Why is Sleep Important for Health?
You may be surprised that your Physical Therapist is interested in your sleep health. After all, isn’t physical therapy about activities like exercising and stretching? Physical therapy is about recovery and accomplishing goals toward recovery. Sleep is when the body heals and mends itself. This means sleep has a role in immune function, tissue healing, pain modulation, heart and cardiovascular health, and motor skill learning.
62% of Americans Experience Sleep Problems
According to a scientific journal for physical therapy, almost 50 million adults experience chronic sleep disturbances. This is a conservative number as most sleep problems go undiagnosed. Not only can sleep problems impact healing after an injury, it can have long-term health effects as well. According to the National Library of Medicine, some long-term consequences of sleep disruption include hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and weight-related issues.
Start with Your Pillow
More than likely, you are a side sleeper. Even those who start by sleeping on their back will tend to move around during the night and end up in the side position during most of their sleep time. It is not recommended to sleep on your stomach. You will want to make sure your pillow is high enough. One way to tell is by standing up in front of a mirror and holding your pillow to the side of your head. The edge of your pillow should line up with your shoulder. You do not want it to go past your shoulder (too high) and you don’t want it to stop too short.
How Firm Should My Mattress Be?
Many individuals choose the firmness based on preference while others go with the newest or most expensive trend. Generally speaking, you will want a medium to medium-firm mattress. To determine if it is too soft or too hard, consider the following.
If you sink into the mattress, making it hard to roll from side to side—it is too soft. If there is no give you will most likely feel pressure on your sacrum (that’s the vertebrae below the lower back, near your pelvis, before the tailbone).
Test-drive your mattress. Lay down in it for several minutes before purchasing it. Adjustable beds are also an option.
I Heard Stretching Helps with Sleep
You will want to check with your doctor or physical therapist before you pick out your own stretching routine—especially if you are still recovering from an injury. Otherwise, stretching the hips and lower back targets the muscles that most commonly become restricted during the day for those who are used to sitting for an extended length of time.
If you are a side sleeper, stretching your shoulders can also be a good idea. Remember to check with your doctor or physical therapist first, especially if you are in recovery.
Sleeping is Good, Good Sleeping is Better
Overall, the two most important reasons for getting better sleep is for effective healing and pain management. Your immune system synchronizes with your wake-sleep cycle. Interrupting your sleep cycle is interrupting your immune system. Also, the same neural mechanisms for pain management also control sleep regulation—interrupting your sleep interrupts your ability to manage pain.
Renew Physical Therapy is located in Southeast Portland. Visit our About Us page to learn more about our practice, clinic, and staff.
Call us at 503.928.4914 to schedule an appointment.