Monday, May 05, 2008

How to sleep like a proper human primate

This morning a member of SomaSimple brought this article forward in a discussion we are having called Pain of Comfort:

Instinctive sleeping and resting postures: an anthropological and zoological approach to treatment of low back and joint pain by Michael Tetley, PT.

I'm bringing it here as a gift to all who wonder why there is so much insidious body pain in our nice, comfy, dry, temperature controlled, civilized lives. We are perhaps, as the article suggests, too far removed from our primate origin, unable to relax and sleep on a house floor, let alone a forest floor, or a wide tree branch surrounded by air and insects and potential danger.

I never had seen this article until now, and immediately fell in love with it, even though it contains a strong ortho-dominant perspective (as if there were nothing inside the body more important than joints) - otherwise it resonates with everything I think about self-efficacy. There are photos of natural sleeping positions that in my mind elongate and refresh neural tunnels everywhere. If the nerves alongside large joints are healthy, then so will the "joints" be. But this is a minor quibble overall.

The first sentence is;
If you are a medical professional and have been trained in a "civilised" country you probably know next to nothing about the primate Homo sapiens and how they survive in the wild.

Well, not quite true for me. I've been thinking about how to be a good human primate social groomer for quite a long time, Michael.

When people in pain ask me,"What should I do?" I start by teaching them how to get down on the floor and relax there. I tell them, the floor is flat and hard. When you lie down, you will immediately feel all your tightness easily. Once your brain can sense it, it can do something about it, lengthen out various tensions. When you get down on the floor, something's gotta give, and it's not gonna be the floor. The floor is the best biofeedback device there ever was, always cheap and always available. Make the floor your friend. And deep breathe with your abdomen to relax through anxiety and discomfort.

When they ask "What kind of mattress should I be on?" I say, in general, whatever gets you through the night, but the harder the better, so no waterbed.


Unknown said...

A few weeks ago I was having a nasty spasm in my lower back. It hurt like heck. A friend told me that when he had back pain, he would lay on a hardwood floor a lot and it get better. I thought, what a dumb idea, no way I am going to lay on a hard floor while my back is killing me. Then I read this post. Makes perfect sense, now. I still won't want to do it, but then I don't want to stretch either, and that helps a lot.

Mary C said...

OMG, I must be in really, really bad shape! I can't sleep on anything harder than an air mat. (Upledger air mat, that is.)

I agree with the floor treatment. Most treatment tables in physio are almost as bad, so that's what I use. I'm a little too rickety for the real thing.