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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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July 01 2010

Does It Matter How Grok Slept?

By Mark Sisson
144 Comments

Since you’ve gone Primal all sorts of strange questions pop into your head. And since you’ve gone Primal life has definitely changed. You wore Vibrams to your last shareholder meeting. The idea of skipping two, or heck, three consecutive meals, seems perfectly reasonable, and your idea of a frozen treat is that local, pastured lamb you’ve got sitting in your chest freezer, deconstructed. You’re even toying with the idea of ditching shampoo. Sheesh. To outsiders, you’re that weird caveman guy who eats steak for lunch and keeps a jar of coconut oil at his desk and thinks he’s living in the Paleolithic, but really, you’re just someone who’s discovered that keeping an ear, an eye, and a foot in our ancestral past makes living in the present that much more fulfilling – and healthy.

But how far do you go? What about sleeping? (Here come those questions…) Should we care how and upon what type of bedding Grok slumbered?

Primal is often about correcting a deficiency, or righting a “wrong.” Heart disease, diabetes, obesity are real, pressing issues for modern man that are not being addressed by our modern diets, so it makes sense to look at the lifestyles of populations (of any era) that did not suffer from these afflictions. If we can establish that modern patterns of sleep are giving us fits – that there is indeed a modern wrong that needs righting – perhaps it makes sense to look to traditional methods of sleeping for relief. So, is sleep an issue for us? Does modern sleep need correcting?

Probably. If you ask Wikipedia, we’ve identified at least seventeen common medical sleep disorders. These are real medical afflictions with fancy polysyllabic names, which make me think that sleep, at least for a significant portion of the population, is dysfunctional. Besides, we’ve all heard the complaints that people have about sleep. They toss and turn, they wake up in the middle of the night, they can’t find a comfortable position, they snore, they wake up with aches and pains. If you ask your coworkers or a random acquaintance how they sleep, I’ll bet half will reply, “Badly.” Why is this?

It’s tough to pin down a single cause for our collective sleep woes. Is it the chronic stress disrupting our hormonal balance, or the SAD? Are thoughts of work weighing heavily on our minds and preventing sleep from taking hold? Or have we forgotten how to position our bodies atop unsuitable bedding? Is it all of the above?

I’m sure it all has an effect, and I’m all about eating the right foods, managing stress, and enjoying life, but today I’m interested in the effects of modern sleep posture and modern bedding. It’s the (seemingly common) tossing and turning that really sets off a red flag, for me, because that seems like the manifestation of your subconscious self actively and vociferously searching for a comfortable position in bed. For the sweet spot. You know what I mean – that perfect position in bed, where your joints align and your spine feels right as you slip effortlessly off into the dream world. Why don’t we find that all the time?

As I’m writing this post, my dog – happy, lazy hound that he is – sleeps. He’s been sleeping for the past two hours without moving. He looks a bit like this. Same position, in fact. But he hasn’t moved at all. Oh, his paws have twitched a few times and his tail has mysteriously wagged, but he’s the picture of comfort. This dude is sleeping well. He found the sweet spot. He always seems to find the sweet spot, no matter where or when he sleeps. Dog bed, hardwood floor, backseat – it doesn’t matter. He makes it work.

I wonder how it comes so easily for animals.

In her book on posture, Esther Gokhale (I’m always tempted to type “Grokhale”) discusses the right way to lie down. Whether you’re in bed, on a cot, or on the floor, the key is to lengthen your spine. You touch ground with your sacrum, lay your palms on the ground, and slowly lower yourself back, taking care to actively lengthen your spine – vertebrae by vertebrae – by pushing through your hands. The result is an oddly awkward feeling; you really do feel longer than normal. It takes a few minutes to get used to it, but it’s an incredibly comfortable way to lie down. The first time I tried it, I fell asleep (inadvertently) in ten minutes. In fact, her method of “stretch lying” was my biggest takeaway from the book, simply because I wasn’t expecting to learn how to lie down. Posture? Yeah, I see how modern posture is dysfunctional, but I figured lying down was pretty basic stuff that no one could mess up. My sleep is better than ever since adopting her method of lying down. I no longer have to find the sweet spot to get my joints aligned and my spine supported. I am the sweet spot.

Dogs don’t need the Gokhale method, of course. They don’t need to pay attention to spine lengthening or support. They just do it naturally. Look at that canine in the picture again and note how everything lines up effortlessly. Babies and tots are able to sleep just as easily because their ideas of posture aren’t tainted (they don’t even have “ideas” of posture; like dogs, they just lie there… it’s very Zen).

What about bedding?

Research tends to show mixed results when looking at people’s preferences for bed firmness, with some experiencing more pain with firmer beds and less with “medium-firm”. Conventional wisdom (for millennia, in fact) holds that firmer beds are best for back pain (think ascetic monks lying on mats), but the recent research mars that assumption.

Honestly, from my investigation I don’t think the bedding matters too much as long as you’ve got the right sleep posture. I may risk belaboring my analogy further, but I’m going to look at the dog again. He sleeps anywhere and on any surface. He seems to show a preference for lying on something (whether it be a random towel or his fluffy dog bed), but he sleeps just as well on the hardwood floor. Maintaining that perfect sleep posture seems to be key to his success.

I’ve had similar experiences. As long as I’m mindful of the length of my spine, I can stretch out just about anywhere and be comfortable. I figure we were born without beds, so we probably come naturally equipped to flop down and sleep on the ground. At the same time, I prefer sleeping in my bed above hunkering down on the cold hard floor (although the company might have something to do with it), and I suffer no ill effects from it.

Still, I know you guys love to hack just about anything you can, so tomorrow I’ll discuss some alternative sleep postures (and maybe some bedding options).

TAGS:  Grok

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144 thoughts on “Does It Matter How Grok Slept?”

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  1. Any ideas on pillows? I know that is a whole other world of research, but do people find sleeping without caused their allignment to change, thus making it more difficult to sleep? Grok probably had no pillows how would he manage?

