The information on this page is extensive because this is an essential topic for you to understand and take action on.
There are two key things to get right when it comes to sleeping well. If you take the time to master these two simple things you can expect to
- improve the quality of your sleep
- improve how long you can stay asleep for
- wake up feeling more rested
- toss and turn a lot less in the night
- wake up feeling loose and comfortable in your spine
- make faster progress with your structural correction care.
The advice that follows is critical even for people who are not undergoing an ABC care program because if your mattress and pillow is incorrect, you stress your body structure as you sleep and problems accumulate and worsen over time.
The Golden Rule
It’s worth remembering the golden rule:
If you wake up feeling worse than when you went to sleep then either your mattress or your pillow, or both are not optimal for your body.
You should wake up feeling good. If you don’t, it means that your alignment was challenged during the night and your body has had to stiffen up in compensation to stay stable.
Support Over Comfort
If there was a second major concept to consider it is that:
Your body structure (neck, back, pelvis, arms and legs) need adequate support not comfort in order to remain working well.
Most people make their choices of pillow and mattress around what feels most comfortable to them when they lie down. This is a mistake. If you lie down and think “ah that feels amazing” you are quite likely not getting enough support for your body to maintain food alignment.
Generally speaking, the more progressed a persons body structure problems are (ie the longer they’ve had them, the more complicate their condition, the stiffer the body) the more likely they are to like lying on soft pillows and mattresses.
The problem with choosing comfort over support is that it can cause your skeleton to further twist and distort into the unfavourable positions, aggravating and worsening your overall condition.
As you sleep for an average of 6-8 hours per night, this quickly compounds into hundreds of hours of additional abnormal physical stress being put on your body. Teh result is that you don’t sleep well, you wake up feeling worse, and your structural condition worsens, rather than improves over time.
Choosing to prioritise good support over high comfort is not a sacrifice, you will still enjoy lying in bed, probably even more than before.
Support just feels different, not worse.
You don’t like there thinking “this feels amazing”, rather you lie there not feeling much at all. With appropriate support, your joints and muscles can completely relax, which means your mind can also switch off, and you’ll fall asleep far quicker and sleep much more soundly.
It Doesn’t Matter How Much What You’ve Got Cost!
One of the unfortunate truths to modern furniture is that how much you paid for it has almost nothing to do with how “good” it is for your body. I’ve seen people with £5000 memory foam mattresses and £10,000 sofas that were causing them all sorts of problems.
“More expensive does not necessarily mean better. More expensive means more technology, which usually means more design features to favour comfort over support”
Try not to fall into the trap of resisting change simply because you spent a lot of money on something in the past. All that matters is that your body gets the support that it needs to stay well.
Choosing The Right Mattress
Getting the right mattress may well be one of the most important decisions that you can make when it comes to your health.
In general the firmer the mattress, the better.
Typically when people start ABC corrective care their body has several years to decades worth of structural stress accumulated and so they naturally feel better on medium-firm to firm mattress, rather than a very firm one.
As they progress with care and as their structure becomes healthier and looser then the need for high-level support increases and they do better on a very firm mattress.
You will need to shop around and find what works for you, but here are our top suggestions, in order of the highest quality and best long term solution to the lowest quality shorter-term solution. Typically the best solutions are more expensive investment up front, but in the long term end up saving you money.
1. The Official ABC Super-Supportive Latex Mattress
This mattress has been designed and extensively tested by the European Association of Advanced BioStructural Correction (ABCE). It is best placed to solve the problem of meeting optimal support and comfort, so that you sleep well, enjoy going to bed, and wake up feeling great in your body.
If you choose this mattress you know that you will be supporting your structural health to the optimal amount when it comes to the sleeping well habits.
Latex is also a very healthy choice of material with many benefits including:
- Latex is a truly green and environmentally friendly product that does not contain any of the solvents and toxic chemicals that can be found in memory foam mattresses.
- Latex is an extremely flexible and elastic material. Latex is not too soft and not too hard. Its natural resilience means it offers resistance to a sleeper’s weight in every body position and always returns to its initial shape. This is called ‘progressive comfort’ – the higher the pressure exerted on it, the greater the support it provides.
- The excellent elasticity of latex supports the body’s natural movements, which is a very important condition for revitalising sleep.
- Latex has a great point elasticity meaning it compresses only in the point of contact.
