Sleep Accidents: When you Wake up with Pain
When going to bed is dangerous!
“This morning I woke up with a sprained neck. What happened? I went to bed. I was fine. I was fine when I got in bed. What happened between now and then?" ~ You
How many times has this happened to you? Crawling into bed, minding your own business, looking forward to a peaceful 8 hours of much needed sleep. And then it happens…. “A Sleep Accident“.
Sleep Acquired Torticollis or “Twisted neck” OR as we, in the pillow business, prefer to call it ….“I Slept Funny”
In most cases you went to bed feeling perfectly safe and not thinking you are soon to become an accident victim. But when morning comes you wake up with a painful, stiff neck and the inability to align it correctly without experiencing severe pain. Looking in the morning mirror your head is wrenched towards the muscle from hell and rotated towards the opposite side. THAT look is going to be hard to pull off for that morning business meeting. The problem starts when people place their head and /or neck into an awkward position in which they don’t move for hours. Often times “Acquired Torticollis” is a curse for the stomach sleeper (which as nurses we always say is a NO NO). Imagine walking around for several hours during your waking hours with your head turned completely to the side. In essence, that is what the stomach sleeper is doing for hours throughout their night.
But any position can leave us vulnerable for a “sleep accident”. For example for Back Sleepers: Sleeping on too high of a loft, (or more than one pillow) promotes an unnatural forward pushing of our head, referred to as FHL (Forward Head Lean). This is a common comfort position for many who mimic this forward head lean during their working day as they lean over their lap top, smart phone or lean over as an occupation.
For Side Sleepers: The straining of our neck joints while sleeping on our side without proper neck support leaves the joints in our C-Spine (neck) vulnerable to to jamming in place while the muscles and soft tissue shorten/contract or over stretch on the opposite side.
So what is going on in your neck exactly?
Like all accidents there is always a chain of events. First, the joints being in misalignment will essentially “jam” so your neck will be locked in that position. Our bodies are amazingly clever things and will always do what it thinks is best in order to save us from injury. The supportive muscles of our neck start thinking for themselves and contract to hold the misaligned joint in a protective effort to avoid further damage to the jammed joints. The resulting swelling and contraction causes the pain as we try to figure out what the hell happened last night! Unfortunately the muscles and soft tissue hold this position because they continue to think they have a job to do to prevent further injury.
We see this in people with TMJ, bruxism or teeth clenching at night. Patients are often surprised to find these conditions improve once a proper neck support pillow is used.
Can Acquired Torticollis (aka Sleep Accidents) be treated?
Of course. Over the counter anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen is a good start plus simple gentle stretches and the usual applications of ice and heat. In most cases the condition will resolve on its own in 5-7 days. Seeing a professional (Physiotherapist, Chiropractor or Osteopath) for treatment will certainly make your recovery quicker! But sleep accident prevention is necessary to prevent this happening again -- this is where a proper neck support pillow comes in that allows back and side sleeping AND discourages stomach sleeping.
Moral of the Story (and we have one)
In the end the moral of the story is that is crucial not to repeat “sleeping funny” again. Investing in a pillow that supports and promotes proper sleep ergonomics is paramount.
Kim and I approached the creation of our enVy pillow from two different and personal angles: One saw the aging effects of sleeping on our face and the other was on a quest for a perfect pillow that could relieve her chronic neck and back pain after major spinal scoliosis surgery. We shared the same vision that every day needs to be preceded by a wonderful and rejuvenating night’s sleep. And certainly not one that causes more damage!
The result of our research and development is a pillow that offers minimal face-to-pillow contact (perfect for anti-aging or TMJ sufferers) and the best cervical support for back and side sleepers.
We wanted to sleep with the best… we want you to sleep with the best too!
Have you ever had a sleep accident? Please share!