Morning aches and pains leave many reaching for the medicine cabinet and wishing they would have had a restful night’s sleep. “If it feels as if somebody has hit you over the head with a baseball bat or tried to break your back, your sleeping posture is probably working against you,” says stretching expert Kristian Berg. In his upcoming book, Prescriptive Stretching (Human Kinetics, 2011), Berg explains how stretching can alleviate soreness and offers remedies for sleep-depriving pain that is commonly not detected until morning.
Waking up with a headache. Although people may be asleep, they aren’t always resting and relaxing. Berg says people often grind their teeth and clench their jaws during sleep or pull their shoulders up toward their ears when preparing to fall asleep. These activities involve the muscles in both the jaw and neck and often lead to morning headaches.
Remedies: Berg advises stretching and relaxing the area around the neck and says headaches can be caused by poor sleeping posture combined with shortened muscles. “The firmness of the bed may be a factor as well,” Berg notes. “Generally speaking, the heavier a person is, the firmer the bed should be.”
Waking up with lower-back pain. “When you sleep on your front in a bed that is too soft, it can feel like your back is breaking in two,” Berg explains. “This is because the midsection, which is the heaviest part of the body, sinks down into the bed, severely arching the back.” This habit combined with tight hip flexors results in lower-back pain in the morning.
Remedies: Switching for a firmer bed or placing a board under the mattress can help. Berg also suggests you sleep on your side and stretch the hip flexors before going to bed.
Waking up with numbness in the arms. The most common reason for numbness or tingling is that people fall asleep with their arms overhead. “Sleeping on your back with your arms above your head stretches the pectoralis major and minor, causing them to push on the top nerves and blood vessels that run from the neck and trunk into your arms, which then fall asleep,” Berg says.
Remedies: Berg advises completely changing sleeping positions or sleeping with the arms at the sides. He also suggests stretching the pectoralis major and minor every night before going to bed.
Stretching is one of the best ways to eliminate or lessen pain. To aid in a good night’s rest, Berg advises staying active and stretching at least 10 times every day. For more information see Prescriptive Stretching.