Waking up stiff and sore is a common problem among many people, young and old. These aches typically occur around the lower back, hips, neck, and shoulders, and they end up impacting much of your day. If you wake up feeling like you’d been doing a reverse plank for hours on end (hint: you probably have – in a way!), read on to identify possible causes and easy ways to cure your morning stiffness.

1. Your mattress isn’t supporting your body properly

A bad mattress is the number one culprit for morning stiffness. This is because your body shuts off motor functions while you sleep in order to undergo repair, and you end up spending hours in the same position. If you mattress isn’t supporting your body correctly, this places too much stress on certain joints which can cause them to become misaligned, or your muscles could remain active to support your body leading to lest restorative sleep and tight muscles.

It is a mistake to discount your mattress as a possible culprit just because you’d shelled out a fortune for it. While expensive mattresses tend to be better constructed, the characteristics of a good mattresses varies from individual to individual depending on factors like bodyweight, fitness levels, sleeping positions etc. The best way to tell if your mattress is right of you is to take note of the following:

  1. Are you being supported along your entire body?
    • Too-soft mattresses allow heavier parts of your body like your hips to sink down, putting your spine out of alignment and activating your muscles to take over the supportive role. This not only causes morning back stiffness but can also lead to postural problems and other chronic conditions.
    • Too-firm mattresses do form to the contours of your body and support all your weight at a few points, likely the hips, upper back, and shoulders. This puts your spine out of alignment and also places undue stress on your hips, upper back, and shoulders, all of which lead to pain in the morning.
  2. Do your muscles stay relaxed after lying in it for 10 minutes? Many mattresses may feel luxurious when you first lay down, but the amount and type of support provided might change after being heated by your body, or as your weight distribution shifts when your muscles relax.
  3. Do you feel excessive pressure on any particular area of your body? A good mattress should support your body evenly.

Mattresses also do not last forever – a quality mattress lasts between 8-10 years while a cheap mattress would typically be good for 2-4 years. Other factors like humidity and the way you care for it also cause its lifespan to vary greatly. When a mattress gets too old, the support they provide diminishes greatly which will very likely lead to morning stiffness or back pain. If your mattress is sinking in the middle, it’s time to get a new one!

How to fix a bad mattress?

If you mattress is already past its typical life, or is visibly sinking in the middle, the best thing to do is to invest in a new one. Counterintuitively, a more expensive mattress usually costs per year of use because it lasts so much longer, and also gives you a much better sleep experience. Before purchasing such a large ticket item, make sure to try the mattress in a mattress store and watch out for the above points to see if it is suitable for your body.

If you mattress is still serviceable, but is simply unsuitable for you (perhaps that pillow-top didn’t feel as great as it did in the store after 10 minutes of laying down), a clever way to fix it on the cheap is by using a mattress topper. Mattress toppers are layers that can be put above a mattress and under your sheets to modify its feel, and can make a cheap mattress feel like a high-quality one. In fact, mattress toppers are the reason why beds in top-rated hotels feel so darn comfortable! Mattress toppers can be made of a few materials:

  1. Memory foam mattress toppers are the most popular for softening overly firm mattresses or getting rid of the bumpy feel of cheap spring mattresses while introducing additional support for your body (a softer mattress doesn’t mean it is less supportive!).
  2. Pillow-top mattress toppers are essentially a mesh of soft fibers that draw air into the topper. They give mattresses a plush, luxurious feel but do not add much support.
  3. Latex foam mattress toppers can make a soft mattress feel firmer due to its elasticity and responsiveness. They also increase the support felt by your body.

2. Your pillow isn’t keeping your head and neck in alignment

A good pillow supports your neck, so there is no strain or muscle tightness in your neck while you sleep. A pillow that is too thick or too thin will likely to lead to neck pain and upper back pain.

Just like mattresses, the definition of a good pillow is different for everyone. If you sleep on your back, a thick pillow will likely bend your neck and cause you to wake up with a sore neck, whereas if you sleep on your side a thick pillow may be required to properly support your neck. In addition, the comfort of your pillow also matters.

Pillows typically last about 1.5 years – they’re much cheaper than mattresses and are worth the replacement!

3. Inflammation

Inflammation is part of the body’s healing process. Among the most common symptoms of inflammation are swelling, pain, and stiffness. Chronic inflammation, however, can lead to long-term sleep problems.

One cause for chronic inflammation is autoimmune disease: the immune system attacks the body’s own cells when it mistakes it for harmful agents. Common autoimmune diseases are rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and Crohn’s disease. Light stretches in bed targeting the lower back and hip flexors may help reduce morning back pain, but you should consult a medical professional if you suspect that you have an autoimmune disease.

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