sleeping in a chair causes serious neck problems

1)    Painful problems in your neck such as whiplash, and torticollis (wry neck).  If you have ever had any of these you will know what I am talking about. Due to sudden trauma vertebra in your neck can misalign, this in turn presses on nerves that in turn cause your neck muscles to go into spasm (tighten/ become knotted).  It is this spasm that causes the pain/discomfort/restriction of movement in your neck and shoulders. I have found through experience that two of the biggest causes for this are sleeping on planes and ‘nodding off’ in an armchair/sitting position.

I do not know if you are aware just how heavy the head is?  Well it weighs on average 5-6 kgs that’s a hefty 12 -14 lbs. or 1 stone in old money.  This perched wrongly on top of a pole (your neck vertebra) can cause untold damage…. The head is designed to sit evenly so chin is front of the neck vertebra and base of skull is to the rear of them; thus the weight is evenly distributed between front and back, but by allowing your head to ‘drop forward’ as in nodding off, all the weight is transferred to the front putting an excessive strain on the back of the neck muscles and vertebra.  This puts unnecessary strain on the back of the neck, if this is left for some time (depending on how long you ‘nod off’ for depends on how inflamed the neck vertebrae become due to the uneven pressure exerted on them.  The problem occurs because your good old subconscious knows it is not bedtime (because you are neither lying down, nor in bed; the normal position for sleeping), and so in order to protect the body, the brain remains on standby mode and is alert to surrounding dangers just in case. So when anything untoward occurs such as, a sudden noise, a movement felt (as on a turbulent plane)  the brain’s response is to try to awaken you in case there is danger, this causes the head to jerk.  This jerk can cause your vertebra to move out of its normal alignment, this in turn starts a sequence of events that lead to pain.

So, how can you avoid this?  Very simple; ensure that you don’t put yourself in a position where you will nod off. Long plane journeys are a problem but if you make plans to get as much sleep as you can prior to your journey or after your journey and take steps to be ‘busy’ with things to keep your mind alert (films on board, crosswords, reading, engaging in board games with partner)  as for sleeping in the chair, if your habit is falling asleep when you sit, then take yourself off to bed and allow yourself a power nap of 20-30mins you’ll feel heaps better for it AND you won’t be causing yourself problems.

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