You know sleep is important. The concept of getting a good night’s sleep has been ingrained into me for as long as I remember and the purpose of that good night sleep as far as I could tell for a long time was simply to not be tired. Whilst obviously still a big part of the process, by sleeping not to be tired you’re underutilising one of the easiest tools in your arsenal to be healthier. Being proactive about your health is one of the core concepts we promote at Inverurie Chiropractic clinic, the same forward thought about your night-time routine is as intrinsic as your daytime one to get you to as healthy as you want to be.
What are the benefits?
Stress and sleep have a two-way relationship. If your body doesn’t get enough sleep, it can react by producing an elevated level of stress hormones which are a natural result of today’s fast paced lifestyle. Conversely, when your body is experiencing chronic stress, it thinks it’s in a state of perpetual danger and shouldn’t therefore be drifting off into a long, deep, and peaceful sleep. There are many benefits of reducing the stress on your body and I won’t go into them here, but another part of your de-stressing routine should be sleep. It may be slightly annoying to some people, for me to tell you to sleep to reduce stress when it’s solely stress that’s leading to your reduced sleep so some helpful sleeping tips we’ll come to later.
Poor sleep increases pain:
Sleep deprivation is also linked with increased in pain, when we are not well rested our bodies can become more sensitive to pain, reducing your tolerance, and making pain feel worse. Like stress there is a reciprocal relationship between the two factors. There’s a plethora of studies showing the benefits but a particularly interesting one in 2012, a group of sleepy volunteers participating in a study who got around two more hours of sleep a night showed improvement in tests measuring pain sensitivity of 25% after only four days. That’s comparable to taking a 60-mg dose of codeine twice daily. This likely holds for all types of pain including chronic lower back pain!
Sleep and productivity:
It seems quite obvious but there is now mounting evidence to back up the fact that a good night’s sleep seriously boosts one’s productivity. One study of over 4000 Americans showed a decrease in sleep equated to about a $2000 loss in productivity over the course of the year, another finding that productivity increases in all fields from academia to athletics. As spoken about One of the biggest reasons that people don’t get enough sleep is because they feel they have too much to do or because they are stressed about what they need to work on. So, we’re not getting enough work done because we’re sleep-deprived and we’re not sleeping because we’re not getting enough work done.
Sleep and the immune system:
Getting a good night’s sleep has for a long time been the best medicine for when you’re feeling under the weather and improving your immune system is something that right now that we are all understandably keen on doing. Numerous studies have reported the benefits of a good night’s sleep, and now researchers from Germany have found that sound sleep improves immune cells known as T cells. T cells are a type of immune cells that fight against intracellular pathogens, for example virus-infected cells such as flu. It also shows that individuals sleeping 6 hours or less a night were more than 4 times more likely to catch a cold compared to those who were logging 7+ hours of sleep. While stocking up on sleep can’t always prevent you from getting sick, it’s a key way to ensure your body is armed and ready to defend against what comes its way.
So how can we get a good night’s sleep?
You can, on google, find a million better ways to get to sleep and I’d recommend looking through them to see if any might work for you. We are all at the moment, probably not in our usual routine. The concept of commuting has gone for most, exercise, hydration, and dietary habits have changed with coronavirus, hence I’ve hand-picked a few changes we can easily make that are in my opinion a particularly good idea to start doing right now.
- Monitoring your light exposure: the light that you look at has an effect on your body’s circadian rhythm, exposure to sunlight in the day helps regulate this, as does a lack of light before you sleep. Blue light, most commonly from our phone’s just before bed tricks your body into thinking it’s daytime. My blue light filter is never switched off.
- Be consistent: Your body’s circadian rhythm is on a set loop, aligning itself with sunrise and sunset. Irrespective of when you get to sleep, being disciplined when it comes to getting in and out of bed will help to regulate your body secreting melatonin. The Key sleep hormone.
- Exercise: People who exercise regularly sleep better at night and feel less sleepy during the day. Regular exercise also improves the symptoms of insomnia and sleep apnoea and increases the amount of time you spend in the deep, restorative stages of sleep. The more vigorously you exercise, the more powerful the sleep benefits. But even light exercise, such as walking for just 10 minutes a day improves sleep quality. It can take several months of regular activity before you experience the full sleep-promoting effects. So be patient and focus on building an exercise habit that sticks.
- Be smart about what you eat & drink: it’ll be no surprise to you that caffeine keeps you up, what might be is that it can cause sleep problems up to 10 hours after drinking it! The quality of your sleep is something that can easily be affected by your food, refined sugar and carbs can trigger wakefulness preventing deep, restorative sleep & if you drink lots of water before bed you may be inclined to wake up half way through the night for the loo…
- Winding down & clearing your head: your residual daily stresses are keeping you up most of all. Clearing your head, switching off from the world by means of setting yourself specific times at night for social media I’d recommend. My half an hour of reading before bed is as intrinsic to my sleep as anything else, a good audiobook will also suffice. Why not try this deep breathing exercise to help you sleep. Breathing from your belly rather than your chest can activate the relaxation response and lower your heart rate, blood pressure, and stress levels to help you drift off to sleep.
- Lay down in bed and close your eyes.
- Put one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach.
- Breathe in through your nose. The hand on your stomach should rise. The hand on your chest should move very little.
- Exhale through your mouth, pushing out as much air as you can while contracting your abdominal muscles. The hand on your stomach should move in as you exhale, but your other hand should move little.
- Continue to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Try to inhale enough so that your lower abdomen rises and falls. Count slowly as you exhale.
- Healthline. 2020. Sleep And Immune System.
- Oura Ring. 2020. How Quality Sleep Boosts Your Immune System.
- Sleep Foundation. 2020. Pain And Sleep – Sleep Foundation
- WebMD. 2020. More Sleep May Help Some People Feel Less Pain.
- Rosekind, M., Gregory, K., Mallis, M., Brandt, S., Seal, B. and Lerner, D., 2010. The Cost of Poor Sleep: Workplace Productivity Loss and Associated Costs. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 52(1), pp.91-98.