Have you every inconspicuously fallen asleep in economy class only to wake feeling as if you’ve been on display? If so, it could be because today when we drift off, our heads sometimes go flying forward with such vigor that others can’t help but notice our spectacular neck breaking head flops!
With less room to recline, we find ourselves trying to sleep in seemingly more awkward positions – trying to find creative ways to balance our heads, and usually jamming up our necks in the process. Many of us wake feeling like we’ve had a ten-pound weight anchored to our head, while the rest of us may be a bit sluggish in the mental acuity department. It’s been suggested that sleeping in such awkward positions can over time cause spinal health issues.
Why is this now happening?
Recent economic decisions made within the airline industry have made forward head droop the new norm for many travelers who fly economy class. Today, when at rest, our heads are very much like a ball at rest atop an upside bowl.
Any disturbance, regardless of how slight, could send this perilously balanced ball rolling over the edge without warning. This is also true for our marginally balanced heads when we try to sleep in near upright positions, making it virtually impossible to have a restful sleep.
So, what has changed?
This wasn’t always the case. During the Golden Age of Flight, we (perhaps, more accurately our parents and/or grandparents) slept in more sleep-friendly environments. Back then, gravity pulled our head back towards our headrest and into a stable position while we slept because there was more room to recline.
Today, this ability to comfortably lean back is being lost as more seats are being added in economy class. By sleeping in a more upright position, gravity now pulls our heads forward making the stability of our heads more sensitive – like the ball atop of the bowl – to shifts in body positions or other disturbances. This change in how we sleep has fundamentally shifted the anatomical relationship between our head and neck, requiring our necks to hold up and stabilize our heads.
When we sleep at a more reclined position, our head is pulled into a stable position. This is because the weight of our head or its center of gravity projects behind what is called the fulcrum – the point where the skull rotates atop of the cervical spine.
This stability allowed us to fall asleep and stay asleep because the muscles responsible for holding up our heads, called the extensor muscles, are being allowed to relax.
When we sleep at more upright angles, as we routinely do today, our head’s center of gravity projects forward of the fulcrum, making it unstable. This causes our head to become susceptible to forward rotation and misalignment of our cervical spine.
In order to prevent this, our neck extensor muscles must hold up our head against the pull of gravity while we sleep. This is impossible once asleep because our brain switches off the specialized cells responsible for moving our skeletal muscles called motor neurons, which unfortunately includes those extensor muscles in our neck.
After our brain commands our extensor muscles to relax, gravity takes over causing our head to slump forward, resulting in our cervical spine becoming misaligned. The solution requires a stabilizing proxy that holds the head in an upright and aligned position while the neck extensor muscles are at rest.
Guided by the science, we at Outlier Inspired have designed a travel pillow that does the work of the neck extensor muscles to stabilize the head and provide healthy spinal alignment while we make our way to our destinations.
The SkyDreamer was designed to be practical, convenient, and simple to use. We threw out all conventional preconceptions and put in place a set of visionary design goals aimed at engineering a travel pillow for our time. The SkyDreamer once again makes “sleep” and “economy class” synonymous!
Learn more about the new SkyDreamer Travel Pillow at www.outlierinspired.com. Also follow us on Facebook and Instagram for exciting new announcements and traveling tips.