The Importance of Sleep
We have all heard the suggestion at one time or another that we should get at least 8 hours of sleep each day. How well are you DOING? Chances are you like the 35-40% of adults who fail to achieve the MINIMUM 8 hours that you should get every night. The ability to get a good night’s sleep takes a definite downturn around age twenty-five and a larger downturn at age forty-five. Most patients with chronic pain sleep poorly and are usually tired during daylight hours. A good night sleep is difficult to attain as pain is typically more keenly felt at night, as there are less distractions present.
What’s the Big Deal?
There is a strong correlation between sleep and quality of life. There have been many studies conducted to explore this concept. One in particular found definitively that female volunteers who experienced poorer quality of sleep (less time in REM) had a higher sensitivity to pain. With regards to both acute and chronic pain, all variables affect sleep, and sleep also affects all variables. It becomes difficult for someone who is not getting adequate sleep to calm down the nervous system, and the perception of pain is altered. It is almost impossible for HEALING to take place when the body is inflamed from additional stress. If you are involved in physical therapy, a body that is “fired up” will likely find the actions performed intolerable because physical therapy involves both stretching and strengthening of muscles and ligaments through specific movements that require significant force in order to be effective.
How Can I Get More Sleep?
Here is a list of suggestions to help you get to sleep and STAY asleep:
** Do not use any electronics (TV, cellphone, ipad, computer) for one hour prior to sleep time.
** Don’t get into bed until you are ready to fall asleep. Watch TV, read, etc. in another room
** Do not drink any caffeine after noon.
** Try to meditate prior to sleep to calm the racing thoughts
** Minimize alcohol intake in the evening–alcohol helps you to fall asleep but not stay asleep.
** Avoid heavy exercise in the evenings.
** Remove any clocks from the room.
** Do something relaxing just before going to bed. Have a routine to relax you prior to sleep.
** If you are hungry have a light snack – avoid heavy meals at night.
** Concentrate on relaxing each muscle group in your body from head to toe.
** Try Melatonin supplements (a natural hormone that helps control your sleep and wake cycles)
Sleep is so important, that even though we don’t like increasing the amount of medications, I would suggest working carefully with your doctor to figure out a week or two course of sleep medication to calm your nervous system.
Reference: Hanscom, D. (2012). Back in Control. Seattle, WA: Vertus Press.