Sleeping positions are some of the most interesting questions people ask about and as it is on the question and answer segment of this page, there are no easy answers. Here, however, are some of the attempts made to explain what are known about the various sleeping positions.
Generally speaking, a night time sleeping duration of seven to eight hours is considered healthy for the average adult. In many of Nigeria’s cities, due mainly to rapid urbanization and the various challenges associated with that, a good many people are unable to obtain an optimum level of sleep. As a result, they are bleary-eyed when they wake up, are irritable and unable to concentrate fully on their assigned tasks with the result that productivity falls at work over time. When people like these drive or operate machinery, they are a risk to themselves and to others. The reason is that the duration of sleep is below par and even the quality of such sleep is debatable. Of equal importance is the position in which good quality sleep can be enjoyed.
The first of these positions is the back. People who sleep flat on their back are usually able to avoid certain pitfalls such as low back pain and neck pain. It is claimed to be able to help women maintain the conical shape of their breasts and also help reduce wrinkles on the face. When a good pillow is used, one that is adequately puffy, it will ensure that while asleep the level of the stomach falls below that of the oesophagus so that food is less likely to climb into food pipe. When such a phenomenon is prevented, people are less at risk for suffering from gastro-oesophageal reflux disease, a situation in which food passes from the stomach into the oesophagus, causing heart burn and difficult sleep. It helps to keep the spine, neck and head in a neutral position with it pressed against a firm surface. However, snoring is a major problem with sleeping in this position and that may even be bad for obese and overweight individuals who could even suffer from intermittent cessation of breathing known as sleep apnoea. This position is also bad for pregnant women in whom the growing baby lies on top of the spine which is pressed against a firm surface behind. This twin pressure compresses the abdominal aorta against the spine behind it and the womb in front and, could reduce the blood flow to the baby with various consequences.
Another good position to assume when asleep is the sides. In this position, the spine is simply not supported but is held in its normal place by the action of various muscles. Sleeping on the right side is said to be capable of making the pain worse for people who suffer from heart burn. Sleeping on the left side can ease heartburn. However, it places some degree of strain on some of the abdomen’s internal organs such as the liver, stomach and even the lungs way up in the chest. The habit of sleeping on the left side is said to help digestion, minimize snoring and help improve blood flow to the heart. When people are young and healthy, the sleeping position is not so important. However, this becomes very important with advancing age when medical challenges are also more likely. For all age groups, though, it is important that in whatever position you find most comfortable when sleeping, it is useful to switch off your electronic devices before you turn in. The use of these gadgets has been noted without question as a great disrupter of sleep.
These positions are even more useful during pregnancy. It is usually advised that pregnant women should sleep on their sides; it is better still to sleep on the left side. This position is believed to increase the flow of blood and nutrients to the placenta and thus help foetal wellbeing. This position also helps to keep the developing womb away from another large organ, the liver and allow it to carry on its functions at a healthy pace. The worst sleeping position among pregnant women is on the back. For all age groups and especially in pregnancy, sleeping on the left side is further aided by the placement of a pillow between both legs. Both knees should be bent in this position and another pillow can be placed at the back for further spine support.
Probably the worst sleeping position of all is on the abdomen or stomach; this position flattens out the natural curvature of the spine and will aggravate back pain. It can help relieve sleep apnoea and help minimize snoring but it is very bad for the back and neck. In the daytime, the pain acquired during the night interferes with activities and cause significant misery. The level of discomfort is severe and treatment is not easy to accomplish. If individuals have become so used to sleeping in this position, they are advised to support the abdomen with a small, firm and flat pillow that will diminish the sagging effect placed on the spine. It is this sagging potential that is mostly responsible for the pain that later develops in the lower spine. Besides, in order to sleep with some comfort in this position, the neck has to be turned almost fully in the right or left position for several hours. This adds a considerable strain on the head and neck and pain can also be experienced in the neck as you might have it in the lower back. For pregnant women at any stage, in any of the three trimesters, sleeping on the stomach is absolutely wrong. The expanding abdomen and increasing weight will compress the abdomen and diminish blood flow to the womb and the baby. The pressure also would reduce the amount of space available to the unborn baby to move around in.
As can be seen from the trajectory above, it is good to get a good dose of sleep. The method of getting that kind of sleep is also important for our wellbeing and self-actualization. The consequences of not getting good enough sleep are far-reaching and the means are within our collective grasp. The average person who lives to be 70 years will sleep for approximately one third of that period in their lifetime. It is therefore evident that the events which occur in that time-frame should command more than a passing interest from everyone. It accounts also for why problems occurring during that period have such a profound effect on many aspects of our health.
