We are in the end of fall season and winter starting soon which means the weather gets colder and makes for prime napping. This gets us on this month’s topic: sleep. As many of you have seen, when you fill out intake paperwork with us there are questions on sleep. We know that a main question that may pop in your head can be: “how can sleep relate to my pain and overall health?” We want to answer that as well as give you a few tips we like to use to help address sleep issues you may be having.
Fun Fact: Humans are the only species on the planet that deliberately restricts sleep regularly.
What is lack of sleep? It is overly simplified to say lack of sleep is just lack of Quantity (lack of getting 7-9 hours). We also have to look at Regularity (consistent sleep schedule), Continuity (how many times are you waking up during the night), and Quality (are you getting proper amount of Non-REM deep sleep and REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep). All 4 have to be evaluated to when interpreting how to optimize sleep.
WHY DOES SLEEP MATTER?
Sleep and Pain: Athletes who slept less than 8 hours were 1.7x more likely to have had an injury compared to athletes compared to athletes who slept 8 hours or more. Pain sensitivity also increases with sleep deprivation. This is the number one reason we educate and work on sleep with many patients.
Sleep and Exercise: Lack of sleep causes peak muscle strength and time to physical exhaustion to go down.
Sleep and oxidative stress: Lack of sleep causes an increase of oxidative stress in our cells (think of the analogy of rust accumulating on a car).
Sleep and hormones: subjects limited to 4-6 hours of sleep per night for 1 week had downregulated leptin and upregulated ghrelin levels. This is huge when looking a weight loss goals. We will explore this topic more next month.
Top 5 Tips for Better Sleep
When improving and optimizing sleep we will always look at behaviors way before diving into supplementation and medication. You can’t supplement or medicate your way out of a bad habit. These tips will be for the 80% of people. Meaning, we know we have patients that are night shift workers or have varying schedules. If you are in the category please feel free to reach out and we can get you resources/education to help. We also know that many people have tried “everything” and still struggle with insomnia. If you are in this category, please reach out and we can help get you on the right path.
Wake up at the same time each day (even on the weekends try to stay within a half hour to hour wake up time). Same thing for going to bed. Go to bed when you first start feeling sleepy. We are rhythmic, circadian rhythm beings, so one reason you may be waking up in the middle of the night and having hard time falling back to sleep is fighting through the late evening sleepiness and going bed too late (for you). The circadian rhythm is off.
Go outside and get sunlight within 30 to 60 minutes of waking up. If you wake up before the sun is out (typical for this time of year) and you want to be awake, turn on house lights and then go outside once the sun rises. If you have to go to work before the sun is out, there are plenty of sun lamps you can buy that can help simulate the effect. Read the reviews thoroughly to make sure it is optimal quality. Around 10 minutes outside sunlight is good on most days, unless it is very cloudy then go for little longer.
Avoid viewing bright overhead lights in later evening, especially within 1-2 hours before bed. You can wear blue light blockers but still try diming light or using candle light. One thing they are trying to figure out is if it is more the light or the stimulation (tv shows, social media) that is the problem with the blocking of the melatonin signal that initiates sleep. In our opinion, it is a combination of both.
Keep the room cool (around 67 degrees, but you can play around with it) and dark (black out curtains) and layer on blankets that you can remove.
Avoid caffeine within 8-10 hours of bedtime. This is a general rule and if you are more caffeine sensitive, then avoid 10-12 hours before bedtime. Also limit alcohol in the hours before bed. Alcohol will increase heart rate and sleep disturbances. It will also decrease deep and REM sleep time because of this. We know it is holiday party time, so for sure enjoy yourselves and have fun in these social settings with co-workers, family, and friends. On a broad spectrum though, realize that continuous use of alcohol use before bed will compromise sleep.
*These are just the main 5 tips we see. There are many others things we can go into but we want to make these newsletters shorter and easily digestible reading. If you want to go into a deep dive on the mechanisms behind each tip or get more info on optimizing your sleep then please feel free to book a consult with one of our providers.
“Sleep is the price we pay for wakefulness.” - Matthew Walker. This is a profound quote to understand the why behind sleep. We all have stressors throughout the day whether physical (work, workout) or emotional (work, family, self, etc) that we have to recover from. Sleep is king for all recovery. From a physical standpoint, you can do all the foam rolling, Theragun, sauna, stretching, supplements in the world, but if you don’t optimize sleep, you are leaving recovery and health gains on the table.
“Sleep is emotional first aid.” - Matthew Walker. Back to emotional stress, sleep (especially REM sleep) is vital for rebooting emotional networks within the brain. Parents can make sense of this when their child misses a nap or good night of sleep, you can see the behavior change almost right away. As adults though, we often do not treat great quality sleep as essential part of our routine. Science knows for sure it is correlated, but as more research comes out we will understand more on sleep’s roll in mental health disorders.
Next month’s topic: Sleep and weight loss + Tools the Docs use for better sleep
* If you have a topic you want us to cover in a newsletter please reach out and let us know!
References and research to check out:
Book: “Why We Sleep” by author Matthew Walker
Do you have a question about chiropractic care, fitness or nutrition? We would love to hear from you, and we might even turn your question into our next blog post!
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