For the past several months I have struggled each night (actually, the wee hours of the morning) with falling asleep. The sciatica in my right leg -- caused by degenerative disc issues in my lumbar spine -- flare up when I lay down. I've tried numerous sleeping positions, including the use of pillows to elevate my right leg, and nothing seems to work. At the urging of my physical therapist, I do hamstring stretches before bed, but the impact has been slight.
So, the strategy I have employed frequently is to stay up until I am thoroughly exhausted and then, pain or no, I collapse into sleep. When I awaken later that day, my leg hurts just as much as when I went to sleep and so begins another agonizing 24-hour cycle.
To say the least, this whole ordeal has been quite frustrating. Sleep is very important for a person's physical AND mental health. A lack of quality sleep does not allow the body to get adequate rest and, from the mental side of things, can lead to depression.
I am happy to report that my sleeping pattern has improved greatly over the past five days. I made one little change and it appears to have made all the difference in the world. I have experienced very little sciatica pain in my right leg these past five nights and falling asleep has not been a chore.
So, what made the difference? Two pillows.
Since as far back as I can remember, I have suffered from allergy issues. During my teens and early 20s, I hated spring and early summer because it meant sneezing, watery eyes, congestion and, sometimes, a runny nose. I tried different "hay fever" medications, but my body doesn't seem to respond well to antihistamines. For a time, I took copious amount of Vitamin C, but that only seemed to help alleviate the symptoms about one-half the time.
The strategy that seemed to work the best for me was to elevate my head during sleep. So, for the past 25 years or so, I have slept on a weird assortment of six pillows under my head, neck and shoulders. By keeping my head elevated as I sleep, I don't get as clogged up in my sinuses as I used to and this meant I started each day with a leg up on allergy season.
But it seems that my strategy to combat one problem was having a negative impact on another. The simple act of removing two pillows to lower my head has meant my spine is better aligned while in bed and the sciatica (at least while I sleep) has almost completely dissipated.
Sometimes it's the little things in life that make a big difference!