A crucial component of a healthy and resilient body is a good night’s sleep. It’s not just about the quantity of sleep but the quality as well. Sleep is a cycle to reset and restore the brain and body for the following day and is an underutilized tool to improve energy level, mood and overall health and wellbeing.

Studies show that not obtaining a good quality and/ or quantity of sleep can disturb quality of life and functional outcomes such as cognition, energy levels, anxiety, mood, depression, immunity, stress, pain, capacity for exercise and risk of exercise-induced injuries during prolonged exercise.

The stages of sleep are important to understand to get quality rest and are classified under two stages: Non-rapid eye movement (Non-REM) and Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Non- REM happens just after falling asleep and usually takes 1-2 hours before progressing to the REM deep sleep where dreaming occurs. This cycle repeats 3-4 times each night and adults normally spend most of their time in the Non- REM sleep. A few ways to track your sleep pattern and cycles is with a FitBit or OraRing.

Sleep and exercise are in a closely linked relationship. Light exercise before bedtime is helpful to fall and stay asleep and, good sleep is required to improve exercise capacity and performance. During sleep your body releases hormones to encourage tissue growth and repair, therefore it can help your muscles recover from damage or soreness. Other hormones promote slower breathing and relaxation of your muscles which allows them to rest and reduce inflammation and heal. On the flip, exercise warms the body up but then the drop in temperature as you cool down after exercise can promote sleep. Other benefits are that physical activity naturally reduces stress and anxiety as well as affects your circadian rhythm which can help induce sleep.

 

Tips for Sleep

Sleep Hygiene and Lifestyle Management

  • Keep a consistent time to wind down and sleep
  • Avoid technology 2 hours before bedtime
  • Try not to have technology in your room (ie. TV or phone)
  • Enjoy light exercise or stretching before bed, avoid heavy or intense exercise
  • A dark and cool room helps to facilitate sleep
  • Stop eating 3 hours before bed
  • Go outside in the daytime to promote your circadian rhythm
  • Decrease stress and anxiety before sleeping ie. breathwork, meditation, yoga, writing, audiobooks
  • Decrease intake of certain foods and beverages that increase inflammation and dehydration ie. Caffeine, alcohol, etc.
  • Try guided imagery, meditation or progressive muscle relaxation
  • Contract and relax each part of your body for a few seconds starting at your feet and working your way up to the head
  • If you have trouble falling asleep, try for 20 minutes
  • If no success, do some light reading, meditation, etc. and once you feel sleepy again, try and go back to bed

Other options:

  • Weighted blanket
  • Essential oils (ie. Lavender)
  • Supplements (ie. Melatonin)
  • Treating underlying causes ie. Headaches, thyroid, sleep apnea, menopause, blood sugar, nutrition, cortisol hormone

Please consult a healthcare practitioner or professional for appropriate advice concerning your sleep and unique set of circumstances.

 

References

Chennaoui, M., Arnal, P., Sauvet, F. and Léger, D., 2015. Sleep and exercise: A reciprocal issue?. Sleep Medicine Reviews, 20, pp.59-72.

Complete Concussion Management Inc. 2020. How Can Blue Light Improve Your Sleep Following Concussion? – Complete Concussion Management Inc.. [online] Available at: <https://completeconcussions.com/2020/02/28/how-can-blue-light-improve-your-sleep-following-concussion/>.

Kelley, G. and Kelley, K., 2017. Exercise and sleep: a systematic review of previous meta-analyses. Journal of Evidence-Based Medicine, 10(1), pp.26-36.

Ninds.nih.gov. 2020. Brain Basics: Understanding Sleep | National Institute Of Neurological Disorders And Stroke. [online] Available at: <https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Understanding-Sleep>.

 

Written by:
Alison Parker
Alpha Health Services Physiotherapist Alison Parker