    Any thoughts?

    1. Recently I made a buckwheat pillow and i’ve been sleeping way better since. It is really firm but it basically contours exactly to how you want it. Oddly, when I wake up the pillow usually has only like a couple inches of thickness so maybe the thinner the better or something along those lines. All I know is I used to wake up with neck problems and they seemingly have disapeared since

      1. I bought a new bed this year, it’s firm on the inside with a pillow top. The best sleep I had was after buying a new, yet still rather cheap, pillow. I felt like I was better off with the fluffy pillow cradling my head. Sadly the fluff doesn’t last long on cheap pillows. I’m planning on getting a fuller down pillow this month. I hope that helps my sleeping.

        I also have trouble with my sleep position. I’m a tosser/turner. Some nights I need to sleep on my stomach, some my back, and others on my side fetal position. No idea how to get comfortable on any given night. Can’t wait to read the next part of this topic.

        Going to try the spine lengthening tonight. 😀 Can’t wait, especially if it works.

        1. You might look into a water-based pillow. You would be able to change the amount of water to suit your desired thickness. When I overheat at night, I flip it over and rest on the water side instead of the padded. It crinkles a little, but the water seems to suck the heat right out, and I fall back asleep.

    2. I remember not using a pillow at all as a child, I always slept better without one. To this day, I either sleep on my very flat pillow, or end up falling asleep with my head next to my pillow rather than on it! My spinal alignment definitely seems to be better without one, and if I ever sleep on a fluffy pillow I wake up with an achey neck.

  2. Interesting… Sleep is a major part of having a healthy and fit lifestyle.

  3. Those interested in the Gokhale method should check out Alexander technique lessons. It is a technique that has been around, and even scientifically studied, for over 100 years. I take lessons from a local teacher and they have helped me immensely with back and other joint pain.

    The non-profit American Society for the Alexander Technique has a list of certified teachers on its website: http://www.alexandertech.org/teachers/FindTeachers.php

  4. My posture is the exact same as your dogs. I used to sleep in many different positions but I found the sweet spot a few months ago.

    My dog sleeps in various positions and sleeps all day too, on any type of floor anywhere.

    I think bedding makes little difference. But, that is based off of only my experience… I have been sleeping in the same twin bed for 22 years and sleep great every single night. I NEVER wake up unless there is a big storm or something. I feel incredibly blessed at this.

    One thing that really helps me is I have my fan going… even in the winter. I need this constant noise throughout the night.

  5. I personally feel that bedding does matter. I went from having back problems on a typical spring mattress, to sleeping quite comfortably on a 100% natural latex mattress. Huge difference! And the natural latex bed never sags or gets indentations like spring mattresses do. Can’t recommend them enough!

    1. Oooh – can I ask what brand of mattress you’ve got? I’m in the middle of mattress shopping, and have been hearing such great things about latex, I want to find a couple locally to try out! Any other advice? Thanks…

      1. If you’re shopping during the summer keep in mind that latex will be harder when temperatures will drop. The mattress will also seem harder after putting a fitted sheet on it.

        1. Sonia: I’ve experienced no hardening at all. Maybe that’s true of synthetic latex foam. The one I have is 100% natural hypoallergenic latex. Zero complaints!

        2. I have been sleeping on a synthetic/natural latex blend for 7 years and have never felt any change in hardness. We ended up buying latex mattresses for the whole family including the guest room because they are so comfortable. If you don’t mind the blend, check out Arizona Premium Matress Co. They are made locally in Phoenix (I live in Flagstaff), are excellent quality mattresses (both 100% natural with organic cotton and the blend mattresses), they offer different types of natural pillows, and the mattresses are the best deal I could find. Looking back, I would have preferred 100% natural latex, but I would not have been able to afford it. I got the Ultra Plush Talalay King and have been so happy for 7 years. Back pain is gone! LifeKind is another company that has all-natural latex mattresses products if you want to go that route. Cool post, by the way. I’m going to try that laying down method tonight!

        3. The mattress is made of natural latex. I guess it’s one more proof( if I needed one) that I’m the one from the princess and the pea story…

      2. Jen: http://www.habitatfurnishings.com/ is the site I bought from. You have something like 180 days to try it before returning it for a full refund. I got the 6″ full size model, as I didn’t want any extra cushioning or pillow top or unnecessary “stuff.”

      3. Thanks Lisa for the recommendations (and sorry – I don’t have a “reply” link under your post for some reason).

        I’ll take a look, though I’m pretty far from AZ, and hoping to find something I can try before I buy!

        Kind of hoping I can find something this weekend, and just get it down and over with, so I can free up my brain for other stuff 😉

  6. I wonder if this correlates to neck pain as well. What does Gokhale recommend when it comes to positioning your head as you fall asleep?

    1. The book recommends putting a firm-ish pillow under your head and the tops of your shoulders, and reaching up to straighten out your neck before sliding your shoulders down. Similar to step 2 of this yoga pose: http://www.yogajournal.com/poses/482

      1. That’s funny, because when I read Gokhale’s description, it sounded to me just like Savasana, which is always done at the end of yoga class. You’re not *supposed* to fall asleep during Savasana, but I invariably drift off because it’s so comfortable – even on a relatively hard surface. That said, I have never been much of a back sleeper (prefer my side) but in the past year, I find myself in that position more often when I wake up. I should try going to sleep in Savasana and see what happens.

  7. I have been paying attention ALOT to laying posture lately since I have had 3 ribs in my upper back popping out. There are few uncomfortable positions when you have that to deal with. But in general, never had a problem with sleeping.

    But we now know that lack of sleep can lead to some weight gain, so I make sure and tell my clients who want to lose fat they should try to get as much sleep as they can at night. For me, 8-9 hours does the trick. It’s a lot, and many people’s lives get in the way of that amount.