- A latex mattress can last as long as twenty years, compared to conventional spring-based mattresses, which generally need to be replaced every 5-7 years or so (or even more frequently in the case of cheap mattresses).
- Latex is up to 20 times more durable than standard polyurethane foams.
- The open cell structure of latex mattresses means that they are highly ‘breathable’ – they don’t retain heat in the same way other designs do, as the air inside them is able to circulate freely. So you won’t find yourself throwing open windows and sleeping on top of the bedding during the hot summer months in an effort to stay cool.
- All this is in stark contrast to the popular memory foam mattresses. These are made entirely of synthetic materials (mainly plastics), retain a lot of heat and, as the name implies, have ‘memory’ or slow recovery properties. As a result, they will never be able to offer you the instant comfort and support and the natural breath-ability of a high-quality latex mattress.
- Latex is anti-bacterial, anti-dust mite, and resistant to mold and mildew. This makes latex mattresses ideal for people with allergies. You simply cannot find a healthier and safer bedding material.
- By way of contrast, standard polyurethane and memory foams contain up to seven chemicals that are known as carcinogens. Latex contains none of them.
The ABCE mattress comes in any standard UK or European size and can also be made to any custom size you desire. It is covered with an organic cotton cover which is removable and machine washable.
The ABCE mattress is available in super-firm (which is not rock-hard, but rather has the highest possible level of elastic support).
The ABCE mattress is a proprietary blend of natural and synthetic latex to make it supportive enough to aid your structural health. We have tested many other latex mattresses on the market and found them to be too soft and not supportive enough to do the job. The ABCE mattress is the only latex mattress that we recommend.
You can learn more and purchase the Official ABCE Latex Mattress here.
2. An 8cm Latex Topper
If you have a decent hard flat surface you can purchase an 8cm latex topper and sleep just on that. I did this for 4 years and found it to work very well. We have had many patients try the same approach and get on very well with it.
As this is a very firm sleeping arrangement you need to be aware of two key points:
1. You must have a firm flat surface to lay it upon. Most bed boards or support struts will not be suitable. You could either have MDF board cut to size to place on top of your existing bed frame (that’s what I did),
2. You must have your pillow height exactly right (see below). The firmer the mattress the greater the need for the pillow height to be spot on. This is very achievable, but you will need the ABC Pillow in order to do this consistently well.
Please note: The Latex mattresses sold on this website are not the same as the ABCE latex mattress. We have tested them and found our that they are too soft and do not provide sufficient support.
3. A (Very) Firm Pocket Sprung Mattress
This is a sensible choice, especially if you are looking for a cheaper, shorter-term option. Get the firmest that you can possibly find. Typically need to be 1400 -2000 springs or more. Also, note that the number of springs doesn’t always equate to high firmness. Here is a reasonable option from Ikea (not necessarily the best or only option out there)
It would be best to go and test your mattress first, or choosing a company that offers a free trial period.
If you can easily push your hand down into the mattress it is likely too soft. Some pocket spring mattresses also have large and deep “dimples” across the sleeping surface which are not ideal and better avoided.
If you purchase a mattress and find it is just too firm to sleep comfortably follow these steps:
1. Make sure you are using the ABC pillow correctly – fine-tuning this solves 90% of the problems immediately. Ask you, practitioner, for help if needed.
2. Buy a 1-inch topper (not memory foam) and use that until you get used to it with the intention of removing the topper as you progress further into your structural correction program.
4. A Reflex Foam Mattress
Reflex Foam is a type of mattress material that has useful properties that offer support. It is cheaper than latex but is missing most of the key health benefits that the latex material provides.
Having said that, it is cheaper and gets you going sooner if finances are a consideration for you. Here is a reflex foam only mattress option.
The Worst Type Of Mattress To Avoid
The main type to avoid is the soft and highly un-supportive ones, or memory foam mattresses and memory foam toppers.
Memory foam, in particular, is not good, despite how well and how cleverly it is marketed. The memory foam allows your body to sink into it without adequate support pushing back up. The result is that your body will be forced into a contorted and twisted position that will cause it to not only tighten and become uncomfortable but also worsen its underlying mechanical condition over time.
Once you have had a few weeks of ABC corrective care you will start to notice how your body craves support.
