Sweet Dreams

Restorative and healing powers of sleep

When I treat patients one of things we discuss, especially if their injury or discomfort has been causing an issue for a few months or more, is sleep.

Everyone knows that sleep is great for helping with mood and memory and learning.  There is now research coming out indicating that sleep helps the body heal faster. This can be very important for people struggling with ongoing injuries, aches and pains. Often we are so busy that the one place we can gain more time is by cutting into the golden 7-9 hours of sleep recommended by experts.

How can we improve our sleep?

Firstly, you need to ensure that if you are having consistent trouble with getting enough sleep (or even sleeping to much) that any medical or physical conditions are ruled out. This will require you going to see your GP to ensure that your sleep isn’t due to a treatable condition.

Once physical or medical conditions have been ruled out; then consider behavioural or cognitive factors.

Cognitive factors includes excessive thinking or anxiety or worry.

Actions you can take to help quieten the mind may include;

Meditation  – there are many meditation guidance videos on Youtube to help you

Prayer – there are books available to help or speak to your spiritual guide if there may be a particular theme

Relaxation techniques

Writing down your thoughts as you go to bed/have an notepad beside the bed

 In addition to cognitive factors you also need to make sure you are physically tired. There are a variety of ways behaviour can effect this.   

Exercise: Anything from 10 minutes of exercise/movement onward will help with sleep; Walking, running, cycling or gardening. Any activity that gets you up and moving consistently will help. Strenuous exercise right before going to bed can be unhelpful to some people and be helpful to others.

Naps: Napping through the day does not make up for inadequate sleep at night and can make sleeping issues worse. Limit any daytime nap to one lasting no more than 20-30 minutes. This can help alleviate mood and performance without impairing your night’s sleep. BUT is not enough quality to make up for continuous sleep short falls at night.

Being mentally calm and physically tired helps a great deal; however it is essential that you also use natural light to make the most of our bodies own ability to start the process of telling itself it is time to rest and sleep

Get outside: Have times through the day where you go outside. Our bodies evolved to work with the natural light (and dark) so it is important to spend time outside every day.

Routine for bed: Our bodies respond well to regular routine especially for going to bed. Try having a similar bedtime and wake up every day, including weekends. Have a pattern in the evening, of having time without your phone or computer, winding down with a warm drink and reading from a book if that helps you quieten your mind. Doing similar things each night will be telling your body it is time to sleep.

Avoiding obvious things like caffeinated drinks and playing computer games late in the evening are also helpful as is not having computers or televisions or screens in general in the bedroom.

Recommended amounts of sleep:

Babies ideally have 16-18 hours

School age children and teenagers 9.5hours

Adults under 60 need 7-9 hours a night

Over 60s tend to experience lighter, shorter night time sleep often interrupted – medications also can interrupt sleep

The journal that reported they are now seeing evidence of immune response to sleep is:

Journal:​ ​​Tracey J. Smith et al. Impact of sleep restriction on local immune response and skin barrier restoration with and without ‘multi-nutrient’ nutrition intervention. Journal of Applied Physiology. Vol. 124, January 2018, p. 190. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00547.2017.

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