By Patrick Clark
Advantage #1–Re-alignment of the Spine
Throughout the day we get compressed and contorted through everyday life. Especially through sitting at a desk, which puts us into a slump and creates front loading of the body. A firm surface offers a biofeedback mechanism through two oppossing forces. The bed surface is the first force. Really, I guess you could say, the gravity vector is the first force. You need a firm surface so you can take advantage of the force of gravity. It is simply a ‘wall’ which stops somewhere.
The second force is the body’s own breathing action, where the lungs are expanding and contracting. If we have a firm sleep surface to meet up against, we get a subtle but deep subluxation of the spine.
We get a natural spinal adjustment. Not just the vertebrae of the spine, but the muscles, fascia, bones, joints also get rocked and massaged. We breath in and out all night long. During this time the spine can make adjustments if there is enough ‘wiggle room’ for the body. A soft mattress or pad will lock the muscles in so this biofeedback system is not engaged.
Question: What do you mean by ‘Sleep Ergonomics’? I thought ergonomics was something that applies to activities where you MOVE and you need to be more EFFICIENT like working in an office or something.
A. Sleep IS an activity and there are certain things the body does in sleep that can be enhanced by the sleeping environment. The firmness level of the bed is on of the primary factors of sleep ergonomics, which can be used to make the activity of sleep more effective and efficient–meaning you sleep deeper and better.
Sleep is more efficient when we do it long enough and we go deeper into two to three complete sleep cycles. The more time we spend in Delta brainwaves, the more we are going to get out of out sleep.
Q. What about ‘pressure points’? I thought pressure point were bad and you don’t want to feel pressure points when you sleep, because it would interrupt your sleep.
A. Let’s look at what a ‘pressure point’ is. It is an area of the body that you notice, either in pain or some other sensation, when you lie down. A pressure point can either be a part of your body that is tense or injured or it could be just a ‘curve’ like hips or shoulders or low back. You feel it on a firm surface and that allows you to notice that either you need to a) relax that area, or b) shift your body so that area is in a different position not creating pain.
Pressure points tell you that you are alive. That is your point of physical contact with the world. You can insulate yourself from feelings, like Western Culture does, by numbing out and masking, over-insulating and over padding. Or you can just enjoy this opportunity to interact with the world and create a deeper relationship. A pressure point is a huge opportunity to either correct some imbalance in your alignment or to learn to move with more grace and relax into a deeper place that actually takes the form of a meditation if you call pressure points a place to apply awareness.
Advantage #2–Deeper Breathing, Oxygenation of the Blood, Relaxation Response
When laying on a firm to hard surface your open the breathing channels because the body is becoming wider and expanding against the flat surface. A soft bed causes you to sink in which collapses lungs and abdomen inward so there is less capacity for air. When you get more air, and breath more deeply, you trigger the relaxation response, which is just an added benefit to the fact you are getting more air. This relaxation response lowers heart-rate and kicks in a deep calm which facilitates both falling asleep as well as going deeper into the sleep cycles.
Advantage #3–Improved Circulation
When you use the bones for load bearing instead of the muscles, you are taking pressure off the veins, arteries and capillaries which fees up blood and lymph flow. A soft surface pushes against the muscles and cuts off circulation.
We can’t expect the bed to solve all our problems overnight. Some of use are too bent out of alignment to use the firm surface therapy effectively until we get some kind of bodywork. We need to get into alignment in the first place. You will know if you need this as you experiment with laying and resting and sleeping on firm surfaces.Technique #1–Bodywork RemediationMassage, chiropractic, deep tissue body work, yoga, Alexander Technique, Feldenkraise are just a few of the options.Technique #2–Body Awareness. The ability to relax all the muscles, bones, cells evenly so there is no pressure points. This is a practice most effectively achieved in a modality called Feldenkraise which guides one through a series of steps while laying on the floor so you develope a deep awareness of the body. Modalities such as yoga, Alexander Technique, and Feldenkraise are helpful in increasing flexibility and body awareness.Technique #3–Propping and Positioning the Body according to the new environment. The main areas needing attention are:
chest and shoulder and neck areas,