Feeling tired and rung out? Find out how to get a better night’s sleep with expert Rachel’s top tips!

Happy New Year!

The excitement of Christmas and New Year has come and gone but do you feel rested after your break?

Or are you feeling tired and rung out?

We all look forward to the Christmas break and expect to chill out and recharge our batteries. But the truth is that we often go back to work in January, knackered!  And add the dark, gloomy, grey days of January into the mix, and it’s no wonder you feel exhausted.

Apparently, January is THE month people go online scouring the internet for solutions to their sleep problems.

Why is this a tricky time for sleep patterns?

Most of us are manic before Christmas, tying up work projects before the end of the year and getting ready for the festivities.  Plus, we have probably experienced quite a few weeks of partying in the lead up to and during Christmas! This all adds up to disrupted sleep routines – going to bed late and getting up at irregular times.  And we’ve also been eating lots of richer and heavier food, maybe drinking too much alcohol and taking little or no exercise. More changes that impact badly upon our sleep.

Add to the fact that many of us have been on the move during the holidays, visiting relatives and friends.  Sleepless, restless nights on uncomfortable mattresses that leave the body aching and done in add further to the problem.

In short, the festive season is the perfect environment to get into bad sleeping habits and get your slumbers out of sync.

It’s not just us adults that feel out of whack, it’s the kids too.  Their routines have been disrupted, they’ve been on a high sugar diet for a few weeks and are wired – they’re craving sugar like candy!  Consequently, they’re not sleeping, they’re tired and they’re disturbing your sleep too.

So, what can you do to get back on track?

Here are a few of my top tips.

  1. Routine, routine, routine!

Good sleep routine

Did I say routine?  Routine is key, your brain loves routine!  Unfortunately, your brain doesn’t recognise weekends or holidays, so it’s essential that you go to bed at more or less the same time every night and get up at the same time each morning – you’ve probably got a 30 – 60 minute window of lie in time; or you could be suffering from what is known as “social jet lag”, where your body clock has moved into a different time zone over the weekend.

  1. Have a soak before bedtime

A warm bath or shower is great for relaxing you, but don’t make it too hot or it will make you sweat too much and raise your heart rate, which isn’t conducive to helping you fall asleep.  Allow at least 20 minutes to make sure your body cools down before hitting the sack.

  1. Step away from the tech

Using mobile in bed

Have a tech embargo at least an hour before going to bed, to reduce your exposure to blue light from screens, which disrupts your drive for sleep.  It’s not just the screen glare, the content you’re looking at could either stimulate or stress you, waking you up when you should be feeling sleepy.

Keep electronic devices to a minimum in the bedroom, no phones, tablets, laptops or televisions.  Not only do they emit electro-magnetic pollution, which disrupts your sleep,  but it also stops the temptation to either watch or use them in bed. Particularly important where children are concerned.

Are you struggling with your sleep?  If you are, would you like to have a free 15 minute chat to see how I can help you?

You can access my online diary here and pick a date and time that suits you.

Just CLICK HERE to make your booking.

Rachel McGuinness, our guest blogger, is an expert in sleep deprivation and solving sleep problems. She is trained in  Cognitive Behaviour Therapy for Insomnia and is a Neuro Linguistic Programming Master Practitioner. She runs her own business called Wake up with Zest . As well as helping individuals with sleeping problems she also gives talks to businesses about how to get into good sleeping habits.

Pillow talk!

You spend a lot of time with your pillow, but how much thought goes into choosing one?

We all do it – we all need it – but not all of us get it in good enough quality. I’m talking about sleep.

One reason may be your pillow. Most of us have heard the mattress mantra urging us to replace every eight’ years but how often should we change our pillow – and what sort of pillow would give us the best night’s sleep?

Read our blog for some simple, practical tips on choosing the right pillow for you.

Pillow perfection

There are so many different types of pillow – the choice can be a bit bewildering. It’s a very individual purchase; one person’s dream pillow is another’s nightmare.

Comfort is so subjective. One person may find the material filling of a pillow ideal for them – that could be latex, which tends to sort of bounce back immediately, whereas others might like a soft enveloping type of pillow like a feather or a down pillow. So it’s very much personal preference.

What you have to consider is the type of support that you like. So do you like a shallow or a deeper pillow, and do you prefer a softer pillow to a firmer one? These are some of the things to consider.

Most Physiotherapists believe that there is no one perfect pillow for everyone. There’s only the perfect one for you as an individual.

