What's the first thing you do when you wake up?
Dr. Robert Oexman, director of the Sleep to Live Institute, told HuffPost Healthy Living that your answer should be "Stretch my back!"
"The greatest incidence of slipped discs occurs within 30 to 60 minutes after we wake up," he says. "That's because we get out of bed and immediately hit the ground running."
That bowl of oatmeal and full inbox can wait. Instead, Oexman recommends taking a few minutes to "ease into the day" with some simple back stretches you can do right in bed. "Hit the snooze button only once, but don't use that time to go back to sleep," he says. "Instead, stretch out your back before you ever leave bed."
Giving up the snooze habit is also a good idea for another reason: Forcing your body to drift in and out of sleep interrupts your natural sleep patterns, chipping away at the restorative values of a good night's rest.
Things like an old, saggy mattress and even the position you sleep in can put added strain on your back overnight. But the stages of sleep also allow your muscles to relax in a way "that can actually increase stress on our ligaments, spinal discs and spinal joints," says Oexman. The following stretches, courtesy of the Sleep to Live Institute, can help your spine recover from that added stress in the morning -- and prevent painful back injuries throughout the day.
For more on back pain, click here.
For more on sleep, click here.