      1. My mom’s a massage therapist, believe me it happens all the time. I’ve even had to have her put a rib back in place for me a time or two. Ribs have joints that can dislocate just like any other and they can easily come slightly out of joint, called a subluxation, just from sleeping in an awkward position, twisting motions, or contact sports. They often go back into place on their own. If not a registered massage therapist should be able to manipulate the rib back into place, but it is painful!

  8. I have a very narrow jaw (can’t tell from looking at my picture, though) which pushes the soft tissues back into my throat farther than normal (and caused me to have two teeth in addition to my wisdom teeth removed for lack of room), resulting in obstructive sleep apnea. The reason for the narrow jaw probably has something to do with excessive sugar consumption as a child, but whatever the reason, I’m stuck with it. Losing 100 lbs helped somewhat, but I still require a CPAP to get any meaningful sleep.

    With one exception: I can sleep in a recliner, at an angle of about 25-30 degrees, without a CPAP. That definitely doesn’t work with the idea of “long lying”.

    I’ve also noticed that the required CPAP pressure is about 11cm on my back, 10 cm on my left side, and about 8cm on my right side. As a result, most mornings I wake up on my right side. Which is a problem because of bursitis in my right shoulder.

    The bursitis was helped a bit when I got a memory-foam mattress. A waterbed is really my absolute favorite, but my wife doesn’t like them, and they are high-maintenance. Airbeds are really comfy, too, but again, high-maintenance (and you absolutely have to have a backup for the inevitable late-night air leak). The really expensive ones are not as comfy as the $35 model you can get at Wal-Mart, but the $35 model only lasts about 6 months (even with patching, which takes time, skill, and practice). Memory-foam was the compromise.

    So it doesn’t look like I’m ever going to be able to sleep like Grok. I’m pretty sure he didn’t have a CPAP, or access to a reliable supply of electricity to run it. At least since I got a CPAP, my main sleep problem has been scheduling enough of it. That’s because now that I can actually stay awake during the day, I have entirely too many things I’m interested in, and there just isn’t enough time.

    Sigh.

    1. It’s the result of a deformed maxillary bone and it’s not your fault.
      It happens when your Mom, and her Mom, etc…consumed ‘white man’s’ food during pregnancy.

      Weston A. Price explains it in details in his Book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration.

      Interesting Read for sure.

    2. Well, I was reading this, and thinking “gee, this guy sounds a lot like my husband.” Oh wait, it IS my husband!

      I second him on the airbed. I still miss using the airbed, but I didn’t like waking up on the occasionally flat one (and even if you DO have an extra mattress, you have to wake up and air it up if it leaks flat during the night).

      Also, I sleep better as long as I can keep HIM sleeping on his right side (but there’s the bursitis issue), because his CPAP blows cold air right on me if he isn’t turned away.

      Ah, the joys of being married.

    3. If you look on the Weston A Price website, they actually suggest a natural dentist to solve problems like that. Taking out teeth can actually make it worse–instead the solution is in slowly enlarging the roof of your mouth (for lack of scientific terminology). I’d look it up on their website or try to find a natural dentist near you. Natural dentists have an entirely different philosophy about teeth/jaws than other dentists or orthodontists.

      1. Facial Orthodontists do dental arch widening and it is possible at ANY age.
        Get your vitamins in check, esp. Vit. D3 before starting treatment. Bone remodeling of the upper and lower dental arch is supported by a paleo/primal diet and many orthodontists even check up on your eating habits before starting treatment.

        I am currently undergoing dental arch widening of both arches, I am female 40 years old and it’s my 8th month.
        I’ve always had a hard time finding the right spot for my lower jaw at night, suffered from neck and face muscle pain and tension in my face and jaw.
        With the expansion the tongue moved up, lower jaw closing comfortably and teeth resting together in the same position ALL night. I no longer have to adjust the pillow to my jaw, or adjust my lips or any other weird facial tick I used to have, or wake up from tension or neck pain.

        You’ll be amazed how much of this discomfort we think is the bed and pillow is actually a misaligned and underdeveloped jaw and a malocclusion.

    4. It’s a bit late in the game now, but in case anyone else is reading through here, check out this post on epigenetic orthodontics to correct malocclusion without braces or extractions:

      http://prettyinprimal.blogspot.com/2011/05/epigenetic-orthodontics-building-better.html

      I’m not totally sold on the resources she links to but the concept is really intriguing me right now. And as Kara wrote, it’s all about finding a professional who looks at things differently. Good luck!

  9. On the days I do my 5×5 weight training, those nights I experience fantastic, deep sleep and though I do change positions, they all feel great! It must be a combination of physical and biochemical conditions. I appreciate this because I know many people who do not sleep well. They don’t do 5×5’s either.

  10. I sleep without moving really. I guess I’ve got that sweet spot. I almost never have any pain, stiffness or soreness either. I jsut sleep half on my front and half on my left side, like an angle with a pillow to prop me up and a soft pillow under my head at to keep it level with my spine.

  11. Recently ive been sleeping on the floor cause my brothers room is right next to mine and hes got a love for those nasty glade fresheners in his windowless room. Either way ive been sleeping great… takes a little time getting used to and I put down a blanket and some yoga mats but i think without them I would be too

  12. Great post, can’t wait for tomorrow’s!

    It was a link you had a few months ago that got me to ditch my pillow. Definitely looking to explore this further…

  13. What about a Hammock (Mayan)? I have using one for over year and it has done wonders for my sleep.

    1. I’ve been using a hammock for over a year now as well. Sleep through the night & don’t wake up with neck/back pain. It’s amazing!

    2. I used a Mayan style hammock for years and slept great. After a few days to a week of trying to get used to it I slept very deep and didn’t move much at all, and my back problems disappeared til I got married and moved back to a spring mattress. We’ve upgraded to a memory foam and it’s far better then the box spring but still not as good as the ole hammock.

