Sleep, Part III
Beds are like shoes: the vast majority are unfit for human use.
As hard as it might be to fathom, we were not designed to sleep on cushy beds with cushy pillows. In fact, we were designed to sleep on the ground without a pillow.
Granted, sleeping on the ground can (and, most likely, will) put you in contact with things you may not want to be in contact with while you're asleep. That said, learning to sleep on a hard surface without a pillow is something to strive for...perhaps over the course of a few months or even a year or so. Sleeping in such a way will enable your body to relax, open up, and learn to support itself naturally.
A while back, I eliminated my pillow and removed my mattress cover. I now sleep on a very firm bed without a pillow. I also sleep on the floor occasionally At first, it was difficult, and I often woke myself up as I shifted from one difficult position to another. After a few weeks, though, something happened: I began to relax into my body as I slept. By that, I mean, I my body's structures began to support themselves naturally as I slept rather than sinking down (into itself) and molding to the artificial (and restraining) structure of my cushy bed-and-pillow system. I used to wake up in pain and, quite often, with a very stiff neck. While there's still some stiffness upon waking (which I attribute mostly to my old age [I'm almost 53]), it's nothing like what it used to be. And the aches and pains? Well, while they're not completely gone, the difference between now and the way things were is remarkable. I've even gotten to the point where I can now nap comfortably on a padded floor (I use a heavy duty yoga mat ). I wouldn't be surprised if, in the very near future, I start to wake up free of aches and pains entirely. That's my hope and, dare I write, my ultimate expectation. And why not? It's been my experience every time I've approached moving, resting, eating, drinking, and living more along the lines of the way I was designed to!
So...where do you begin?
First...Ditch Your Pillow
My suggestion is to work first on going pillowless. You can do this by going with a flatter pillow and then progressing to folded towels of different heights. Even with the towels, continue to use a pillow case (it's a lot cooler). After a few weeks, try going without a pillow for a night or two, and see how it goes. I guarantee, it will be a little uncomfortable, but...if you stick with it, your body will adapt. And it will be a positive adaption, like what takes place when you begin to go barefooted after a lifetime of wearing unhealthy shoes. If you feel, though, like you need to go back to your pillow, do so. And then work back through the progression; again, take it easy, and see how you do. Just so I'm being transparent here, I went back and forth a few times until one time pillow sleeping put a crick in my neck that took several succeeding days of pillowless sleep to iron out. Since then, I've been pillowless (and, to be honest, a little scared to use one again).
Second...Ditch Your Mattress Cover
Once you get to a point where you're sleeping pillowless, remove your mattress cover for a few days, and see how you do. If the hardness is really uncomfortable, you may need to go back and forth somewhat. The three- to six-month aim here is to get to a point where you can sleep comfortably without a pillow and mattress cover.
And, Third...Ditch Your Mattress (by taking it to the floor...)
Once you've accomplished that, try taking it to the floor. I recommend using a yoga mat, but not the $20 type. Mine's a Manduka Pro.
While I can't guarantee you're experiences will be exactly like mine, I can write (with a fairly high degree of certainty) that the quality of your sleeping and waking hours will improve. Personally, I'm delighting in the more restful sleep I'm experiencing as well as the increased flexibility in my neck, spine, shoulders, and hips. Give it a shot, take it easy, and (again) see how you do.
God's peace to you...
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Fridays: Martial Arts Practice