When you get used to sleeping on something firm and supportive and then go away and stay in a hotel with a memory foam or soft mattress, you will then realise just how big of a deal this is.
What To Do If You Think Your Mattress Is Not A Good One
The most important thing to do, especially if you are undergoing ABC corrective care, is to start making a plan to change it, the sooner the better.
Some memory foam mattresses just have the memory foam as a layer on the top, which means that you may be able to flip your mattress over and have a firmer more supportive underside that will help you in the short term until you get a better solution.
You could also just sleep on the floor. Either use a yoga mat or two, get the latex topper mentioned above, or just put a couple of layers of duvet underneath you. As long as you have you ABC Pillow set up correctly you will still do much better and can start making plans to save for one of the better options above.
If your mattress sags in any way, it needs to be thrown out! Mattresses are not built to last forever. Latex lasts the longest, but even they start to break down in the 20-30 year range. Whereas a typical pocket spring mattress starts to go after 4-5 years, and the more modern “mattress in a box” type foam mattresses begin to lose their integrity within 1-2 years.
Choosing The Right Pillow
Just as with the mattress, the goal is to get the right pillow that provides sufficient support so that you sleep well without harming your alignment.
There are two parts to getting this right:
1. Your sleeping position
2. Your pillow (type of material and size)
The best position to sleep is the side-lying in the fetal position.
Some people do OK sleeping on their backs, but they are quite few. Most people are not well enough aligned in the in their spine to be able to sleep on their back and not have their bones forced into bad positions throughout the night. If you sleep on your back you must have; a spine in good shape (usually means you need to have gone through structural correction care for a few months, a firm mattress, a minimal pillow as described below.
The worst position to sleep in is on your front. This should be avoided, and the best way out of that habit its to set your ABC Pillow up correctly for side sleeping.
The Best Pillow
The best pillow is made of a supportive material (like reflex foam, which the ABC Pillow is made from). In a recent article, I write on the best kind of pillows you learn that the size of the pillow is very important.
The difference between a perfectly set up pillow and one that is not set up well enough to provide the right amount of support is as little as 1-2mm in height.
How to Set Your Pillow Up Correctly and Protect your Spine at Night
These instructions will teach you how to create a homemade pillow using towels that will place your head in the perfect position so that your spinal muscles can relax and the vertebrae are all optimally supported during the night. When you get this right, you will sleep very soundly, often waking up in the exact position that you fell asleep in.
Since your spine will be in a position of comfort and ease you will wake up with your back and neck feeling flexible and loose. If you wake up with your spine feeling stiff and sore, there is an excellent chance that either your pillow height is incorrect, and you need to revisit the setup phase. Or it could be that your pillow is good and your mattress is too soft.
These instructions teach you how to build a pillow using bathroom towels. This works very well and is especially useful when you are travelling and staying in hotels. These same instructions are followed when using the ABC Pillow, which is a product made form lots of different size pieces of foam that you select to create the perfect pillow for your body. You then put it into a pillowcase and have the perfect solution for you (see the videos below). You can purchase the ABC PIllow here or in the practice.
1. Sleeping on your side
Towels are used instead of pillows because they do not squash and are therefore very supportive.
Fold up three or four towels so that the height is about the same as the spread of your fingers from the tip of your pinky finger to the tip of your thumb. Then lie down on your side and test the pillow out.
If you feel like you are falling forwards, then the pillow is too low. If you feel like you are falling backwards, then the pillow is too high.
Simply add or remove layers of towels until you find the perfect height for you. You will know when you have found the right height because within a few seconds your eyes will want to shut and you will feel like falling asleep.
One thin layer put on and off will make all of the difference, so play around with it until it feels right. To accommodate for your unique spinal curve and tension pattern your head may appear too high or too low to an external observer. Don’t worry about this. There is no right or wrong head position.
2. Sleeping on your back
Take one towel and fold one end over to create a two-inch-long section. Fold this section over again two more times.
Take the other end of the towel and fold it over once to meet the other section. The higher bump goes under your neck, and the smaller bump supports your head.
The area of the towel under your neck should not feel like it is pushing your neck up, it is only supposed to provide light pressure to the underside of your neck.
Setting Up The Official ABC Adjustable Pillow
If you are still struggling after watching that, here is another video by Dr Jesse Jutkowitz demonstrating setting the pillow up correctly on a patient.