We’ve mentioned it a few times before, but a number that often catches me off guard is just how much time we spend in bed. Though we trudge along through daylight hours at work, on runs, and sampling all the craft beers that are out there (maybe that’s just me), the fact that we are in our bed for a third of our lives is an important number. We have linked to so many articles and posts out there about the importance of sleeping well and how that has an effect on your demeanour, stress level, and even our running performance. I usually always link to this old Runner’s World article that said this:
It’s during the third and fourth stages of a typical sleep cycle when a body heals itself. That’s when the human growth hormone (HGH) is released from the pituitary gland. Although it’s gotten notoriety as a performance-enhancing drug, in its natural form it plays a key role in building and repairing muscle tissue and bones, as well as acting as a catalyst for the body to use fat as fuel. Without the right amount of HGH in the blood, recovery from workouts is hindered, prolonging the time it takes the body to build a strong aerobic engine.
But what if you’re not getting to those stages appropriately? Obviously, your performance will suffer. There could be a variety of factors that contribute to lack of sleep (late night runs or diet, for example), but a lack of a good and comfortable bed is also something that could be holding you back as well.
This has come even more into play in my life over the past few months. With real-life work, managing a running blog, and having three young kids in the house, I have always found myself being sort of a night owl by necessity. But I often felt tired as soon as I woke up and knew that my running progression suffered as a result. I have made a conscious effort to commit more to sleep in 2019 – and I have seen positive results. I’m attempting to get to bed shortly after the kids are in bed. As a result, I am able to wake up earlier without as much of the grogginess, work out and start the day on the right foot instead of stumbling through life until 10am or so. But I still think there is more I can do on this front.
This is why, when we come across some items that could assist with progressing our sleep, we actually want to try them out. We know mattresses, sheets, and pajamas aren’t exactly running-related, but I feel if I can improve my comfort and sleep, even a little bit, that my days will be able to be that more positive on the back-end. We have recently been checking out the Squirrel Pillow.
I am a side sleeper. There are articles about which position is the best, but I find that I always gravitate to my side – specifically the left for some reason. As a result, I have a large body pillow that I utilize to essentially hug and also place between my legs/knees for support. This mostly does the trick, at least as far as falling asleep goes, but I still often wake up in the morning with back stiffness. I have attributed this to the actual level of support I am getting from my pillow – admittedly not a lot. I have found that my lower half often over-rotates and, while my top half is on my side, my lower back and legs are almost laying as if I’m face down on the mattress. I know that’s not good.
The Squirrel Pillow seems to be designed for someone like me. The memory foam insert aims to keep the knees equidistant from each other and would, in theory, keep my lower half from over-rotating and my spine straighter. And since it is memory foam, it shouldn’t flatten over time (like my body pillow definitely has) and keep going strong.
The first few nights, I found myself waking up once or twice to this new feeling. I’m honestly attributing it to the fact that my body has been so used to the over-rotation that the fact things were still aligned was probably a confusion to my system. However, I never woke up to find the Squirrel Pillow missing – it was always tucked between my legs. So at least subconsciously, my body was fine with this modification. Over time, I have found that I prefer the pillow to be tucked up higher on my things as my knees are generally more bent when I sleep. If you are a straighter leg sleeper, positioning the pillow under the knee is a good options as well.
I have also been able to start sleeping on my right side. Historically, within minutes of side-sleeping this way, my lower back would start to feel uncomfortable, I would wake up and be forced to turn over to my other side. It’s sort of crazy that a simple product like this could actually magically make this a non-issue. And I’m getting some more consistent sleep as a result.
As a gross male, the fact that this has been tucked between my knees and nether regions, it’s a mandatory quality that this is quick and easy to wash. Simply zip off the cover and slide the foam out before cleaning and you are good to go.
Overall, I have been impressed with this pillow. Both of us have seen some noticeable improvements in our sleep in just a short period of time, and at less than $40, that’s a small price to pay for a lack of back aches and some restful sleep.
- Squirrel Pillow ($39.99)
- Cotton/polyester blend cover
- Memory Foam insert
More about Squirrel Pillow:
The idea for Squirrel Pillow was born during Thanksgiving 2017 in St. Louis, Missouri.
Founder, Mike McGilly, was hosting family from out-of-town for this holiday when one of the family members staying in the guest bedroom mentioned how he had left his knee pillow back home in Ohio. He had multiple back surgeries over the decades, and using a knee pillow for pain relief was a part of his nightly routine.
Mike, having used a pillow between his knees for years, was surprised to find that the medical industry has been recommending that patients sleep with a pillow between their knees as a way to achieve lower-back comfort while side-sleeping.
Because of the lower-back benefits, along with the silly acorn protection, Mike began diligently sourcing the best materials and most ergonomic design for the pillow.