Sleep is an essential component for proper functioning of the body. It helps improve immune function, cardiovascular health, tissue healing and repair, pain modulation, cognitive function, mood and anxiety, and movement skills and abilities. Sleep plays a key role in our daily function and health.
Have you ever thought about which comes first: poor sleep or pain? When we have injuries or pain, it can be difficult to get a solid sleep. Additionally, poor sleep is associated with increased pain levels the following day. Essentially, sleep affects pain, and pain affects sleep.
So how do we combat the vicious pain/sleep cycle when it arises? Here are some tips and tricks for enhancing your sleep hygiene in order to improve your sleep quality.
Tip #1: Set up a sleep schedule
· Make sleep a priority.
o We function better when we get adequate amounts of sleep. Block out the amount of time you intended to sleep each night and schedule the rest of your day accordingly. It is recommended that adults get 7-9 hours of sleep each night.
· Establish a bedtime and wake time.
o Get accustomed to a structured sleep routine and keep this schedule even on the weekends. We are creatures of habit, and when our bodies are in a good sleep routine, it is easier to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Tip #2: Create an optimal sleeping environment
· Invest in your mattress and pillow.
o Your mattress and pillow play a key role in comfort and relaxation which influence sleep. Adequate cushion and support can help pain and promote better sleep.
· Go ahead and get good bedding too.
o The goal here is to create an inviting bed that you want to crawl into at the end of each day. Select sheets and blankets that suit your needs and preferences but also maintain a comfortable temperature throughout the night.
· Avoid excessive light and noises.
o Excessive light can cause sleep disruptions and interfere with your circadian rhythm. Keep the room dark by using blackout curtains or a sleep mask. Additionally, noise can be a distraction to sleep. Eliminate noise completely or use a fan or white noise machine to drown out noises.
· Find an optimal bedroom temperature.
o Ok, this one is somewhat subjective based on individual preferences. However, ideally your bedroom temperature should feel cool, yet comfortable. This temperature is usually ~65°F for most adults.
Tip #3: Follow a nightly routine
· Give yourself at least 30 minutes to wind down.
o Do something soothing or relaxing to prepare your body for the transition from a wake to sleep state. Quiet reading, low-impact stretching, soothing music, and relaxation exercises are some examples for getting into the right state of mind prior to sleep.
· Dim the lights.
o Bright lights hinder the production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates circadian rhythms and stimulates sleep. Avoid bright lights before bed to prepare your body for sleep.
· Disconnect from devices.
o Yep, I said it… get off those devices! Cell phones, laptops/tablets, and television all promote mental stimulation that keeps the brain wired. Ideally, it is recommended to disconnect from technology at least 30 minutes before bed. If you are using electronic devices at night, try wearing blue light blocking glasses to assist with melatonin production to promote sleep.
Tip #4: Cultivate healthy daytime habits
· Monitor the timing of certain food and fluid intake.
o Cut down on caffeine in the afternoon and evening to prevent the brain from being overstimulated at night. Eliminate alcohol consumption at night. Although alcohol is a depressant which makes it easier to fall asleep, it can lead to disruptive sleep later in the night once it wears off. Additionally, avoid big, heavy, or spicy meals late at night. If you need to eat before bed, opt for something healthy and light.
· Go outside.
o Circadian rhythms are regulated by light, especially sunlight. Take advantage of the day by spending some time outside. If you aren’t able to go outdoors, try opening a window or pulling up the blinds to get some natural light exposure.
· Move and be active.
o Regular exercise has a wide range of health benefits, and sleep is one of them. Exercise helps regulate our hormones, energy levels, and body temperature to enhance sleep.
Sleep and pain go hand-in-hand and largely influence our health and how we function on a daily basis. If you are having pain or difficulties sleeping, give some of these sleep hygiene tips a try!
- What is Sleep Hygiene? (2021, January 08). Retrieved January 11, 2021, from https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-hygiene.