How have you been sleeping?

By Jenny Johnson – CC’s Staff

How have you been sleeping?

We all know things are a little crazy in our world right now, and increased stress and anxiety in addition to poor sleep has really been effecting people’s lives. Sleep disturbances occur in one third of the US population, and physical therapists overwhelmingly agree that it  leads to impaired function[1]. Sleep is critical for the proper functioning of the body, including immune function, tissue healing, pain modulation, cardiovascular health, cognitive function, learning, and memory1. With approximately one third of every day of our lives spent sleeping, we tend to forget the importance that it actually has on our lives. It is not just a period of inactivity, but time for our body to recharge, heal up, and prepare to function the next day.    Without adequate sleep, people can experience increased pain perception, depression, increased anxiety, attention deficits, impaired memory, reduced ability to learn new motor skills, and are at increased risk for accidents, injuries, and falls1. Many people have the belief that if their pain was less that they would sleep better. In actuality the opposite is true, if you can improve your sleep quality your pain tends to decrease.   

So what can we do about it? Here are a few tips to improve your sleep and get better rest at night.

–The brain should be able to connect the bedroom to sleep – it should only be used for the “two S’s”. If we are on phones, watching TV, eating, etc in the bedroom the brain never knows that is the place where it is supposed to rest

–The environment in the bedroom plays its part as well – complete darkness, cool temperature, quiet/white noise

–Avoiding naps – as our energy runs low at the end of the day, our glial cells tell our body it is time to rest and triggers sleep. Daytime naps don’t allow our body to get to that low-energy point at bedtime and keeps us awake.

–Relaxation skills – mindfulness practice, meditation, tai chi, or yoga

–Exercise! Ok, you knew that one was coming! Although the exact mechanism of how it improves sleep is unknown, it has been shown to raise body temperature which triggers heat-loss mechanisms and leads to sleep onset1. It also uses energy and produces “wear and tear” on the body which leads to sleep to recuperate and restore energy. Considering exercise is low cost and has minimal side effects, it is a great alternative to taking sleep medications!

— Food and Drink – avoid caffeine the last 4-6 hours before going to bed. Eating a large meal late in the evening will keep your body busy digesting when it is supposed to be resting, so shoot for early dinners and a healthy snack later if you need it.

–Electronic devices – turn these off at least 30 minutes before bedtime to trigger your brain that its time for bed. The blue light will keep your brain stimulated and make it harder to fall asleep when you want to.

–Sleep restriction therapy – working with your PT to come up with a specific plan to improve your sleep and awake cycles for the most efficient sleep and avoiding lying awake in bed. We also don’t want you going to bed unless you are sleepy. If you’re not asleep in 20 minutes, get up, and try again later.  Try to keep a consistent bed time and wake time each day even on weekends to establish the cycle in your brain.

If you have questions regarding your sleep patterns and quality and how it can be affecting your life and function, please visit with your PT or call our office today!

[1] Siengsukon CF, Al-Dughmi M, Stevens S. Sleep Health Promotion: Practical Information for Physical Therapists. Phys Ther. 2017;97(8):826-836. doi:10.1093/ptj/pzx057


Post Author: Jenny Johnson

Jenny is a DPT, wife, baseball lover, kayaker, dog wrangler, and mom to toddler Bria, and sweet baby Rylee.


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