Ask the doctor
Dear doctor, thank you so much for your past help. I take omega cod liver oil. Is it good for my health sir? Thank you doctor. 0817xxxxxxx
It is good for you. It contains polyunsaturated fats of vegetable origin which is the ideal kind of edible oil for your heart and blood vessels. Besides, it contains certain antioxidants that help slow down the aging process by boosting the immune system.
Dear doctor. I am about six foot, four inches tall. Each time I walk, I have sharp pains in my ankles. Is this as a result of my height? 0812xxxxxxx
Well, that is not likely. However, your age and weight would have been equally important here for me to make a judgment. Your height alone will not cause you to have ankle pains.
Dear doctor, I am a lady of 20 years. Recently, I started having a discharge from my right breast and my menstrual flow was kind of light and scanty unlike before. I did a hormone test as a result of that and my prolactin was 19, LH was 19, FSH 24 and progesterone 26. The doctor said I am not ovulating well but that he would not prescribe any hormone drug for me because I am not married and therefore not trying to conceive. Anyway, last month, I was given Bromergon to stop the nipple discharge and I noticed that my menstrual flow was normal. I stopped taking it after some time and now the nipple discharge has started again. As of today, my period is not even flowing well again; it is so light and I am so scared. Please sir, what should I do? Thanks a lot sir.
There is no need to fear. There is a dose for Bromergon and a way to use it. The possibility is there that you did not follow the instructions given. If the medication is properly used and follow-up tests are done to monitor the progress made, correction is achievable and the nipple discharge will eventually stop with a complete restoration of your normal menstrual pattern. At your age, some irregularities in your cycle are known to occur and should not cause you any alarm.
Dear doctor, if someone is vomiting and blood is coming out of the nose, what should we do?
Your role in helping the person has to be carried out rather quickly. The person may have burst a blood vessel inside the nose or that may have happened lower down within the area at the back of the mouth and the blood came up through the nostrils. First, place a clean white handkerchief over the nose and pinch it tightly against the said handkerchief. Do that for about five to eight minutes and if it does not stop, you must get to a hospital as soon as possible. Nothing is to be gained by delaying further.
Dear doctor, I am a stroke patient who had that experience four years ago. I want to come over to see you for medical treatment. I am based in Abuja so how do I get to see you in Abuja? 0806xxxxxxx
Quite frankly, I would not be able to help you because I am not a physician and if I was, I am not based in Abuja. A physician is the expert you will need for the treatment of your condition. There are many competent physicians in Abuja who can deal with your problems. If you would visit the National Hospital or the various general hospitals around the FCT, you would be well served.
Dear doctor, my father read about stroke on your health page and he will love to try the computerized tomogram scan. Hope to read from you.0902xxxxxxx
Your dad has not stated why he wants to try the CT scan; is he hypertensive? Did he just have a stroke? If he did, that request should be made by his doctors. If he did not, there is no compelling reason for him to have it done. A CT scan does not predict strokes if that is his intention and so I am unable to give you any advice regarding that investigation because his motive is hazy. Thank you.
Dear doctor, On Monday last week, when using the toilet, my faeces was strong and ever since then my anus has been paining me. It will stop but once I eat what is peppery and use the toilet, it starts paining me again. firstname.lastname@example.org
I believe that the tough texture of the stool you passed was enough to bruise the wall of your anus or even tear it. Considering what you now experience, such an injury will only heal when your stool becomes softer. You can achieve that by increasing the amount of roughage in your diet. This is a possible goal if you take more vegetables and fruits than you currently do. When the stool is less hard, the anus should heal and the pains you feel together with the peppery sensation you have should then stop.
Dear doctor, I was told I have a raised blood pressure six weeks after my delivery when I went for post-natal clinic. It was attributed to the stress of taking care of the baby alone. I did some lab tests that confirmed I am okay. I am on Aldomet tablets and was told that I will have to take it for life. Is this true? After taking the drug, I feel weak and unable to do anything. My baby is three months old now and I am 37 years of age. I have been doing exercises and eating lots of cucumber. Please what’s your advice on this?
I sympathise with you but it is not at all likely that the stress of taking care of your baby alone, as you put it, is responsible for your hypertension. Some women develop hypertension during pregnancy. Others do so shortly before delivery while others develop that problem after delivery. The treatment depends therefore on when it is discovered and at some point, you should become well enough to do without medications because this particular case has a definite cause. It is not accurate to say that you will have to take one particular drug for life because even if the illness persists, there will come a time when Aldomet will become ineffective and will have to be replaced with something else. Laboratory tests will reveal nothing in all likelihood unless certain complications have set in. you should also enlist some other help in the form of your mother, sibling or mother in-law to help you cope better with the stress.