Ankylose This! Living with Ankylosing Spondylitis

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Pillow talk

When you've got a disease that gets worse overnight, getting enough sleep becomes both essential and elusive. Mattresses matter: I find mattress/box-spring combos and thin foam mattresses painful, firm (and thick) futon mattresses ideal. Sleeping position matters: after a lifetime of sleeping on my side, curled up fetally, I had to learn to sleep on my back, almost spread-eagled. And pillows matter.

When you sleep on your back and your spine is prone to stiffening up, you need good neck support. So, eight years ago, I received (as a gift from my mother) an orthopedic pillow made from memory foam: it was probably this pillow and it cost something like C$150. For years I carried it with me, whenever I travelled, like a security blanket -- and got equally frantic when it was left behind. As it aged, though, it got progressively stinkier (it accumulated sweat from hot nights) and flatter, to the point where I kept a thin pillow underneath it, and managed quite well on an ordinary pillow.

Fast-forward to last fall, where I discovered this pillow, also using (but not completely comprised of) memory foam, at IKEA, at a price of $30. Definitely firmer than the older pillow, but definitely cheaper. It was also a source of discomfort for the first few days, until I got used to sleeping with it.

I wonder whether the memory foam aspects are strictly necessary -- that all that is really needed is good neck support. In any event, something along these lines seems essential, if you want to avoid waking up with a sore neck and shoulders, and pain shooting down your spine until it meets the pain coming up from your hips.

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