  14. I agree that figuring out what your body is supposed to do makes more sense than trying to find the perfect bed.

    A recent National Geo article discussed sleep around the world, and I recall the author (an anthropologist) described modern beds as “giant sleep machines.” According to her, our notions of sleep were just weird: solo marathons of non-stop slumber. The bed is supposed to make this happen, but maybe it isn’t a natural phenomenon.

    She pointed out that in most places and times, sleep has been (and is) chummier, noisier, and more frequently interrupted. I especially liked her description of sleep in a particular hunter-gatherer tribe, where people slept on the ground in a big group. Even after bedtime, she wrote, “the night crackles with conversations, chickens, and sex.” Even though they tended to wake up and move around and do, um, stuff during the night, everyone seemed to be plenty rested the next day.

    Anyway, makes me think that sleep posture and timing are a bigger deal than getting a straight eight-hour shot on my tempurpedic. Wonder what’d happen if I budgeted ten or more hours for sleep but went to bed shortly after sundown? Would I wake up for some midnight shenanigans? Sounds like fun.

    Unless the chicken is mandatory. There are limits to everything.

    1. Very interesting info here. I remember watching a show about a year ago called “Living With The Kombai Tribe” It was basically 2 dudes from America going out to Papua New Guinea into the middle of a secluded rain forest and living with a tribe that basically has not evolved. Modern day Groks, if you will.

      I watched this show before discovering the primal lifestyle, and one thing that stuck with me at the time and that I instantly thought of after reading your post, was the way they slept. They slept exactly like the hunter/gatherers that you described, in a group in their huts, among their pet dogs and pigs, having full conversations, singing, getting freaky, etc, all through the night, while others slept next to them….and they would all, always, be full of energy and literally working to live each day. I never understood how they were so active, yet seemed to sleep in such a “bad” situation. It’s quite confusing…

  15. Ah cool post. I sleep well just about anywhere, but I’ll have to try this. My main problem is just finding the time to sleep 🙁 I keep trying to make it, but I’m a total failure lately.

  16. Mark –

    Interesting topic. I’m confused by your description of how to lie down. Touch ground with your sacrum (lower back)..ok…so you are in a “crunch” position lowering yourself down? And then you push against the ground to push your head and shoulders away from your pelvis? Could you clarify? Youtube video?

    Also, this puts you on your back, right? Isn’t sleeping on your back a guaranteed way to snore? I’d be interested in your thoughts on sleep position…back, side, prone.

    Thanks for the information as always!

    1. I’m no expert, but I frequently fall asleep on my back with my knees up (like I’m about to do a crunch). Having the knees up allows the lower back to lie flat on the bed and is VERY comfortable!

    2. My thoughts exactly, perhaps the process of lying doing lengthens the spine regardless of what position you then settle in? Looking forward to tomorrow’s post … cracking sleeping would be just the best thing!

  17. Can I recommend “Counting Sheep: The Science and Pleasures of Sleep and Dreams” by Paul Martin; it’s an excellent overview of both why we need sleep / why it’s so pleasurable; and the devastating consequences of when we don’t quite get it right. More road accidents caused by sleepiness than drink / driving? Yup…

  18. Since being Primal for the last 4 months or so, my sleep and my husbands sleep has really improved. That was a major problem before going Primal. He wouldn’t be able to sleep until 2am then sleep til 9am (luckily he works at home), I would fall right asleep around 10 but wake up at 4, roll around til 6 and get up, meanwhile disturbing him the whole time. Now we both are on the same schedule, fall asleep around 10:30 or 11, and wake up at 6:30 or 7. It’s great.

    Recently though, I still wanted to improve on the sleeping. Mostly everything was dialed in I thought. Then my friend came home from vacation in Germany and said she had slept so well there and wondered why. Then I thought back to when my husband and I went to Austria and I remember sleeping well there too. We thought the 2 common denominators were less stress, since we were on vacation, and the bedding. I can only control the stress at home so much so I changed my bedding. Now, my husband and I sleep on a Queen bed with individual twin duvets, like they have in Europe. Now it feels like we are sleeping separately in the same bed!! He no longer heats up my sheets and I no longer pull his off. It make our bed seem bigger and I hardly feel him move. So thanks to going primal and new bedding we are sleeping like babies!!

    1. Me too. Right after returning from Germany, we swapped our traditional bedding for separate twin comforters with flannel duvet covers. Love it. So much easier to share a bed when you have your own covers.

      1. Every once in a while a friend of mine will stay over too late, and we’ll be forced to figure out how sleep on my full-sized mattress. It’s tricky, but barely manageable with separate covers (me under my twin-size weighted blanket). I usually sprawl and violently attack anything nearby while I sleep, so it’s a near miracle to be able to share a bed at all. Separate covers are just great.

    2. Yes, we also have separate twin size down comforters – it’s great! We even take them with us on road trips and it makes hotel rooms much better, regardless of the luxe level of the hotel/motel.

  19. Some good information about sleep habits from the researchers and developers of Fatigue Science.

    http://fatiguescience.com/sleep/sleep-facts

    Not promoting their products, but I have had the lovely opportunity to talk to the people behind the science and they had some very insightful information about sleep.

    My poor sleeping habits are slowly being adjusted and I’m definitely noticing improvements in overall health – eating primal def. helps with having my body being able to relax before going to bed.

  20. I’m one of those people who fall in the “badly” and “dysfunctional” categories for sleep. I’ve been tested for sleep apnea (neg), narcolepsy (borderline), etc. I fall asleep just fine, and feel like I am sleeping ok (although I dream vividly and almost always remember my dreams), but wake up feeling like I haven’t slept at all. It is extremely frustrating, and definitely affects my work life. I switched recently to an eco-friendly memory foam mattress with an aloe-fiber cover, and it is quite comfortable. As a “stomach sleeper,” I need that firmness.

