When sleeping is hazardous

Wait, what? Jan, we STRUGGLE to get to sleep and stay asleep at all! Much less experience good, deep quality sleep for SO many reasons you’ve written about before!

How can sleeping be hazardous? Isn’t it the Holy Grail of EDS and HSD pursuits??

Photo of an antique looking ornate golden chalice with a decorative base.
The Holy Grail

Well, yes, all of the above is true. Sleep of any quality can elude us for so many reasons as mentioned – bad or chronic pain, hyperadrenergia, insomnia from many reasons (frequent urination, histamine dumps in the night, more) as I’ve previously written.

But… too much sleep and /or too deep can also cause harm.

Huh? How is that you well ask?

Well, as me and my (super rare) hypermobile-savvy chiropractor can tell you, you can injure in your sleep.

I’m quite sure some of you are so used to this and have normalized it so much, you may not even think about it much. And/or, are used to dealing with the fall out. But… how does this happen?

Well, besides the semi-obvious problem of obstructive airway apnea when lying on our backs lending to low oxygen and all that entails (hello CPAP and biPAP machines and mouth guards), many who sleep on their sides also have a lot of problems – with their hips and shoulders.

What? How?

Well, if you are not on a sufficiently soft mattress topper for whatever reasons (cost, MCAS reactions, availability, living conditions), and sometimes even if you are, you may take your shoulders and hips out while side-sleeping.

It can lend to both frozen shoulder, torn rotator cuffs, and full subluxations and even dislocations in the worst cases.

As well as split or shifted sacro-iliac (SI) joints in the hips.

How do you know this, Jan?

Well… I keep experiencing the beginning of these problems every time I roll onto my side in my sleep. (My right side goes out much quicker than my left, for whatever reason. Many find one side or the other will do this, with no clear cause. It doesn’t match our handedness either.)

And while most of the time, the pain from this beginning to happen wakes me up, every once in a while, I’ve either exhausted myself enough, or medicated myself enough that I fail to wake up in time to not do damage!

As just happened to me last week, again, sigh, when I took a whole Melatonin tablet AND a muscle-relaxer on the same night in a desperate bid to relax and fall asleep. It worked, just… a little too well.

In my case, my shoulder starts to go out, but doesn’t quite fully, leaving it shoved a bit forward, and my thorax curved inward (concave chest), and lending to some mild or more brachial and or thoracic outlet syndrome symptoms. (Impinged nerves and blood vessels in the shoulders and at the bottom of the neck lending to tingling, numbness or loss of use of the arms or hands.)

My hip will start to give way, and I can feel my SI joint threatening to follow suit as well when I wake up in pain. So I quickly roll onto my back to alleviate this. So far so good, touch wood. (I split my right SI joint at the height of my onset cascade back in February 2012, so I know this can happen. And also lend to sciatica.)

But again, heaven help me if I sleep too hard!

My friends, to me, in a C-collar and arm sling: “What did you do?”

Me: “You should see the other guy!” haha.

Except it’s not very funny, since my bed wins every single time, sigh.

I have tried mattress toppers. They just allow me to sleep harder and get more comfortable on my shoulder, before I wake up starting to injure. I also react to the material they are made from.

Foam toppers help some, and I am using them on my poor Jan’s bed.

My next move is a fully adjustable hospital bed (no affiliation with this provider, just linked for illustration purposes), such that my head and chest are elevated, but my legs are too, so my butt is in a rut (heh), so I can’t slide down and crook my neck more either. As happens now with the custom foam wedge I’ve put under the head of my bed.

I just slowly slide down during the night until my neck is kinked, sigh. No, I can’t win. I’m just stuck trying to save up for now.

You also can’t easily turn on your side when your legs and torso are both elevated. So this helps prevent that problem all together if desired. But if you have an adjustable bed, then you can just operate it to flatten out when you need to lie flat, or get up or roll over temporarily.

Some folks can’t sleep on their backs at all for other reasons, including the aforementioned OA apnea among other reasons. Thanks weak connective tissues!

I’ve known some friends to literally sleep semi-reclined in reclining chairs for this reason also. Hey, folks are doing what they have to!

And I’m a lucky housed person. My houseless bendy friends experience this also (which is the majority of them), and I can’t tell you how many of them have thanked me for this insight – helping to explain so much of their pain and trouble lying on the hard ground. It’s not just the hard ground at play…

So, I’m counting my blessings, and a few sheep now too. Just not too many, smile…


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