3 feet! Rather than squash two people into a small space consider buying a good 6 feet wide base unit with two "single" width mattresses. Then you and your partner can each choose the right mattress for your weight and shape. Add a couple of double duvets and you have the best of all possible combinations.

Remember, there is no one bed that is perfect for everybody. Your choice depends on your size, shape and weight. Use my suggestions to eliminate unsuitable beds but before you part with your hard-earned cash make sure the new bed is right for you because it may be difficult to change it afterwards for purely comfort reasons. Also remember that the word "orthopaedic" is really meaningless, though it generally implies "firm".

Osteopathic Considerations

If you are lying in bed in a similar position to the model in the first two images it would not be long before the spinal ligaments on the right side of your low back began to stretch and become uncomfortable. The natural reaction is to move, maybe onto the other side until this too starts to ache and then you have to move again. Eventually you get so tired that you end up sleeping through the discomfort possibly in some sort of contorted or twisted position and when the alarm goes off in the morning you emerge, groaning, feeling more tired than when you went to bed the night before.

   
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Osteopath Tenterden

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Bill Ferguson
Tenterden Osteopathic Clinic
2 St Benets Court
Tenterden, Kent
Tel: 01580 762754

Email: mail@billferguson.co.uk

 

© Created by Sue Ferguson
Enquiries to : mail@sueferguson.co.uk
Last Updated: 12 January, 2012