Matthew Reed, PT, MPT, CMTPT
The health benefits of quality sleep, and risks associated with sleep deprivation, are wide-ranging and well-understood, and we cherish that feeling of rejuvenation after a night of productive sleep. Yet, for many, a good night’s sleep is hard to come by, and we often rise in the morning feeling unrested and lethargic. And worse, the hormonal disturbance caused by lack of productive sleep can have compounding effects and further reduce the prospects of achieving productive sleep in the future. This creates a vicious cycle that may have detrimental health consequences over time.
Sleep deprivation has been associated with increased risk for heart disease, stroke, cancer, serotonin deficiency and depression; imbalance of hormones that regulate appetite and difficulty managing weight; and decreased alertness, memory and cognitive function.
Sleep deprivation has been associated with increased risk for heart disease, stroke, cancer, serotonin deficiency and depression; imbalance of hormones that regulate appetite and difficulty managing weight; and decreased alertness, memory and cognitive function. Additionally, of consequence to many of our physical therapy patients, lack of sleep can lead to production of stress hormones that increase inflammation in the body and cause the body’s “engine” to run at high levels. This contributes to even greater difficulty sleeping, fatigue and lack of energy, delayed healing of tissues, and, potentially, development of persistent pain and sensitivity. Conversely, quality sleep can help manage and reduce pain and sensitivities by restoring hormonal balance and repairing tissues that have been damaged or altered by injury, chronic conditions, and even stress.
If you’re concerned about the potential health consequences associated with lack of sleep,or even looking to improve your ability to manage or reduce pain, here’s a checklist of practical tips to consider to improve the quality of your sleep and your ability to rejuvenate and heal overnight.
Your sleep plan:
- Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep at night
- Set a sleep time BEFORE midnight; you’ll get 2 hours’ credit for every hour slept before midnight
- Start “winding down” and quieting the house an hour before bedtime (phones off, lights out, house tidied)
- Do stretches, meditation, deep breathing, light reading, other relaxation techniques in the hour before bedtime
- Take a warm shower 1-2 hours before bedtime
- Keep your bedroom dark and cool for greater melatonin production
- No bed buddies (pets or kids)
- Stay hydrated during the day, but reduce water intake later in the evening
- Limit intake of caffeine and alcohol, especially later in the evening
- Limit naps during the day to 20 minutes to prevent sleep disruption at night
- Park your thoughts at night (make notes on paper of any thoughts and keep nearby to avoid thinking in bed)
- No TV, social media, work emails, or other screens or blue light before bedtime
- Maintain a consistent regimen of aerobic exercise
- Position pillows for body support and comfort when lying in bed
- Ask your doctor about melatonin supplements
- Try to sleep naturally (no noise makers)
- Your partner/spouse must leave the bedroom if he/she snores or moves around