Getting Enough Sleep is Vital
Can you fall asleep easily at night? Do you stay asleep or are you waking multiple times per night? Not sleeping enough at night can negatively affect pain or recovery time after an injury. It can even contribute to acute pain turning into chronic pain.
Why is Sleep Important for Recovery?
Getting an adequate amount of sleep has several physical benefits when recovering from pain or an injury. Notable neuroscientist Dr. Matthew Walker was even quoted saying “sleep is probably the greatest legal performance-enhancing drug that few are abusing enough.”
When in the deeper stages of sleep, blood flow to your muscles increases. That extra blood flow brings oxygen and nutrients into the muscle which helps muscles repair and recover.
Growth hormone is released by the pituitary gland during deep sleep. This hormone stimulates muscle repair and growth.
Prolactin, which is a hormone that helps regulate inflammation, is also released when sleeping. Thus, inflammation in your body can be higher if you are not sleeping enough. This can prolong recovery time or place your body at increased risk of injury.
Sleep and the Mind
Our memories are retained and consolidated during sleep. When you practice or learn a new skill, like during a sport, the pathways in the brain that allow you to learn and make memories are created while sleeping.
Lack of sleep can lead to irritability and increase the risk of developing anxiety and depression. In fact, there was a study that found people with insomnia were 5 times more likely to develop depression and 20 times more likely to develop panic disorder (a type of anxiety disorder). Sleep deprivation can also lead to feeling more angry, sad, or mentally exhausted.
How to Improve Your Sleep
There are several things you can do to develop a healthy sleeping pattern. Check out the list below.
1. Go to bed and wake up at the same time EVERY DAY.
This is probably one of the most important tips. Setting a regular schedule helps your body get in a good sleep/wake cycle. Bedtime should be before 11:00pm. Try to stay in bed until your alarm goes off in the morning.
2. Your bedroom should be a calm, relaxing environment.
The bedroom should be for sleep and intimacy only. Do not watch TV, scroll through social media, work, etc. It can be hard for your body to switch gears from being stimulated by these activities to then falling asleep.
3. Your bedroom should be dark and cool.
The ideal room temperature for sleep is 65 to 67 degrees. Your body temperature has to decrease by 1 to 2 degrees in order to fall asleep.
4. Turn off all screens at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
Blue light from phones, computers, and TVs prevent melatonin from forming in our body. Melatonin is what helps us fall asleep.
5. Do a relaxing activity prior to bed.
Take a warm bath or shower, read a book, listen to music, meditate, etc. Do whatever you find calming and relaxing.
6. Eliminate naps.
If you feel you need a nap, limit it to 20 minutes or less.
7. Exercise during the day.
Exercising during the day can help you fall asleep more easily at night. It can also help reduce daytime sleepiness.
8. Avoid caffeine and nicotine 4 to 6 hours before bed.
These are stimulants that can keep you awake.
9. Limit fluid intake in the evenings.
This will limit needing to use the bathroom in the middle of the night. Waking 1 time to use the bathroom during the night is ok, but more than that is too much.
10. Try white noise when falling asleep.
White noise helps mask environmental noises that can disturb sleep. There are white noise apps you can get for your phone, in addition to white noise machines.
Sleep Better, Perform Better
Try these tips to improve your sleep. Implement one tip at a time so it doesn’t seem so overwhelming. Over time you will see the benefit. It only takes about 2 weeks to turn your system around. Make sure you get enough sleep especially after and before big workouts, races, or events. Getting adequate sleep will help you perform your best and recover faster.