Pillow position

The conventional wisdom says a good pillow should keep your head in ‘neutral alignment’ – meaning it’s sitting squarely on your shoulders, not bending too far back or forward. We’re told we should use our pillow to produce the same position for our shoulders and spine as if we were standing upright with the correct posture.

Neck pain or stiffness and even persistent headaches could be the result of poor pillow support while sleeping.

So, the right pillow can be important. Much depends on the position you sleep in. There are three main types of sleeping position:

  • On your back – you will need thinner pillows so your head is not thrown too far forward. Also, look to cradle your neck with an extra bit of height in the bottom third of your pillow, nearest your neck.
  • On your front – tummy sleepers need a very thin, almost flat, soft pillow. We don’t on the whole recommend sleeping on your tummy as it requires you to sleep for long periods with your head turned in an extreme position. Tummy sleepers often have a favourite side to turn their head and so often become stiff to the opposite direction.
  • On your side – you will need a fluffier, thicker pillow to fill in the space between your head and shoulders. This gap varies according to your build so try to match the thickness to the space between your ear and top of your shoulder.
  • If you toss and turn and sleep in all three of these positions then choose a medium-thickness pillow which can be either a high-fill down pillow or a medium synthetic one.

 

Types of pillow

Down or feather pillows are usually recommended by sleep experts as one of the best type for a good night’s rest, although pillows can be filled with almost anything. The most commonly used ones are down-feather combinations, foam, or a polyester fibre fill. All have their pros and cons.

  • Feather pillows. Soft and flexible but it’s worth checking on the contents. Chicken feathers, can straighten with time and quills could then poke through to the outside of the pillow and disturb your sleep. These pillows may sink during the night reducing the support they give.
  • Down pillows. Extra soft but firm enough to give support where needed. Down pillows don’t have any sharp quills because they are made from the delicate fluffy feathers found beneath the tougher exterior ones. The softness and cost, and down pillows are often pricey, will go up in proportion to the amount of down inside. One of the positive things about down pillows is that you can move the stuffing around so that you have the most support where you need it.

Many down pillows are washable.

  • Foam or latex. These pillows tend to be firm with a definite bounce to them. They hold their shape well and are considered hypo-allergenic – although people with breathing problems like asthma may still want to use a special barrier cover. Specially moulded ‘orthopaedic’ pillows to support the neck are often made of this material and you can use them with a softer pillow on top if needed.
  • Memory foam is polyurethane with added chemicals. It moulds its shape to you but bounces back once you remove your head. However, it can be quite smelly. These pillows can also leave you with a hot head, so if you like the feeling of cool bedding it may not be for you. Plus, if you sleep in a very cool room, some will get hard and feel uncomfortable.
  • Polyester filled. These are the most popular pillows and vary from soft to very firm. They’re usually quite cheap and are often machine washable. However, they can offer poor neck support and may be vulnerable to dust mites.

 

 Looking after your pillow

dust mite

According to experts around 10% of the weight of an old, unwashed pillow could be made up of skin scales, mould, fungi and dead and living dust mites!

To keep a pillow in its prime condition it should be replaced every 2 to 3 years and washed every 3 months.

Pillows that have lost their height, are lumpy, misshapen or discoloured are definitely past their ‘best before’ date!

Pillow price

Don’t let price be your guide. You may be able to pick up two pillows for under a tenner or you could spend hundreds. Just because a pillow costs more does not automatically make it a better pillow or the right pillow for you.

As pillows are such a personal thing it could be a cheap one will suit you best, although it may not stay like new or retain its level of support for as long as a more expensive one and may need to be replaced sooner.

And do try before you buy – especially if the store has a demonstration pillow already out of its packaging. You can’t really get a great idea of the pillow when it’s still in its plastic bag.

So if you’re going to a bed store, if they have pillows on display in their packaging ask the assistants whether they have one of those pillows out of its packaging so you can give it a try or lie on a bed with it.

And if that all seems a bit too much of a fuss for you, remember how long you spend in bed with your head on your pillow and how important it is to get a good night’s sleep!

If you are suffering with neck pain or headaches and would like to make an appointment with one of our Physiotherapists please call 020 8876 5690, click here to email us or pop in. Our Physios are always happy to chat things over before booking.

 

Workstation assessments: complying with the law and improving the health of your staff

Are you an Employer, HR Director or Office Manager?

Read on to find out how we helped a City PR company:

  • comply with the law relating to Health and Safety at work
  • improve working conditions for their office workers
  • and improve the health of their staff by reducing work related aches and pains and absenteeism

 

Complying with DSE Regulations

Do you have employees who have continuous spells working at their computer for an hour or more on a more or less daily basis?

