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Tag Archives: sleeping

As part two in our sleeping series, let’s talk about pillows.  Everyone wants to know what kind of pillow they should use.  Cervical pillow? Body pillow? Memory foam pillow?  Buckwheat hull pillow?  And how many? One? Two? Three?  Six?  Here’s where I’d like to reiterate that getting a good night’s sleep is more important to me than what sort or how many pillows you’re using.  So if you’re sleeping well and happy, keep doing that.  But ya’ll keep asking for my opinion and now you’re going to get it.

I’m anti-pillow.  I know, this is hard to believe, given that I’m anti-flip-flopanti-high heelanti-shoeanti-arch support, and anti-bra, but it’s true.  I’m anti-pillow.  And I’m pro-hugs, pro-goat, pro-sunshine, pro-hiking, pro-nap, pro-chocolate, and pro-garden, just so you don’t define me by the things I’m against.  But when it comes to pillows, I like to sit on them, but not sleep on them.  Let me tell you why.

I have been one of those lucky people who never really gets headaches.  And by that I mean I get about 2-3 headaches a year and each time I think I’m probably dying because it’s the worst pain ever and how do people go through life getting headaches all the time and I can’t even imagine what a migraine must be like oh my god just kill me now.  And after a few hours it goes away and everything’s fine again.  For my whole life.  Until a few years ago when I got a headache that wouldn’t go away.  It was dull, and low-grade and annoying.  I didn’t want to die or anything, but it was still weird because I so rarely get headaches.  And then I still had it the next day.  And the day after that.  And three weeks later I still had a headache.  And I was exhausted and cranky and no fun at all to be around.  And then I listened to a podcast from Katy Bowman about how she’s always suffered from headaches, but then she stopped using a pillow and now she has way less headaches.  And so I thought, I should give that a try.

Over the next few months, I weaned myself off pillows.  I have to say that I had a distinct advantage here over a lot of people in that I’ve always been a one-pillow kind of girl, and a fairly flat, thin pillow at that (as compared to my husband’s 3-4 pillows a night habit).  So I only had so work down from one, thin pillow to a folded towel, to a less folded towel, to a sweatshirt, to a t-shirt, to nothing.  And now sleeping with a pillow is pretty much not an option for me, unless I’m super sick and fall asleep while reading.  And even then I tend to wake up after 10-20 minutes and toss the pillow aside.

What I noticed in the weaning process and since then is that my neck had to become more flexible to accommodate my new way of sleeping.  I sleep in all the positions and initially, sleeping on my side with less of a pillow was challenging.  But now, my neck is flexible enough that side sleeping is comfortable and in fact, is where I get my best neck stretching done, reducing the tension in my head.  Oh, and I’m back to not getting headaches almost ever.  Which is my preferred way to go through life.

So, to answer your question, in my opinion, no pillow is the best pillow.

A common question I get (at work, not while I’m just walking down the street) is “How should I sleep?”  And let me just preface this by saying that getting a good night’s sleep, consistently, is more important, in my book, than what position you sleep in.  So if what you’re doing is working for you, do that.  Being well rested makes everything else better and easier.

However.  If you really want to know how you should sleep, keep reading.

First of all, there’s no “right” way to sleep.  Other than with your eyes closed.  Because those of you who sleep with your eyes slightly open are creeping out the rest of us.  Knock it off.  But as far as body positioning goes, all of the positions are good to some degree and bad if they’re the only one you ever use.  The truth of the matter is that we were never supposed to lie down in one position and then maintain that position for the next 7-10 hours without any change. In fact, lying in the same position without moving is how bedsores happen and I don’t know anyone who wants bedsores.  While humans have been seeking soft places to sleep for a long time now, it’s only with the advent of these pillow-topped, memory foam, sleep-number, super mattresses that it’s even been an option to lie in one position for 7-10 hours.  Can you imagine your prairie grass or buffalo hair mattress would be comfortable enough for you to lie still on all night, every night?  No, me either.

