Sleep and Recovery

sleep and recovery physioAre you in pain or injured? It’s more important than ever to ensure you aid your recovery by getting a good night’s sleep. For many of us, that may sound like a fantasy but in reality it should be your highest priority! Here’s why…

What happens when you don’t get enough sleep?

  • Brain – Incomplete cleaning of waste products and inadequate consolidation of information and memories from the day. This impairs your ability to focus attention, problem solve and perform high cognitive functions like decision making and memory Chronic sleep debt affects emotional well-being and is linked to depression, anxiety, suicide and risk taking.
  • Body – Reduced growth hormone production results in impaired growth and repair of body tissues such as muscles, tendons and ligaments. This state of disrepair leads to inflammation, pain and decreased muscle strength. It also leads to decreased athletic performance and increased injury risk. Your immune system and the regulation of your metabolism are also detrimentally affected.
  • PainIncreased pain sensitivity and higher likelihood of developing chronic pain. 50% of insomnia sufferers complain of chronic pain.

How much sleep do you need?

  • Children 9-11 hours
  • Teenagers 8-10 hours
  • Adults 7-9 hours
  • Sleep requirement increases during periods of high physical and emotional stress. Eg. Athletes (getting more than 8 hours sleep decreased injury risk by 61% in one study), physical injury, exam periods, etc

Sleep Quality vs Quantity

Sleep quality is more important than sleep quantity. Three consecutive nights of interrupted sleep (poor quality) detrimentally affected mood more than four hours of uninterrupted sleep (reduced quantity).

Tips to Improve your Sleep

  • Perform daily physical activity or exercise – not too soon before bedtime though.
  • Develop a consistent sleep routine (ie. go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time daily).
  • Ensure your bedroom is kept cool, dark and quiet. Eye masks and earplugs can be useful, especially when you are travelling.
  • Avoid watching or using technological devices (i.e. television, computers, laptops, mobile phones) 1 hour before you plan to sleep, especially in bed!
  • Write a to-do list for tomorrow if you have a lot on your mind.
  • Allow time to wind down. Have a warm bath, do some gentle stretches, slow your breathing, read a book, drink some caffeine free tea, etc.
  • Avoid caffeine approximately 5 hours before sleep.
  • Avoid drinking large amounts before bed as waking to urinate will disturb your sleep.
  • Avoid heavy meals just before bed
  • Consider your pillow and sleep position (click here for info).
  • If you can’t fall asleep and you’re getting restless, get out of bed and do something quiet and boring with the lights dimmed until you feel sleepy. Remember good quality sleep is more important than quantity.
  • Make a list of problems that may be affecting your ability to sleep and take active steps to solve them.

Sleeping Tablets, Alcohol and Sleep

Although sleeping tablets and alcohol may make you drowsy, they actually affect your ability to reach a deep sleep, therefore reducing your overall sleep quality. If a lack of sleep is causing you distress, medication may be offered by your doctor but should only be used temporarily as long-term use can detrimentally affect sleeping patterns.

Take home message – Getting a good night’s sleep is arguably as important as any other intervention in ensuring a full and speedy recovery from your injury/complaint.