If so do you know that you have a legal responsibility to make sure they know the risks to their health and how to minimise them?

Office workers typically spend an average of 60% of their time at their desks!

Your duties come under the European Health and Safety Legislation and in particular the Display Screen Equipment Regulations 1992 (amended 2002).

If you are unaware of your responsibilities – don’t worry as we can help you comply with all aspects of this law.

What are the potential risks to health?

sore neck

sore neck

The most common work related aches and pains affect the neck, arms and spine.

The factors that make this more likely are:

  • Sitting in a prolonged, static position
  • Placing your joints in awkward postures
  • Carrying out highly repetitive movements like using a mouse or typing
  • The stress of workplace demands
  • Poor working habits
  • Poor general health and fitness
  • Using an unsuitable chair for your size and shape
  • Not having your desk, chair and computer set up correctly

How we helped a City PR company with their workplace health

Diana Wilson, our Ergonomics Physiotherapist, visited the offices of a PR company in the City to carry out Workstation Assessments on their office workers.

For those with no current work related aches and pains Diana carried out a Display Screen Equipment (DSE) Assessment.

This involved showing each staff member the correct set up for their desk, chair and computer.

Where possible she juggled different chairs between staff to find the best fit for each person. Where this was not possible she sourced the correct new chair.

She taught the staff how they should be sitting correctly and sourced any accessories that were needed like a footrest for those whose feet couldn’t reach the floor or a document holder for those frequently referring to notes. She gave each staff member a summary report of her findings and recommendations.

For those staff with existing work related aches and pains she carried out a more Detailed Workstation Assessment.

This involved analysing and identifying why a particular individual was suffering with pain and making changes to their workstation setup or posture to prevent symptoms occurring. A full detailed report was provided with recommendations and solutions.

Lastly she educated the office workers on the importance of frequent, short breaks, showed them simple exercises they could do to help prevent pain and talked to them about their general health and how keeping fit can help them stay healthy at work.

Testimonial from the HR Director

This is what the HR Director of that PR company said about the service we provided:

“Diana Wilson of Physio on the River attended our office recently to carry out a series of Workstation assessments, including one for a pregnant employee.

She is friendly, professional and approachable and the quality of her workstation assessment reports and recommendations were very high. Most importantly, our employees commented on how helpful and supportive Diana was on giving advice on the optimal workstation set up for them.

Feedback from Diana’s visit was so good that we have her booked in for another two days of workstation assessments later in the year.

It follows from the above that I recommend her highly.

Yours sincerely

Ann Marie

HR Director”

If you would like to book Workstation assessments for your staff or chat to Diana about what is involved call us on 020 8876 5690 or click here to email your enquiry.

If you have found this blog useful and would like to see other blogs about good health at work, click on the following links:

Are you sitting comfortably?

Do you have good working habits?

Which workstations accessories could help you enjoy a more comfortable working day?

 

Which workstation accessories could help you enjoy a more comfortable working day?

Apart from the basic desk, chair and computer there are a number of useful gadgets which can help you work more comfortably at work or in your home office. We’ve picked out a few that we think can make a real difference.

 

  • Picture of footrest sourced from www.riversideonline.com

    sourced from www.riversideonline.com

    The footrest: in a previous blog ‘Are you sitting comfortably?’ we talked about getting your chair adjusted so that it is at the right height for your desk. If, having followed our guidelines, you find that your feet are then unsupported, you will need a footrest. They come in all shapes and sizes and most are adjustable in height. They are relatively inexpensive but essential to give your legs and back support.

  • The laptop stand: the laptop is great for convenience but is not ergonomically ideal and can easily become the source of aches and pains. We would highly recommend only using a laptop without a laptop stand when out and about but not when in the office for any length of time. Laptop stands are neat fold away stands which place your laptop screen at the correct height and help prevent neck and back pain. If you refer to documents, many stands come with an integrated document holder.  Once the laptop is on its stand it is necessary to use a separate mouse and keyboard. Many suppliers sell ‘laptop sets’ that include all three products in one package deal.

 

  • laptop trolley bag sourced from octangle.co.za

    sourced from octangle.co.za

    Laptop bags: there are some excellent bags on the market now that are both lightweight and either rucksack in style or on wheels – or both. There should be no excuse to lug your heavy laptop and work around on one shoulder!