What I’m saying here is it’s okay to move while you sleep.  In fact, I’m encouraging you to move while you sleep.  Whichever side you’re sleeping on will be compressed, while the side that’s up will be allowed to lengthen.  Let all the sides (and the front and the back) have their chance at both.  Movement is your friend.  So go ahead, stick your legs and arms out at weird angles, spoon your bedmates, and stretch your neck by sleeping on your stomach now and again.  Just keep it varied and you’ll be good to go.

And if your body needs some encouragement to move while you sleep, you might try a firmer or less comfortable mattress.  Yes, it will take a while for you to adjust, but it’s probably worth it to avoid the damage done by repetitive positioning.  You don’t want to be that person who has to go around telling people they got hurt in their sleep by not moving, do you?  That’d be embarrassing.

I get the same question all the time.  And it’s about time I just laid it out for you, Sassy Pants, plain and simple, once and for all.  The question is not, “How do you do that magic that you do!?” or “How did you get into Rolfing in the first place?” although that’s a common one.  Maybe next week’s post can get into that.  Unfortunately for both you and me, the most common question is not “Can I schedule ten more sessions right now?”  Wanna know what the most popular question of all time (in my practice) is?  Well, of course you do, so here it is:  Does anybody ever fall asleep during a session?

And the answer, of course, is yes.  Yes; a million times over, yes.  People fall asleep during sessions all the time and it’s perfectly normal and acceptable and nothing to be embarrassed about.  In fact, of the close to 50 Rolfing sessions I’ve received in the last four years since I first tried it out, I’ve probably stayed awake through three of them.  Possibly.  Maybe it was only the two.  I lost count with all the sleeping I was doing in between.

The thing is, I want you to be engaged during your sessions with me.  I want you to show up ready to meet me halfway.  I can only change what you’ve allowed me to change.  And you can do more from the inside than I can do from the outside.  Part of the whole point of this work is embodiment, meaning that your consciousness is in and related to your body.  If you’re hungover from a rough night, disassociation (the opposite of embodiment)  may be the most comfortable option for you, and that’s no good for me.  So, yes, I want you to be present and participating in the work we do together.  But, that doesn’t mean you can’t fall asleep.

Huh?

Well, first of all, my goal is to bring about health.  And if you’re sleep deprived, like most people in this country today, then sleep may be the quickest way to bring about health.  So go for it.  More power to you.

Secondly, I don’t think it always has to do with sleep deprivation when you (or I) fall asleep on the table.  I still fall asleep during sessions and I use an alarm to wake up about four times a year, so I don’t think I’m sleep deprived.  I still fall asleep while getting Rolfed immediately after a large cup of coffee and I’m so sensitive to caffeine I usually don’t sleep well at midnight if I had black tea at 8am.  So I think there’s more to it than tiredness.  I think sometimes (often) with a good session of bodywork, big shifts can happen not only in the structure, but on the emotional, spiritual, mental, and energetic side of things as well.  And as we let go of certain traumas and blockages, the ego may try to get in the way, claiming it needs to hold onto that issue for whatever reason.  “I have a bad back” may be part of your story.  And if we shift things so that’s no longer true, your ego may feel a little frantic, wondering how you’ll define yourself in the future.  “I was abused” may be true, but if we let go of the painful trauma around that, will you still be you?  Your ego might not think so.  And so, when your body is making big shifts in the direction of health, it might be helpful to get your ego out of the way.  And so, you “fall asleep” or go into what some people call a healing trance.  You’re still conscious enough to stretch your right arm out, or roll over onto your stomach if I ask you to.  But you’re not conscious enough to fight what your body needs.

At least, that’s how I justify all the sleeping I do during sessions.  You can come up with your own excuses, if you’d prefer.  Regardless, know that, yes, plenty of people fall asleep during sessions, and I don’t mind if you snore.