    One thing I’ve noticed is that my sleep and fatigue issues are very cyclical. Some stretches I need only 5-6 hours of sleep a night, and some stretches, I want to sleep 16 hours a day. I think it is tied to circadian rhythms, the weather, the season, etc. But unfortunately (unlike our ancestors), our work/life schedules vary very little in relation to nature and the natural rhythms of life. I’m convinced that if I could alter my work schedule through the months and year by following my natural rhythms, I’d be happier and healthier. I guess one way to test that theory is for people who work from home, or work for themselves and completely set their own schedules. Do you adjust your work hours/length of time to natural rhythms? Do you sleep more or less when you need it?

    1. I know that my sleep pattern is very cyclical. I am always ready to fall asleep two hours after the sun sets! I just wish I could sleep until the sun rises, like my body wants to, but due to my work schedule I always have to get up at 6 am. My solution to that is a Sunrizr that lets my bedside lamp simulate a sunrise starting at 5:30 every morning.

    2. I am *blessed* by having a tremendous amount of autonomy in my job. They let me change my hours, which lets me follow my sleep and body rhythms. Basically, I don’t start now until 10 AM. During the summer, while there’s a lot of light, I get up a whole lot earlier and get a lot accomplished. During the winter, I sleep more. (Whoever put major holidays during the time I want to be hibernating is on.my.list.)

  21. Mark, i want to thank you for the great info you keep putting in your blog posts. I am learning so much, it’s hard to put into words…

    After seeing you recommending Esther’s book, i bought it, and it has helped greatly with my back problems.

    I prefer to “stretch-lie” on my side. Her book contains a lot of useful tips. E.g. my shoulders are quite broad, so for me using two pillows puts my head in a better angle.

    I used to wake up with stiff back muscles, but thank god thats gone.

  22. I sleep very badly on my own, and wake at small noises. When I share a bed, I sleep better, despite having to shift and accommodate another person.

    I think this is a combination of a natural physical ‘support’ – you can use the other person as a prop/comforter/pillow/blanket, and also a psychological comfort. The primal responsibility for safety is shared.

  23. A recent bedroom remodel required a different sleeping arrangement; without bed. I took up sleeping on the floor on a chaise lounge mat and was pleasantly surprised. I have been sleeping like a baby, or maybe I should say ‘a dog’. I haven’t gotten such restorative/continuous sleep in many a year. The flimsy mat was just enough padding to keep my bones from feeling like they were going to poke through my skin and the resulting firmness, i’m sure, was the cure for any aches and soreness I was experiencing with my traditional mattress. I can jump up off the floor in the morning with minimal effort and at 60+, that is a great feeling.

    I am not ready to go back to my bed when the remodel is over. Any suggestions on a firm mattress? (I have a husband who has been sleeping on the guest twin and will be back co-bedding it. He is not game on going mattress-less.) I have heard great things about Tempurpedic. Or maybe he will just have to do without my companionship.

  24. Again, Mark has shown me that we are not alone in our struggles of ‘modern life’. Thank you for your post, this forum and all the ‘primal support’. I have just recently ‘converted’ a new member and with her, her brother, sister-in-law, and husband. They are hooked. After experiencing ridicule and doubt, or at best being ignored by family and friends, I can tell you the feeling of being ‘in-tune’ with another primal, who really gets it, is remarkable.

  25. I am interested in more info about bedding options too. First off, my mattress is the somewhat newer “no flip” variety, which means it is sagging at pressure points after only 5-6 years.

    What about toxic flame retardants on mattresses? Are there viable options without? Is Tempurpedic bad too since it off gasses so much and smells terrible?

    I wonder about a simpler mat to put directly on the floor, similar to a futon mattress.

    Any thoughts out there???

  26. I am one of those plagued with a busy mind. Some nights I would never fall asleep. On the nights I wouold sleep, I would wake up how I last remember laying. I loved that I just had to straighten the bedding slightly to make the bed. Since switching to primal, & have other mental distractions gone, plus a memory foam mattress, I sleep better than I have in many many years. Only downside is SO snores (I’m a light sleeper)
    I have a couple “quirks” too. I can not sleep facing another person & no one else can be touching me. Weird, but I’ve always been like that. Otherwise it’s stretched out long on my front (no pillow), or on a side.

  27. I sleep on quite hard matress.

    Sleeping without a pillow is good for your neck(think about how your posture looks when you sleep with a pillow-upper half of your body is bend, especially your neck).

    Best sleeping position is on your back.

    Yi

  28. This is a thought-provoking one Mark but I have to admit, I too would take my bed over the cold floor. I sometimes wake up with a slight ache in my lower back but 90% of the time I’m fit and well after my usual sleep so I’m happy not to follow Grok religiously on this one…nice idea in theory though!

  29. Is it possible to still cuddle while “long-lying” because that would be a take-away for me. +1 for spooning 🙂

  30. My husband and I have been primal for about 3 months now, I seem to sleep deeper more often than before, although I never really had a problem with sleep.

    My husband though suffers from chronic insomnia, was on several sleep meds and nothing helps…he is always tired.

    This last Monday he went on a sleep study and come to find out he has suffered his entire life from a type of sleep apnea that involves the nervous system around the lunges.
    The nurse said that people have this type of apnea from birth, he had this since he was a baby. The first 2 hours he slept without this machine and his sleep was interrupted (without him being totally awake) 30 times. The nervous system forgets to send signals to keep breathing and he stops, sometimes for a very long time (very scary).
    She finally hooked him up on the machine and he slept peacefully without moving until morning.
    That morning after his sleep study was the first time ever he woke up with a smile.
    It can be corrected with some kind of breathing machine that he gets delivered within the next 10 days.

    I’m so happy for him.

  31. Mark,

    After doing the race across america, I had no issues falling asleep, staying asleep, or finding a place nor position to sleep in for at least a week and a half.

    I highly recommend it 🙂

    -Denner

  32. Fascinating post. I had not heard of Ms. Gokhale or her book. Her instruction for the correct way to lie down reminds me of the roll down in Pilates, which is vertebrae by vertebrae. This does lengthen the spine. Our everyday actions (ie: sitting hunched over a desk in a cubicle) compress the spine, which can certainly lead to back pain. I had not really thought about the need to lie down this way at night. I will have to get a copy of her book. Thanks, Mark!