 

  • vertical mouse sourced from www.aliexpress.com

    sourced from www.aliexpress.com

    Mouse: should you be unfortunate enough to develop symptoms related to using the mouse, there are a number of alternative mice on offer which change the position of your wrist and hand. There is even one that can be operated more like a pen.

  • Keyboard: equally there are a variety of differently shaped keyboards on the market to suit all individuals. There are even portable roll up keyboards for use with a laptop.
  • Document holders: there are several different types of document holders that can be used in conjunction with your computer. Some are freestanding and others attach to the side of the monitor or sit in front of the screen. They are all designed to cut down on the repetitive neck movements required if looking at work on your desk and then glancing up to the screen.

 

  • telephone headset sourced from blogs.voices.com

    sourced from blogs.voices.com

    Telephone headsets: if you are on the phone more than 40% of your day or if your calls last more than 5-10 minutes we recommend getting a headset. These are lightweight and very comfortable to wear. They can be totally wireless and sound quality is excellent. They will free up your hands to take notes and ease the strain on neck and shoulder muscles.

Remember, if you are unsure that your workstation is set up correctly we can help.

 

If you enjoyed reading this take a look at our other posture related blogs!

Do you have good working habits?

Getting your workstation set up correctly is the first part of looking after the health of your spine. The second part is introducing some good working habits which will cut down the loading of your joints and soft tissues and keep you pain free through your working life.

  • Have you studied your work area? Can you rearrange your desk so you don’t have to stretch repeatedly for things that are used regularly? Put heavy items such as folders in a place that is easy to get at. Place commonly used items within easy reach.
  • Are you a leg crosser? Make sure you are not crossing your legs habitually. This puts the spine on a twist and can set up back pain.
  • image sourced from www.waterdispensercups.co.uk

    image sourced from www.waterdispensercups.co.uk

    Do you take regular breaks? Organise your work so that you can change position every hour and break up the periods of sitting. We recommend taking mini-breaks away from your desk for 5 minutes in every hour. If you get absorbed in your work and  forget the time  set an alarm to remind you to get up and move.

  • Drink plenty of water so that your tissues are hydrated and healthy and minimize tea and coffee which can be dehydrating.
  • Make sure you are close enough to the screen and keyboard. If you are too far away you will be encouraged to slouch and this leads to a ‘poking chin posture’. Make sure that armrests fitted to the chair do not prevent you from pulling the chair in close to the desk.
  • Is the mouse too far away from your side? Have it within easy reach with the elbow at 90°.
  • image sourced from www.daskeyboard.com

    image sourced from www.daskeyboard.com

    Be careful when using a wrist rest. Resting your wrists during mouse or keyboard use just places unwanted pressure on the front of the wrist where important tendons and nerves pass. The hands should hover over the mouse and keyboard, maintaining a flat angle at the wrist. Try using the function/shortcut keys on the keyboard to give your mouse use a rest.

  • Do you cradle the phone between your ear and your shoulder?  This can lead to pain and stiffness in the neck. If you use the phone for more than 40% of your day or have long conversations then it is worth getting a headset. This will free up your hands during the calls and place your neck in a better position. Place the phone on your non-dominant side if you take notes during calls.


Person being instructed in yoga

  • What kind of lifestyle do you lead? If you have a sedentary job it’s important to inject some regular exercise into your life that gets you out of that sitting posture – something like walking, running, yoga, Pilates or swimming.
  • Simply doing some stretching exercises for your spine and upper limbs is a good habit to get into. It will help to keep your body supple and prevent stiffness creeping in with time.

5-exercises-at-work-250x150

If you work in an office or run your own business and would like us to carry out some workstation assessments or DSE assessments for your staff please call us on 020 8876 5690 or email us here for more information.

If you enjoyed this blog take a look at our other posture related blogs.

How to cope with Osteoarthritis

Did you know that last week was both national ‘Walk to Work Week’ and ‘Arthritis Week’? As Physiotherapists we treat lots of people suffering from arthritis in their joints. A common question they ask us is ‘What form of exercise is safe for me to do?’

Walking and swimming are excellent forms of exercise because we know they are good for the heart but gentle on the cartilage of your joints. Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis and affects men and women equally. It occurs when cartilage (the tough elastic material that covers and protects the ends of bones) begins to wear. Cartilage is an essential part of the joint; not only does it act as a shock absorber, it also enables the joint to move smoothly. With OA, the cartilage erodes, eventually resulting in pain, stiffness, swelling, muscle weakness and in extreme cases bone-on-bone movement in the affected joint.

