Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Sleep Like A Caveman?

Over at Conditioning Research, Chris Highcock recently posted about "Paleo Sleep" and a fascinating (albeit twelve-year-old) study of how hunter-gatherers  sleep. Some of the sweeping conclusions about "instinctive" sleeping postures seem a bit too rigid and not particularly applicable to those of us who sleep indoors ("Tribal people do not like lying on the ground in the recovery position while wearing no clothes as the penis dangles in the dust and can get bitten by insects"), but the conclusions offer a lot of food for thought:
  • Forest dwellers and nomads suffer fewer musculoskeletal lesions than “civilised” people;
  • Nature's automatic manipulator during sleep is the kickback against the vertebrae by the ribs when the chest is prevented from movement by the forest floor;
  • Various resting postures correct different joints;
  • Pillows are not necessary.
The researchers point to anecdotal evidence that "low back pain and joint stiffness is markedly reduced by adopting natural sleeping and resting postures," and call for more observation and research in this area. This study's a dozen years old, so I wonder what the latest research has to say about optimal sleep postures.

Personally, I've slept on the ground (and hardwood floors) before, and can't say I loved the experience. I'm pretty sure I'm not going to give up sleeping in a bed...but then again, I once said the same thing about eating pizza.