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Scientific Evidence that Spine Alignment is Good? 06 Oct 2014 11:51 #1

It seems logical that sleeping with a neutral spine position is a good thing, but obviously many other cultures sleep without it and sometimes people anecdotally report that they find sleeping on a hard surface the best for their back. I'm curious if anyone can point me to scientific evidence that spine alignment is a good thing?

I can find many scientific papers that show that replacing their current crappy, soft mattress with a medium-firm, expensive mattress reduces symptoms in unhealthy people . But the only two experimental papers I can find are one that tested sagging and found that reaction to it was mostly subjective , and one that directly measured spine alignment on different mattress firmnesses and disproved their hypothesis that spine position might affect sleep through muscle tension .

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Scientific Evidence that Spine Alignment is Good? 06 Oct 2014 12:47 #2

Hi Jared,

I think that the last study you referenced has some flaws that even an "educated layman" such as me can see which is that the only mattresses used for the study were Select Comfort air mattresses which have their own limitations, that all the subjects were tested in a side sleeping position only (without any consideration for rotational alignment or alignment in any other sleeping positions) and that the results were only based on a single study session that lasted for only 30 minutes and didn't involve any actual sleeping. The goal of a study was to determine whether sub optimal spinal alignment would affect the subject's ability to relax or initiate sleep but not to test for the effects of sustained alignment issues over the course of even a single night much less many nights in "real life" conditions.

There is also some evidence in this study that "self reporting" based on a subjective sense of "comfort" isn't the most reliable way to assess sleep quality.

I think that the conclusion of the second study you referenced would be much more valid ...

Statement of Relevance: This study investigated how spine support affects sleep in healthy subjects, finding that the relationship between bedding and sleep quality is affected by individual anthropometry and sleep posture. In particular, results indicate that a sagging sleep system negatively affects sleep quality for people sleeping in a prone or lateral posture.


With or without studies, it would be clear to most people in any health profession that dealt with sleep issues or with back health that "neutral alignment" would be a significant factor in the quality of sleep and back health but if you are looking for more reference material then books such as "Back and Bed ... Ergonomic Aspects of Sleeping by Bart Haex" (who was also involved in the second study you referenced) would provide plenty of evidence that alignment is the most important factor in the quality of sleep over time. You can see some excerpts from the book in post #2 here that talks about sleeping habits in different cultures. It is not an easy read because of some of the technical information and math it includes but the information that is included in it would be valuable for anyone regardless of their level of technical or mathematical knowledge.

Another book that would be well worth reading is "Preventive Biomechanics ... Optimizing Support Systems for the Human Body in the Lying and Sitting Position by Gerhard Silber and Christophe Then" . It is more complex and would probably be a more difficult read yet but it also includes some great information for those that are interested in the more scientific aspects of sleeping posture and healthy sleeping.

Phoenix
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Last edit: by phoenix.

Scientific Evidence that Spine Alignment is Good? 06 Oct 2014 15:07 #3

Thank you for the resources. I agree that the airbed study by Lahm & Iaizzo was not a good study in a number of ways, I was just surprised that it seems like one of the only studies where the mechanism of action for a sleep system is investigated.

It turns out that Verheart study is based on his PhD thesis (Haex was on his committee), which has a good literature review and a bunch of experimental work with spinal alignment. That is sufficiently convincing for me, although I wish that more academic researchers were looking at sleep system design.

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Scientific Evidence that Spine Alignment is Good? 06 Oct 2014 22:02 #4

Hi Jared,

Thanks for the link ... I appreciate it :).

I hadn't seen it and I've spent much of my free time this afternoon and evening reading it (although I haven't finished it yet). It's been a very interesting read that takes some of the ideas in Haex's book I linked a little further yet.

I wish that more academic researchers were looking at sleep system design.


That's a point that Vincent Verhaert makes on a number of occasions and I would love to see the same thing as well.

Phoenix

ADDED LATER: There is another interesting study about spinal alignment here .
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Last edit: by phoenix.
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