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Sleeping your way to better health...and reduced pain!

I personally look forward to getting into bed every night, and I’m lucky to experience a good 6-8 hours of deep sleep most nights. The soft sheets, the warmth, the comfortable pillow and occasional hot water bottle are what excite me, but the health benefits of sleep are probably more important. We spend 1/3 of our lives asleep, and you can see some of the benefits sleep has listed in the picture below.

As a physiotherapist I see a lot of people who often tell of poor sleep to go along with their pain complaints. In fact, sleep complaints are present in 67-88% of persistent pain disorders. Studies have found that sleep deprivation increases the risk of developing headaches, fibromyalgia and persistent pain. On the other hand quality sleep has been shown to predict pain resolution over 15 months.

Think of sleep deprivation affecting your nervous systems’ pain modulation processes, how pain signals are regulated in the brain & spinal cord… everything becomes a bit more sensitive. In fact, sleep scientists have found hyperalgesia (increased sensitivity to pain) can affect healthy subjects after just 2 nights of partial sleep deprivation, so improving sleep should be a goal that both patient and clinicians seek.

It may not be as easy as just laying your head down at an earlier time, I hear all the time that people find it “difficult to switch off”, and you may have to explore things like yoga, exercise, relaxation techniques, cognitive behavioural therapy, meditation, music (the list goes on) and also consider changing habits i.e. reducing screen time before bed to notice improvement. Knowing the huge impact sleep can have on pain, as well as other influences of quality of life, aiming to catch more Z’s is definitely worth a go!

Further reading:

The Association of Sleep and Pain: An Update and a Path Forward


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