images-5When we sleep, we generally remain in one position for an extended period of time.  Prolonged positioning may cause arthritis pain and stiffness to flare up and can result in a myriad of other aches and pains.   Many of these problems can be minimized or prevented. Here are some tips to help you wake up refreshed and feeling better.

1. Take care to select the right pillow so that your neck remains close to a neutral resting position.  If you lie on your side, the pillow should keep your head from leaning toward the bed.  If you lie on your back, support the curve in your neck without allowing your head to jut or tilt forward excessively.  If, when you lie on flat on your back without a pillow, your neck naturally extends  (arches back), use the pillow to support the crown of your head so that your neck remains in proper alignment during sleep.

2. Avoid lying on your stomach.  If you are a stomach sleeper, it is likely that you will eventually complain of some neck pain because your neck will be rotated to the end of its available range of motion for prolonged periods.

3. If you have symptoms of reflux, consider propping up the head of your mattress in order to avoid lying flat when on your back.  If you prefer side-lying, do so on your right.  Recent studies have demonstrated that this helps control reflux better than lying on your left.

4. Prevent night cramps in your calves by improving calf flexibility and strength, as well as by strengthening your toe flexor muscles.  Also drink the recommended amount of water to prevent dehydration…  Drink before you get thirsty.

5. If you have back, knee or hip problems on one side, try sleeping on the other side.  Do so with a pillow either between your knees or in front of you with your uppermost knee bent and resting forward on the pillow.  The pillow helps to keep the hips aligned in a neutral position and cushions the contact surfaces.

6. Likewise, if you have a problem with one side of your neck or only one shoulder, lie on the opposite side.  Try resting your upper-most arm on a pillow placed in front of you.  This will keep your involved arm from leaning toward the mattress in a position more likely to exacerbate shoulder impingement or radiating pain from your neck.

7. Wearing a night boot to keep your ankle in a neutral position can provide relief and accelerate progress in a rehab program if you have arch, heel or Achilles pain. These types of pain, especially if worst in the morning, may be a result of Achilles tendinitis or plantar fasciitis (inflammation of the fascia on the bottom of the foot).  The foot tends toward a pointed position when relaxed, placing the Achilles tendon and the fascia in a slackened, or shortened, position for a protracted period.  That first step in the morning places these structures on stretch, resulting in an exacerbation of pain.  The boot keeps the Achilles and fascia on mild stretch during the night, helping to reduce morning symptoms as well as improve flexibility.

8. Avoid going to sleep with an ice pack if you are caring for an injury or trying to reduce swelling.  Icing for longer than 10-15 minutes results in the body’s regulatory mechanism kicking in to warm the area, which is exactly the opposite of the desired effect.

9. If your foot or lower leg is swollen, consider placing a pillow between the box spring and mattress. This elevates your leg during the night to let gravity assist with the flow of fluid to drain the affected area.  If you simply put a pillow under your foot you are more likely to kick it away.

10. Give yourself the chance to get a sufficient amount of rest.  Lack of sleep has been shown to suppress the immune system, affect the ability to concentrate and negatively impact appearance.

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About the author

Abby serves as the Injury Expert for CBS New York where, since 2010, her Injury Breakdown Blog examines injuries in professional sports. She also blogs on health & fitness as well as sports injuries for Huffington Post, and Recovery Physical, where her blog earned a top ten mention for physical therapy blogs in 2012 @ In a ranking of the Top 30 Healthcare Blogs for 2012, Top Masters in Healthcare also rated Abby’s blog in the top three in Physical Therapy! Abby is the founder of Fit-Screen and she welcomes your comments and questions!