19 October 2018
A good mattress should maintain a natural alignment of the spine. Photo: Reuters
A good mattress should maintain a natural alignment of the spine. Photo: Reuters

Why your choice of pillow and mattress matters

As cold weather sets in, some people might wake up suffering from a stiff neck. Medically known as acute torticollis, the condition could be caused by bad sleeping posture, a sprain in the neck, or simply cold weather.

Though a stiff neck normally lasts 24 to 48 hours, or worse, a week, it might foreshadow the coming of cervical disc problems.

That said, it would be a good idea to check whether your pillow and mattress suit your needs.

An ideal pillow should be firm and with a suitable height that could maintain the natural curvature of your neck.

If the pillow is too high, when you’re sleeping sideways or on your back, the neck is bent abnormally forward or to the side, causing muscle strain on the back of the neck.

On the other hand, a pillow that is too low or too soft might lead to a herniated disk in the long run.

The pillow’s reference height should be about 5 to 7 centimeters for those who sleep on their back, and it should be slightly higher like 10 to 15 centimeters for those sleeping sideways.

Meanwhile, the health of the backbone largely depends on the quality of the mattress. If it is too soft, it provides inadequate support and allows the body, especially the hip, to sink into the bed, resulting in back pain.

If it is too hard, it could not help maintain a natural alignment of the spine either, since the surface would push on the main pressure points, causing discomfort.

The best mattresses are the firm ones which allow the body to sink only around 3 centimeters and keep the buttocks, heels, shoulders and head in proper alignment. A good mattress and a right pillow could effectively relieve the pressure on the shoulders.

Sleeping position also matters. Those who sleep on their stomach create an unnatural position for their spine, which can lead to lower back pain.

Stomach sleepers might reduce the strain on the back by placing a pillow under the pelvis and lower abdomen. If possible, change to another sleeping position.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Dec. 16.

Translation by Darlie Yiu

[Chinese version 中文版]

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