Picture of arthritic knee sourced from www.viciouscycleblog.com

image sourced from www.viciouscycleblog.com

Although there is no cure for OA there is much that a person can do to take control of their disease and manage their condition. Physiotherapists can help you minimise your symptoms and delay or even avoid severe damage to your joints. Whilst your doctor can help with appropriate medication, your Physio can help reduce the pain and stiffness in the joints, strengthen weak muscles and give you advice on how to stay active but protect your joints.

Sometimes surgery is necessary and your Physio will be vital in getting you strong and flexible again afterwards and back to the activities you enjoy. Foot posture can sometimes contribute to problems with the knees and hips: orthotics for your shoes made by a Podiatrist can help alignment of the leg.

Exercise forms an important part of the management of OA. Arthritic joints like a little of everything and not too much of any one thing! So keeping gently active during the day – a little but often – is what the joints like. Too much sitting around leads to stiffness on getting up and being on your feet too long may make your lower limb joints painful and swollen. Getting and keeping the muscles that surround your arthritic joint strong helps to offload the joint from too much strain. Regular exercise will also help with weight management and keeping your weight under control will place less stress and strain on the joints and alleviate your symptoms. Acupuncture (given by our Physios) can help with pain relief.

Picture of nordic walking sourced from www.visitgarda.com

Image sourced from www.visitgarda.com

As a sufferer of arthritis myself, I find using Nordic Walking Poles of great help. They allow me to walk without a limp and they give me more of a workout. They also help me increase my walking distance.

Many people, when diagnosed with arthritis, think there is nothing that can be done to help. This simply isn’t true and I would urge sufferers to have an assessment with a Chartered Physiotherapist who will examine every aspect of the problem come up with a plan of action to help.

 

Are you sitting comfortably?

The majority of our clients are sedentary workers. You may be surprised to hear that sitting all day can be just as harmful as heavy labour. Very few jobs these days don’t include sitting at a desk and using a computer for at least some of the time.

Getting your workstation set up correctly doesn’t have to be expensive, although we would recommend spending a reasonable amount on your office chair as this is an essential piece of equipment to do your job properly and stay healthy.

The aim is to put your spine in the most ‘neutral’ position where the joints, ligaments and muscles are held in the position of least strain and effort.

  • Chair height:  Place your arms by your side with your elbows bent at a right angle. The middle row of your keyboard should be just below the level of your fingertips. Adjust your chair accordingly. If the chair is too low it will cause you to hunch your shoulders to raise your hands over the keyboard, leading to tension in the neck and shoulder muscles. You may want to get a keyboard shelf which pulls out from under the surface of the desk. If you have to raise the chair up to a level where you can’t place your feet on the floor then you will need a footstool (or a box) to support your feet.
  • When sitting on your chair your feet should be flat on the floor or footstool. The angle at your knees and hips should be at 90° or more – but your knees should never be higher than your hips. The seat should be deep enough to support ¾ of the length of your thighs, but not so deep that your back lacks support. The backrest should be slightly curved and adjusted to support the hollow in your spine. If your chair lacks this support try a rolled towel placed in the small of your back. A slight forward tilt to the chair seat can help to maintain the curve in the lower back. Pull your chair in close to the desk to encourage good upright posture.


Correct screen height

  • Have you studied your computer terminal recently? Your eyes should be level with  the first line of a word document.
  • The screen should be at right angles to your face and straight ahead of you.
  • If you wear bifocals lower the monitor to a comfortable reading height.

 

Finally, remember that the chair cannot give you good posture – you still have to work at becoming aware of your posture. Sit yourself right back in the chair, draw yourself up tall, ‘wear’ your head over your shoulders and not in front of your shoulders and let the chair support you.image sourced from www.hubpages.com

 

 

Next steps:

If you start to develop symptoms– commonly aches and pains in the neck, upper back, lower back and arms or funny sensations in the arms or legs – then give us a call on 020 8876 5690 and our Physiotherapists or massage therapists can help you resolve them.

If you run your own business or work in an office and need Workstation Assessments or Display Screen Assessments to be carried out to comply with the law, our Ergonomics Physiotherapist can sort that out for you. Just call 020 8876 5690 or email us here.

If you enjoyed this blog then take a look at our other posture related blogs.

  • Physio on the River
    The Old Ticket Office
    Barnes Bridge
    The Terrace
    Barnes
    London
    SW13 0NP
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    Fri: 7.30am – 7pm
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