Sleep is a vital part of maintaining a healthy body and a strong immune system but is often an area that people do not give enough attention to. At Midlands Physio & Back Pain Clinic, we see a lot of people who have suffered with pain for a long time. In the majority of these people, they will not be sleeping well. This is not allowing their body recover effectively and often can be adding to their problem.
According to sleep researcher Mathew Walker, “there is no tissue or process in the body that is not enhanced by sleep or affected if we do not get enough sleep”. Another renowned sleep researcher, Allan Rechtschaffen, says that “if sleep is not serving a vital function, then this is the biggest mistake the evolutionary process has every made”. This reinforces the power and importance of sleep.
Yet, scientists now claim that in most first world countries, we are getting between 1 – 2 hours less asleep than we did 50 years ago. 50 years is not a long time ago so it shows how our lifestyles have changed and how they are influencing our sleep.
But how does sleep play such an important part in good health and immunity? Let’s look at a few effects that sleep, or a lack of sleep, can have on your body.
The effect of sleep and lack of sleep, on your body.
It is important to note that there is a difference between quality and quantity when it comes to sleep. What we want to be aiming for, is to be getting quality restorative sleep. When this happens there are many positive affects that you will feel, such as:
Waking up feeling more refreshed
Having more energy during the day
Having improved attention and focus
The negative effects of poor sleep are the ones that people may not be as aware of.
Some of them are:
An increase in cortisol levels which can make you irritable and prone to stiffness and pain.
It can increase you blood pressure
Increase the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Weight gain as a lack of sleep stimulates the hormones that make you feel hungry, which can result in you eating more.
Decrease your cognitive function, meaning you don’t think or react as clearly.
As you can see, quite a few important functions. Another very important function that takes place when we sleep is the ‘moping up’ and removal of waste products from the brain. Researchers believe that when we sleep, a protein called beta amyloid, is cleared away from the brain. Excess of this protein has been shown to accumulate in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.
Why do we want our patients to be able to sleep well?
At Midlands Physio & Back Pain Clinic our focus with every patient is to help them return to doing the things they need and love to do to the best of their ability. To do this we first need to ease their pain and get them moving better. But often, when people have had pain for a long time, we will need to ask about their sleep, how they manage stress and how well they eat..
As everything in the body affects everything else, we need to aware of the other factors that can cause pain. To only focus on someones pain area would be naive, especially in patients who have suffered with a problem for a long time.
If we look at a someone who has back pain for the last 2 years for example. Lets say they leave the clinic feeling great after a treatment and are due in for their next session in a weeks time. However, in the days between, they are stressed at home,not sleeping well and not eating well as a result. When they come to the clinic the following week their back pain and they feel like they are not making any progress. Is another 5 sessions of treatment to their back going to be the answer? Not if they are sleeping poorly every night and not able to deal the stresses of their day effectively.
While we are not specialists in nutrition or counselling, often by bringing the awareness of the problem to someone and giving them a few manageable tips to help deal with it, it can have a huge effect in helping them feel better and overcome their problem.
To be continued…..
In the next 2 blogs I will be looking at some reasons why people can struggle to get a good night sleep and will be giving you some tips that you can implement immediately, to help improve your sleep.
If you would like some help and motivation to regain control of you health and improve your immunity then join my 7 Day Immunity Booster Challenge.
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