  33. Mark, can you go into baby sleeping options? Flat and firm versus hammocks? How did Grok sleep when he was a baby?

    1. I don’t know about Grok but my kiddo sleeps best either 1) on his back in my lap after nursing down to his nap or 2) on his back, arms flung above his head, one foot jammed in my husband’s kidney, the other bent and shoving into my lower belly (aka c-section scar)!

      The few times he’s fallen asleep on the floor, he sleeps best either flat on his tummy, head titled to the side, or flat on his back (arms upflung).

      We cosleep and never bothered to buy a bed for the baby. He sleeps better wth us anyway.

  34. It has been my observation that one reason dogs and cats can sleep comfortably, anywhere, is because their shoulders are in line with the rest of their body. One sleek flat surface.

    I envy them because I prefer to sleep on my side and my shoulders get in the way of my comfort.

  35. this is so ironic , the other night i could not find my third pillow and i thought to my self ,how did grok sleep ? i bet he did not have three pillows .two under his head and one to throw his leg over.

  36. I had a horrible relationship with sleep for most of my life. Couldn’t sleep, would only sleep a few hours, etc. I tried everything — yoga, turning the lights down, setting a specific time, music, no music, white noise, etc.

    The only thing that’s ever worked for me is my bio-feedback device. I still cringe to admit it, but I was 45 years old before I finally figured out how to relax. I’ve used it for a few years now. What happens is that I teach myself how to relax when going to sleep, then I sleep *great* for 3-6 months. During that time, I completely forget how to relax, and I have to re-teach myself, use the feedback device for for a couple weeks. Then I’m good again for 3-6 months. The amount of time doesn’t appear to be seasonal, but related to the amount of stress in my life.

    The one I use is called stresserasor. (Google it.) I hate the name, but getting good, solid, never-move-from-one position sleep has changed my life.

    I also use a Temperpedic mattress and pillow — again, didn’t really start to sleep until I started using biofeedback.

  37. Man the first few lines of this post made me laugh – you basically described me to the T, everything: Lamb in the freezer, barefooting it and ditching the shampoo!

    Great post, I fortunately sleep like a baby everywhere and anywhere, but I will try the spine lengthening tip.

    My tip for falling asleep is to clear all thoughts from your mind, when you realise you’ve gone off and started thinking about the pile of papers at work or your meals for tomorrow – gently stop yourself and again release all thoughts, gets me everytime – asleep in minutes.

  38. *sigh* If only my 2 year old would cooperate, I’d get plenty of sleep! Alas, he’s up at 6am and I work till 10:30pm…mmm…time to change jobs!

  39. Peaceful rest is definitely “primal” for wellness. Our bodies need the time to rejuvenate and energize for the next day. Improper rest not only affects our body function but our minds and ultimately the spirit. So…savor it when you can.

  40. Enjoyed the post. The intro really hit home. I’m a fireman in Central Florida and I am that weird caveman guy around the station and becoming more so everyday. But I have got a few other folks to read BP and they are experiencing the inevitable benefits along with ever increasing enthusiasm.

    On the topic of sleep, I like to fall asleep with my arm/arms above my head. But I regularly wake up in the middle of the night with my arm completely inoperable numb and stone cold. After manipulating it with my good arm into a position to allow blood flow, full function is regained with in a minute or two. Frequently I wonder if there are any significant detriments to this, such as tissue wastage or blood clots.

    Anyone else experience this? Any thoughts?

    1. I totally agree with you about hands above the head. I do that pretty regularly, too, especially in the summer. It feels great, but I have the same problem with waking up and having to literally move my asleep arm with the other one… which is a really weird feeling, isn’t it? Especially when half asleep. Heh.

    2. Chris, maybe you shouldn’t fall asleep with your arms over your head. You’re probably cutting off circulation somewhere at the shoulder joint. To cut to the chase, “DON’T DO THAT!”

      1. Brilliant, and you may refer to me by my tribe given name… Paleoman…. Sassy Paleoman.

  41. Hmmm, this is really fascinating. Recently, I’ve talked to a lot of people who have temperpedic or even plasma beds. They claim that they sleep all night without moving. I’ll admit that I’ve been thinking of buying one for our next mattress purchase. I’m curious to read tomorrow’s post! In the meantime, though, I’m going to sleep long tonight and see how that feels. 🙂

  42. I gave up sugar for you, Mark. But my queen-sized Simmons Beautyrest Pillowtop with 600-thread count Egyptian cotton sheets? Not a chance. I gotta draw the line somewhere.

  43. I tried the method describe in this article for lying this afternoon for a nap. Actually, I tried it on my hardwood floor in my living room. It actually felt amazing when I got up. So I’m going to try it again when I go to bed tonight. Sweet dreams everyone.

  44. I moved to the floor (well a 4 inch memory foam mattress topper on the carpet) about a year ago and it was the best decision I ever made. Cleared up a ton of neck/lower back issues and only took a couple days to get use to.

    I always thought sleeping on a large platform has to prevent a good night’s sleep. Your body has to constantly be aware of it’s surroundings and I would assume, is trying to prevent itself from falling off the edge of the bed down to the floor. With the floor that subconscious thought is not there. Anyway, just my theory.

    1. I fell off the top bunk of my bunk bed when I was little, so I can see how your hypothesis would be valid.

    2. I second that. When I was a kid, I was always waking up on the floor, back on the floor, legs on the bed, upside down, sideways…you name it, I probably achieved it.

      Bunk beds have always terrified me for that reason (also got a concussion from falling WITH a ladder off a loft in college), and these days I stick to a mattress and boxspring on the floor. I still like to be able to stick my foot or arm over the edge unsupported, but it’s not too high, probably about 16in up.

