Why sleep should be your next new year’s resolution

Sleep allows your body to rest, restore, renew and recover despite the stresses of everyday life. As physiotherapists, reinforcing the importance of sleep becomes even more paramount for our patients as they progress through injury rehabilitation, but I believe developing a sound sleep pattern is paramount for good health, not just illness and pain prevention.

To illustrate the importance of sleep, here’s a few facts on how sleep deprivation affects your body;

1. Individuals who consistently have less than 7 hours sleep per night have a 49% higher T-cell function, which indicates an elevated immune response of the body. These individuals also have a 30% reduction in killer cell activity, which reduces your body’s ability to fight illnesses.

2. It has been also been shown that individuals who have poor sleep patterns have a greater attention to daytime pain and therefore, experience increased pain levels.

3. Sleep impairments predict the likelihood of a new presentation of chronic pain, as well as exacerbations of current chronic pain, as touched on in point 2.


How do we ensure a good night’s sleep? There are 3 main categories I’d like to touch on here.

Number one, Increase your physical activity.  Being healthcare professionals you would have heard us saying over and over how important exercise is for good health, but I promise we don’t just say this for the sake of it. In regards to sleep, moderate intensity aerobic exercise each day increases the speed of falling asleep and the total sleep duration at night. This is because of the calming effect post exercise of reduced arousal and anxiety.  Another theory for improved sleep is during exercise our body temperature increases, and then the subsequent drop in body heat post exercise promotes sleepiness.


Number two, reduce your screen time.

When we use our electronic devices at night it causes an increase in cognitive stimulation. This creates difficulty with ‘winding down’ at night, as well as tricks your brain into thinking the bedroom is a place of work, not rest and relaxation. Another reason not to use electronic devices at night is the strong light of the screen display. This light causes a disruption of melatonin production in the body, which is responsible for the sleep-wake cycle.


Number three, look after your mental health.

Remember the last time you were stressed, upset or angry and tried to sleep? We’ve all been there and its almost impossible. Anxiety and depression are closely linked to sleep deprivation and insomnia due to the non stop activity of the mind. This makes relaxation and falling asleep very difficult.


Now we know how the above affects our sleep, here are a few strategies to improve your sleep pattern and quality

1. Address and seek help for your stress. This includes coping strategies, relaxation at night and social catch ups. Seeking professional help for strategies of stress release and relaxation can be wonderfully beneficial.

2. Don’t eat large meals late at night

3. Don’t work, read or watch TV in bed – ensure your bedroom is a ‘sanctuary for relaxation’

4. Avoid caffeine after 2pm

5. Avoid napping if possible, but If you NEED to, keep it to 20mins before 3pm.

6. If you cant sleep at night;

a. Take a breath and relax, the more you worry about not being asleep the longer you will stay awake – try relaxation strategies.

b. If you are awake due to mental distress, write down what is bothering you.

c. After 20 minutes, get up and do something relaxing.


So in summary, generally a lack of sleep causes disruption to the immune response of the body, increases attention to pain, and increases the likelihood of chronic pain flare ups. These facts only scratch the surface of the importance of sleep and your health, but wouldn’t you say its time you prioritised a good night’s sleep and make it your 2018 resolution?


Tahnee Goodman

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