Techniques To Help You Sleep

Sleeping plays a crucial role in rehabilitation and injury recovery. Physiotherapist Mehroz Jeevaji provides some techniques to combat sleeping issues.

It is a pretty common fact that we as humans require over 7 hours of sleep at night for our best health and wellbeing. However, this despite this, a study conducted by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that approximately 35.2% of adults in the US report a “Short Sleep Duration” of under 7 hours.

So, if we all know that we need at least 7 hours of sleep, why do so many of us compromise on such an important health requirement?

Well, apart from the occasional all-nighters we have all pulled to watch movies/TV or to cram for an exam/finish assignments in school, the majority of short sleep duration is actually as a result of lack of awareness of healthy sleep habits (1), some of which we’ll cover in this post (see below).

But why exactly is sleep so important?

In general, we all know that when we get a healthy amount of sleep, we feel better, more energetic and more prepared to face the challenges of the day. However, if you are going through recovery or rehabilitation for a condition or injury, and a part of your treatment involves some physical activity or exercises, sleep is actually more important than ever.

Sleep and pain management

Good quality and quantity of sleep is considered a biologically important resource to maintain the proper functioning of pain-regulation processes in the body. Having a bad night sleep can make you more pain sensitive (2). In patients with osteoarthritis, researchers have shown that sleep disturbance directly alters the pain processing in our bodies and causes an increased perception of pain in our body (3). Increased pain leads to a higher chance of sleep disturbances – as you can see, this ultimately creates a vicious cycle.

Sleep and learning

Sleep has also been shown to increase the ability of humans to learn functional tasks (4). This fact is especially important for you if are undergoing rehabilitation where you are learning or re-learning to do certain tasks or movements. Research indicates that sleep increases the brain’s ability to learn by improving the capacity for neuroplastic changes to occur (5).

Sleep and improving strength and balance

If you are endeavouring to improve your strength or balance, you are most likely undertaking an exercise program targeted for this. Whilst this is very important, ensuring you are getting enough sleep will fast-track your progress by allowing your body to recover from your exercises, allowing for further gains the next time you do your exercises (6).

If you are looking for an exercise program for strength and balance, our exercise physiologists and physiotherapists at Total Rehab Solutions are trained and ready to provide an individualised program for you. Contact our admin team at 1300 685 046 to organise an appointment.

What are some techniques/strategies to improve sleep? (2)

  • Set a routine
    • Keep a set time to sleep and wake up
    • Spend 30 minutes before your sleep time doing the same things in the same order. For example, prepare for the next day, get into your pyjamas, brush your teeth, read a book. This will help you relax and prepare you to sleep.
  • Can’t fall asleep? Take a break from trying.
    • If you’ve been trying to sleep for over 20 minutes, get out of bed and do a boring, quiet activity – e.g. focus on slow breathing, picturing a familiar place and all its details.
    • Don’t clock watch – looking at the clock and worrying about not getting enough sleep will only make you more stressed and stimulated, and ultimately less likely to sleep. Avoid looking at the time on your clock and especially on your phone.
  • Bed = Sleeping
    • The stronger your association between bed and sleeping is, the easier it will be for you to sleep. This means avoiding doing any work, reading, watching TV, going on your phone etc. on your bed.
    • Set up your bedroom for sleeping – a quiet, calming place which is comfortable. Eye masks and ear plugs can assist with this if there is external light or noise which makes this difficult.
  • Avoid caffeine/nicotine 4-6 hours before sleeping
    • Caffeine and nicotine are stimulants and will it difficult for you to relax and fall asleep.
  • Exercise
    • Exercise helps fatigue the musculoskeletal system, and can help you feel tired and ready for a sleep later in the day. However, avoid strenuous exercise 4 hours before sleep as this can act as a stimulant and have the opposite effect.

These techniques not helping?

It is best to seek professional help if you have tried everything and are still not managing to get a good sleeping habit. Clinical psychologists can help with sleep management and underlying stress, mood and anxiety management which may be impacting your sleep.

In summary, we all know that sleep is important, and those of us who aren’t getting enough sleep most likely know we should be getting. And it can definitely be difficult to try and ensure we are getting enough, especially with how busy life can get at times. But trying to gradually implement 2-3 (or more) of the strategies above which work for you will help you to improve your sleep habits, which will go a long way in improving your overall health.

References

  1. Perry Dr, Geraldine S, Patil, Susheel P, & Presley-Cantrell, Letitia R. (2013). Raising awareness of sleep as a healthy behavior. Preventing Chronic Disease, 10(8), E133–E133. https://doi.org/10.5888/pcd10.130081
  2. Sleep and Pain – Pain Management – painHEALTH. (2021). Retrieved 4 February 2021, from https://painhealth.csse.uwa.edu.au/pain-module/sleep-and-pain/
  3. Smith MT, Quartana PJ, Okonkwo RM, Nasir A. Mechanisms by which sleep disturbance contributes to osteoarthritis pain: a conceptual model. Current Pain Headache Rep. 2009;13:447–454.
  4. Alham Al-Sharman, Catherine F. Siengsukon, Sleep Enhances Learning of a Functional Motor Task in Young Adults, Physical Therapy, Volume 93, Issue 12, 1 December 2013, Pages 1625–1635, https://doi.org/10.2522/ptj.20120502
  5. Maurizio Gorgoni, Aurora D’Atri, Giulia Lauri, Paolo Maria Rossini, Fabio Ferlazzo, Luigi De Gennaro, “Is Sleep Essential for Neural Plasticity in Humans, and How Does It Affect Motor and Cognitive Recovery?”, Neural Plasticity, vol. 2013, Article ID 103949, 13 pages, 2013. https://doi.org/10.1155/2013/103949
  6. Vyazovskiy, Vladyslav V. (2015). Sleep, recovery, and metaregulation: explaining the benefits of sleep. Nature and Science of Sleep, 7, 171–184. https://doi.org/10.2147/NSS.S54036

Written by Physiotherapist Mehroz Jeevaji

Mehroz graduated from the University of Queensland with a Bachelor of Physiotherapy with First Class Honours. He has a passion for providing evidence-based, patient centered care to ensure that each client achieves the goals that are important to them.

From his clinical experiences, Mehroz has a keen interest in neurological physiotherapy and rehabilitation, as well as creating a range of musculoskeletal disorders.