      Padding on the ground also rocks, it’s just not viable where I am at the moment.

  45. For the first half of my life I had the most difficult time falling asleep (good bed, big fluffy pillow, and standard sleeping schedule); then I found a job working overnights, and found that I slept much better during the day.
    I normally fall asleep within about 10 minutes of laying down, once I’m down I will use my feet and hands to stretch me out; I use a very thin firm pillow, no blankets or sheets on me, and I can sleep almost anywhere (though water-beds kill me).

  46. I have that same prob with sometimes numbing out an arm or hand. I go to sleep normally on my back but sometimes during the night I will roll over on to an arm or stick a hand behind my head and later wake up with a numbed out body part. I have wondered the same thing, ie is this really bad for the body part? But then again, short of tieing myself down to the bed, I see no obvious solution.

    And yeah, I have in the past looked for research on what type of bedding was the best for the body, but all I found were adverts for people trying to sell their wares. I would not be surprised though if health issues and stress were the main probs. Spinal alignment might also be good but what bedding yields that might depend a lot of the proportions of the individual. Laying out a certain way may well help relax muscles and align the spine. Also, ritual behaviors done before certain activities will usually better prefer the body for what it should be preparing for next. Also, there may be good old placebo effect at work.

    Grok would surely have layed out in whatever way felt most comfy given available resources. Even most dogs seem to prefer pillows, especially as they get older. I think often, a dog will eschew a pillow to be closer to the master or to have a better view, but as age sets in, I usually see them change their priorities. I suspect the same happens with humans but we live longer and have more time to build up creaky bones and joints.

  47. I am another HUGE fan of 100% natural latex mattresses! We have had ours for about 3 years now. It looks brand new. It is the firmest latex that was deemed “comfortable” by the company that made it, so it is pretty firm. I always tell people that if my house was on fire I’d get my kids out, the dogs, and then the mattress. It’s that great. We had ours made with a polyester fire barrier (fire retardent is required in mattresses, at least in CA) instead of chemical fire retardent, so it is pretty much toxin free, which also makes me sleep better. The company that made ours is Square Deal Mattress Factory in Chico, CA. They are a small family owned company.

  48. I gave up my pillow a few months ago. I’ve been sleeping fantastic ever since.

    I also gave up all lights at night and installed f.lux on my computer. Since I made those changes I’ve been able to go to bed and fall asleep hours earlier than what had been my normal bedtime.

  49. My bed is one of my most prized possessions! I figured since I’m going to spend so much time in it that I’d get a really solid one with comfortable bedding a few years ago.

    That being said, I end up falling asleep (and sleeping the night away) on my tiny couch on a regular basis as well.

    One habit I want to break is that I am a “belly sleeper.” For one thing, I’ve heard this is the worst position to sleep in.

    But the worst thing for me is that, due to the position, I end up putting my arms to sleep. And waking up in the middle of the night, completely disoriented, with no sensation in your arms whatsoever is a truly scary experience!

    1. I, too, sleep on my stomach. It is horrible for my lower back, but I can’t seem to break the habit. I tend to toss and turn, and go through long periods when I wake in the middle of the night (after sleeping for a couple hours) and can’t get back to sleep. I just can’t shut my mind off. Sometimes I think I’d be better off just getting up for a couple of hours, getting something done, and then going back to bed.

  50. Well I sleep well all night 8-9 hours .

    I sleep alone in a twinbed with latex
    cotton sheets and goose down duvet
    I sleep on my side – cant sleep on my back.
    I´ve got broad shoulders so I need 2 soft pillows.
    I
    My room is dark and cool with the the window open most of the year even in the cold danish winter 😉

    I just don´t understand why Grok shouldn´t have used pillows ? who says so ?
    I am an archeologist and we have found pillows from later periods in DK so i don´t think we can say for sure that Grok didn´t make something out of furs etc to support his head.

    My kid never could sleep on her back- evn though that was the recommended position to avoid SIDS – she always slept on the side -much like Marks dog

  51. Once upon a time I ran across an old book of health advice for young men, penned in about 1902 by a then venerable US MD. One of the bees in his bonnet was artificial electric light which was just taking off. He said that it would surely derange our natural bodily rhythms tied to the primordial cycles of light and dark. He predicted pandemics of nervous disorders!

    So, now we indeed have pandemics of nervous diseases and sleep disorders.

    I am not good at it, myself (says she still online at 1:27 am local time) but I agree with those who say we need to limit our exposure to artificial light if we want to reclaim a decent sleep cycle. One also needs to let the temperature decline a little and avoid excess EMF exposure.

    Some people speak highly of hammocks. I don’t know what to think about those.

  52. Hi Mark. I’m assuming that’s not actually your dog as something tells me your dog gets enough exercise to keep his claws at a healthy length! This poor guy needs a trip to the doggy podiatrist!

  53. Great suggestions – many thanks.

    But your dog? He’s partly benefitting from the fact that his protector and provider is around, promising him a limitless supply of food. Most humans have more legitimate worries than your dog. I doubt animals in the wild sleep as soundly as house pets…

  54. Cool. Sorry i am going to drift off posture…
    Some thoughts, air conditioning doesn’t help, it sucks the moisture out of your sleeping environment, if you must, keep a large bowl of water in your room overnight or if in a hotel room 1/4 fill the bath with water before you go to bed to moisturize the room overnight. Get rid of the heavy doona that won’t help your skin breath either. I’ll check in more often you have great posts and awesome followers.

  55. For me, I think the biggest obstacle to sleep is my sedentary lifestyle. I simply don’t get enough exercise to be properly tired by the end of the day.

