Sleep is a complex process, which makes up approximately a third of our lives and is crucial for our day-to-day quality of life and long-term function. Its main roles include supporting human recovery and tissue healing, cardiovascular function, immune function, cognition, pain modulation, and mental health.
There are 3 different stages of sleep:
Light sleep, which helps you transition to deep sleep. During this time, the body relaxes, heart rate decreases, temperature drops, and it is easier to wake up.
Deep sleep, which helps to restore your body. During this time, blood pressure drops and the body focuses on tissue growth and repair. It is harder to wake up during deep sleep and if awoken, one usually feels disoriented or groggy.
REM or rapid eye movement sleep, which helps to refresh your mind. During this time, your eyes move rapidly from side to side behind closed eyelids, respiration and heart rate increase, and your body becomes temporarily paralyzed to prevent you from acting out your dreams. Vivid dreams usually occur during REM sleep. It is believed that this stage of sleep is essential for memory formation, consolidation of emotional experiences, learning, and problem solving.
Sleep patterns change as we age.
Most adults require between 7-9 hours of sleep while younger children and teenagers require about 9.5 hours of sleep a night. Older adults over the age of 60 years require less sleep and typically wake up more frequently during the night.
Sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder, which causes breathing to stop rapidly during sleep. It can lead to serious health consequences such as daytime fatigue, high blood pressure, or heart problems. If you experience loud snoring, gasping for air during sleep, insomnia, and daytime fatigue you may have sleep apnea and should see your doctor for further assessment and treatment.
How important is sleep on mental health?
There is a close bi-directional relationship between mental health and sleep. Mental health issues can affect how well you sleep and poor sleep can also affect mental health. Individuals with anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and ADHD are more likely to suffer from sleep problems compared to the general population. Those who experience poor quality sleep are also more likely to experience activation or exacerbation of anxiety, especially if they are predisposed or at high risk for it.
It is believed that during REM (or rapid eye movement) sleep the brain processes emotional information and consolidates positive experiences. Getting less sleep or poor quality sleep can interfere with this process and can negatively affect your mood and mental health as a result.
Waking up tired in the morning? Signs you are not getting enough sleep.
There is an increasing amount of evidence demonstrating that chronic insufficient sleep quality can contribute to the development of many chronic health problems such as hypertension (high blood pressure), cardiovascular disease, depression, diabetes and increases your risk of injury, accidents and falls.
Some common signs that you are not getting enough sleep include:
- Frequent yawning, feeling irritable, or fatigued during the day
- Napping during the day or falling asleep on the couch at night-time
- Needing to sleep in late on weekends
- Trouble concentrating
- Difficulty remembering things
- Decreased libido
- Decreased performance and productivity
So how can you optimize your sleep routine?
- Try to be consistent with what time you go to bed and get up in the morning
- Limit daytime napping, if you have trouble falling asleep at night-time
- Keep your bedroom cool, dark, quiet and relaxing
- Remove electronics from the bedroom, or limit screen time before bed
- Avoid large meals, caffeine and alcohol before bed
- Get some exercise in during the day, but not right before going to sleep
- If you can’t fall asleep within 20 minutes, get up and do something relaxing and return to bed once you feel ready for sleep
- Use a bedtime routine such as taking a warm shower or bath, meditating or reading
Sleep Positions & Pillows
In addition to putting good habits to use, it’s important to consider the surface you sleep on. Most people will invest in a good mattress that supports the spine during sleep. However, often we overlook another important aspect – your pillow. Depending on what type of sleeper you are, will determine the type of support your neck needs for a good, supported sleep.Whether you struggle with neck pain, headaches, are recovering from a motor vehicle accident, have TMJ pain, or not, you can benefit from having a pillow tailored to your needs.
If you tend to sleep on your back, do you snore? If you do, it could be that your pillow isn’t supporting your head enough and allowing your head to sink backwards – this results in the tongue falling back and blocking the throat which can result in snoring. If you’re a back sleeper you need a pillow that offers an appropriate height and neck support.
If you’re a tummy sleeper, you may wake up with the occasional neck and back discomfort, because this position puts more strain on these areas. However, having the right pillow can help to negate some of these issues. A softer pillow that does not force your neck into an odd angle is a better option for you if you prefer to sleep this way.
If you’re a side sleeper, you’re in the majority. A pillow with adequate cervical (neck) support will be key to keeping your neck in a neutral and supported position all through the night.
This can seem a bit overwhelming with all the options on the market these days. If you have been to our clinic lately – you may have noticed that we now stock 6 different pillows that are tailored to your specific measurements and sleep style. Pillowise pillows come in a variety of shapes and sizes to get the most optimal sleep support.
Benefits of sleeping well
Getting a good night’s sleep regularly has many health benefits and can help with the following:
- Improving immune function
- Improving heart function
- Staying at a healthy weight
- Improving exercise performance
- Improving mood
- Increasing productivity
- Improving memory
- Helping you make good decisions and to avoid injuries (i.e. driving tired can slow down your reaction times and increase your risk of getting in a car accident)
What to do if pain or an injury is hindering your sleep?
If you are struggling with an injury and your pain is interfering with your sleep – we urge you to book an assessment with one of our physiotherapists so that we can help you get back to feeling like yourself, and functioning to the best of your abilities.