Written by Jeremy Laverdure, PT, DPT, PMA®-CPT Physical Therapist and Certified Pilates Instructor
I used to get very excited every year around this time when we would change the clocks and “fall back.” That extra hour of sleep seemed like the greatest gift I could receive! I now recognize that I was chronically sleep deprived, which manifested as the ability to fall asleep anywhere, at any time of day. It took some major lifestyle changes (and treatment of my sleep apnea) to get me to the place where I now wake up feeling rested.
Although we need less sleep as we age, at least 7 hours is recommended for all age groups. According to the CDC, about 38% of New Yorkers reported sleeping less than that. (And that’s New York State; want to bet that New York City skews even worse?) The New York Times recently ran an article citing the detrimental effects of too little sleep on cognition, mood and overall health. One thing the article doesn’t mention is the effect of poor sleep on pain and recovery from injury.
During sleep, our bodies do physical and mental housekeeping: we turn short-term memories into long-term ones (memory consolidation), build muscle and repair tissue, and produce hormones. Sleep loss interferes with exercise recovery and tissue healing. This hinders rehabilitation from injury, slows strength gains and decreases physical performance.
Pain from a surgery, injury or other orthopedic condition can contribute to disturbed sleep. Likewise, disturbed sleep can exacerbate pain. If unaddressed, poor sleep and pain may create an ongoing cycle in which the two elements perpetuate each other. If you are currently in physical therapy and suffering from poor sleep, make sure to tell your therapist!
Changing our sleep habits can go a long way to improving our overall health and well-being. Here are some tips for insuring a good night’s sleep:
- Follow a regular sleep schedule. Go to sleep and get up at the same time each day, even on weekends or when you are traveling.
- Keep your bedroom dark, cool and quiet.
- Avoid napping in the late afternoon or evening.
- Limit screens before bed. Try not to watch television or use your computer, cell phone, or tablet in the bedroom. The light from these devices may make it difficult for you to fall asleep.
- Get out of bed if you can’t sleep. If you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep in about 20 minutes, get up and engage in a quiet, restful activity such as reading or listening to music.
- Exercise at regular times each day but not within 3 hours of your bedtime.
- Stop caffeine 6 hours before bedtime.
- Stop alcohol 3-6 hours before bedtime. Although alcohol may help bring on sleep, after a few hours it acts as a stimulant, increasing the number of awakenings and generally decreasing the quality of sleep later in the night.
- Balance fluid intake. Drink enough fluid at night to keep from waking up thirsty—but not so much and so close to bedtime that you will be awakened by the need for a trip to the bathroom.
Sleep may be the missing link in your wellness plan! If you are getting less than 7 hours of sleep per night, or you are not feeling rested in the morning, one of our health coaches can help you find a solution.