    My best 2 weeks of sleep ever? On vacation in Hawaii, getting lots of fresh air and tropical sunshine [okay, it was December, there was also a lot of rain!], and walking everywhere. I was sleeping on an air mattress on the floor and I did not care! I went out like a light and woke refreshed 6 hours later like clockwork. 🙂

  56. I tried the spine-lengthening lie-down procedure last night and it worked great! I spent a few minutes doing my relaxation routine (I visualize my body slowly dissolving, completely relaxing whichever body part I am thinking about), and I was out like a light. I slept without moving until 5AM–even my hands were in the same position I started in–when I got to use the bathroom, then back to bed for 3 more hours, and woke up feeling fantastic. No pillow for the first stretch either.

  57. Iremember looking at the Tempuredic beds when they first came out–the smell nearly knocked me out! Too many chemicals! We have a wonderful latex mattress on a slat frame –we also have a fluffy wool topper on top of the latex. I will never go back to anything else–it is horrible when we have to sleep on a regular bed when visiting. In fact, we now take an air mattress with us rather than sleep on an innerspring mattress. My husband and I are also working on the Gokhale method and it is making a huge difference. I am sure that early humans found sushiony materials to sleep on. We took our grandkids to a festival last weekend–there was a diplay of historical stuff. A Native American group had a buffalo hide that we could feel–it was surprisingly thick and soft–I think I could sleep on that on the ground–especially if it was thick grass or leaves underneath.I need to not sag or bounce–so something firm like the latex on frame but something soft to cushion the shoulders and hips(I prefer the stretch side sleeping). Also just a side note–latex with wool is much better for other activites on the bed than an innerspring!

  58. Hi Mark and fellow Gorkers,
    I’ve been lurking about for the past couple of months; started reading The Primal Blueprint and have embarked on my “Primal Journey”. I have suffered with sporadic bouts of insomnia for many years. Organic Bedding and using Grounding Sheets have helped tremendously; along with adding extra house plants to clean the inside air of your bedroom and home and eliminating as many toxic (store bought) cleaners as possible from my home environment. . For all interested check out http://www.earthinginstitute.net/ http://www.organicmattress.ca/ http://www.extension.umn.edu/yardandgarden/ygbriefs/h110Indoorair.html

  59. Hi, Mark.
    One thing I’ve noticed is that I am most uncomfortable in complete darkness. I have to have the TV on, only for the light it provides (although I don’t like hearing the sound from the TV). Maybe that is primal, like the light from a fireplace, or the Moon….I simply can’t sleep in complete darkness. I start to see hallucinate even with my eyes closed. nothing psych ward worthy, but shapes, colors, stuff like that.

    1. Check about sleep issues and methods on Mercola’s site – esp. regarding the effects of ambient light. I discovered that removing all light (even teh alarm clock) helps me sleep better. The TV (sound and light) is incredibly detrimental to your healthy sleep. I have never had a TV in my bedroom and never will. After trying Mercola’s suggestions I don’t need and alarm clock anymore either. Good Luck !

  60. I remember reading some research quite a few months back and they found that the firmer the surface you sleep on, the less deep you slept or the quality of sleep is reduced because you spend more time moving around in your sleep because of pressure build up or something like that.

  61. Interesting article! I have finally found my perfect combo for a great night sleep. Complete darkness(which I have read can be important for women in regulating cycles). A low carb- paleo diet and cod-liver oil (for the vit D). I have had years of insomnia but sleep great now and wake up well-rested even though I have a cosleeping baby that nurses some at night.

  62. I sleep on a $100 spring-loaded cot, with a World’s Most Perfect Pillow adjusted to cradle my head with minimal neck support. Better than any motel bed.

  63. Used to have to have my special pillow (buckwheat) for my head and a large down filled pillow to put between my knees. After reading the article on instinctual sleeping postures, I gave up my pillows completely and have not looked back. It has helped my occupational neck issues immensely !!

  64. Any idea to help Lady Grok’s sleep?

    I usually could fall asleep in 10 min. & sleep well if i’m sleepy.

    my problems:

    (1) i just don’t get sleepy until at least 0130. going to bed earlier is just a waste of time (tossing).

    (2) i also get up 2 times/night,
    if i drink less liquid in the night, i’d get up only once.

    ok.

    (1) F.lux has done nothing for me.

    2) exercise also does not help. i did a boot camp (5 hr/day for a week), i still didn’t get sleepy any earlier.

    thanks.

  65. hi there! i am non-english speaker, please help me get this:

    “You touch ground with your sacrum, lay your palms on the ground, and slowly lower yourself back, taking care to actively lengthen your spine – vertebrae by vertebrae – by pushing through your hands.”

    – is it just lying on the back basically? And hands lying next to it on the ground?

    thanks a lot for the help

  66. I am a bit confused about the long lying — from what position am I putting my sacrum and palms on the ground?

  67. I have been reading and following Mercola’s suggestions on light and sleep and am having much success. Just came back from a campout with the Cub Scout Pack (listened to all the parents complain about sleeping on the ground) Notice how young children can sleep anywhere with little discomfort. My Tai Chi friend advises me to watch animals and children for signs of how we should do many things. I think sleeping is one of them. This post digs into a big ongoing subject for me (as someone who camps alot with very little attention to cots and pads etc.) However the cot comment above makes me think about the absolutely wonderful sleep I have at week-long Scout Summer Camp in the miltary cots they provide. Most often I find that after the 2nd night (on the ground or in the cot) I seem to naturally adjust and start having great sleep. Sorry for the long post – Great subject.

  68. I think your dog really needs his nails clipped–especially the front paws. 🙂

  69. I loved this post from the start … b/c my husband *does* keep coconut oil in his (high-rent top-of-skyscraper attorney office) desk. And hasn’t used shampoo in three years. And ….

    And to think this was all *before* we found MDA! I LOVE this blog!

  70. Why are all the comments listed as July 2nd? It’s only June 18th where I live!

  71. I saw it mentioned in a couple of comments already, but I think it is worth mentioning again. Sleeping in a hammock – the South American indigenous people’s one, not the one with the wooden sticks on either sides – can be very restful. I know it doesn’t offer the position you describe, but if you assume the correct way of sleeping in the hammock I have to say you can sleep very well.