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  • Writer's pictureNashville PT

Sleep and It's Role In Pain and Injury

We know that getting enough sleep is important for overall health but did you know it's just as important for things like recovery from activity and healing from injuries?

Adequate sleep isn't just about how alert you feel the next day. It is necessary for our bodies to heal.

If you're dealing with repetitive injuries, chronic injuries, or aches and pains that seem to come out of nowhere, take a closer look at your sleep patterns.

You need consistent sleep each and every night. Though it does vary from person to person, for most people, this would be around 7-9 hours each night.

Your quality of sleep matters too. Lying in bed for 7-9 hours a night is very different from sleeping for 7-9 hours a night. Do you sleep solid through the night or only wake up 1-2 times or do you toss and turn all night, lie awake for long periods, or wake up after "sleeping all night" only to find yourself tired and groggy the next day?

Your sleep also needs to be consistent from night to night. You can't sleep 6 hours a night during the week and then "catch up" on the weekends and sleep 10 hours Friday and Saturday night. It needs to be consistent through the week and on the weekend.

This is something we ask our patients if we suspect poor sleep may be a component of their pain or injury (spoiler alert: we ask nearly everyone about sleep because that's how important it is). We can do everything right from a PT treatment standpoint but if you're getting poor sleep each night, it'll be hard to get you back to 100% or could take much longer to get there. If your therapist or other providers aren't asking you about your sleep patterns, you might be missing out on a vital part of your treatment plan.

We found a great article from with tips to improve sleep we thought we'd share here. We also added a few of our own additional tips at the end.

"Sleep is an essential part of our well-being and plays an important role in healing, muscle recovery, and memory. Adults should get seven or more hours of sleep a night. School-aged children and teenagers need eight to 11 hours. Regardless of age, everyone should get a minimum of seven or more hours of sleep each night.

Managing your sleep is key to your overall health. Not getting enough sleep can be a problem and can contribute to the development of chronic pain. It also may worsen anxiety or depression symptoms. So, what should you do if you are not getting enough sleep?

Sleep can be altered for several reasons, but there are many things that you can control when it comes to sleep. Risk factors for short sleep spans include obesity, physical inactivity, daily smoking, and too much alcohol use. If you have difficulty getting comfortable at night, a physical therapist can help you with positioning.

After an evaluation, physical therapists create treatment plans for a patient's specific needs and goals.

Good sleep hygiene, the practice of healthy behaviors you can do to affect your sleep routine, is a great place to start. Healthy sleep requires your effort throughout the day, as well as before bedtime.

Try these sleep hygiene tips to improve the quality of your sleep.

During the day

1. Do more physical activity.

Staying active helps in getting restful sleep. Once cleared by a health care provider, try to get 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week. A physical therapist can help you find the right exercises for your needs and abilities.

2. Increase your exposure to light.

The lack of Vitamin D is linked to a higher risk of sleep disorders. Consider increasing your exposure to light during the day.

3. Avoid long napping.

As an adult, if you take naps, keep them to 20 minutes or less.

4. Don’t smoke.

If you are a smoker, stop smoking two to three hours before going to sleep.

5. Limit alcohol.

If you drink alcohol, do so sparingly.

6. Avoid caffeine after midday.

Caffeine is a stimulant that can make you more alert and limit restfulness. It is also a diuretic that can increase your need to urinate at night.

Before bed

7. Get enough sleep.

Set a bedtime that will allow seven or more hours of sleep.

8. Keep a sleep schedule.

Wake up and go to bed at the same time every day.

9. Set the temperature.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, somewhere around 65 degrees makes for the best sleep. Assure that the temperature is right for you, and you have the necessary blankets and pillows for your comfort.

10. Create a relaxing bedtime routine.

This may include dimming the lights, avoiding the use of technology, and reducing noises. Using meditation or soft relaxing sounds can help prepare you for sleep.

Keep in mind some medications may change how well you sleep. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about timing your medications to promote a balance of sleep and wakefulness. (source here)"

We also have a few more suggestions as well to help improve your sleep at night.

11. Limit screen time before bed.

The blue light emitted by screens (phones, tv, computer) can suppress melatonin release and interrupt the body's natural circadian rhythm and cause sleep disturbance. It's best to stop using screens a couple hours before bedtime. If you can't avoid a screen, use a blue light filter on the device or blue light glasses when looking at screens.

12. Create a dark bedroom.

Light coming in through windows or doors can disturb sleep as well. Use room darkening curtains and close doors to limit light or use an eye mask if light coming through windows and doors can't be eliminated.

13. Use a white noise machine, fan or wear ear plugs.

Noises from outside the bedroom or house can disturb sleep at night by waking you up. Using a fan, white noise machine or app or wearing ear plugs can limit interruptions to sleep from unexpected sounds.

If you suspect you have less than ideal sleep patterns, keep a journal and track your quantity AND quality of sleep each night for a couple weeks and see if you notice any trends or patterns. If you are having aches, pains, or injuries, do your sleep patterns coincide with any change in symptoms? If so, discuss this with your PT or MD so they can provide some guidance on improving your sleep patterns.


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