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The Best and Cheapest Recovery Tool on the Market: SLEEP

Are you waking up tired? Unable to beat the soreness of the previous days training session or practice? Feeling beat as soon as you wake up? It's time to decrease the time spent on other "recovery" methods (hot/cold tubs, foam rolling, etc.) and focus on SLEEP!

The great thing is sleep is free! However, we don't take advantage of this. Insufficient sleep is deemed a public health problem by the CDC. 62% of people experience a sleep problem several nights a week.

Characteristics of inadequate sleep:

- increased pain perception/sensitivity

- loss of function and reduced quality of life

- depression and increased anxiety

- attention deficits

- information processing disruption

- impaired memory

- reduced ability to learn new skills

Chronic sleep insufficiency contributes to:

- hypertension

- cardiovascular disease

- obesity

- depression

- diabetes

- increased mortality

Sleep and Tissue Healing and Immune Function:

Sleep deprivation increases the production of inflammatory markers which decreases the body's ability to fight off illnesses and alters the body's tissue healing mechanisms. During sleep, immune cells and other hormones (growth hormone, specifically) are very active to combat antigens that the body encountered during the wake hours.

Sleep and Pain: Chicken or the Egg?

Debated and unsure in research, does pain decrease quality of sleep or does sleep impact pain perception? It's probably a combination of both. Those who are experiencing high pain intensity report less total sleep, delayed sleep onset, increased nighttime wakening, and decreased sleep efficiency.

However, reduced quality of sleep disrupts normal immune and tissue healing (above) which may increase sensitivity and perception of pain.

Sleep and Mental Health:

Mental health is a growing topic, as it should be. Mental and physical health go hand in hand. Sleep disturbances alter the regulation of brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) during various sleep stages leading to hyperarousal of the parts of the brain that control emotional regulation.

So, how do we improve sleep? Here are 10 tips to improve the quality of sleep that are within your control, it may just require a little more planning!

  1. Go to sleep and wake up at the same time. This helps set your natural biological clock.

  2. Use your bed for only sleep and sexual activity. Help train your brain that if you are in bed, you should be sleeping. If unable to fall asleep after 20 minutes, leave your bed and return when sleepy.

  3. Develop a relaxing bedtime routine. This may include reading a book, a warm bath or tea (non-caffeinated), mediation, or stretching. Avoid stimulating activities right before bed such as watching TV or having stressful conversations.

  4. Avoid moderate to vigorous activity for at least 2-3 hours prior to bedtime.

  5. Avoid caffeine 3-4 hours prior to bedtime.

  6. Refrain from drinking alcohol or smoking 3-4 hours before bed. Alcohol disrupts sleep cycles and nicotine is a stimulant (think caffeine) that can cause difficulty falling asleep.

  7. Do not take OTC sleeping pills

  8. Avoid daytime napping so that you are tired at night and can fall asleep. If you take a nap, limit it to 30 minutes during the day.

  9. Make your sleeping environment comfortable and relaxing. Decrease light and noise. Room darkening shades are a great tactic. Avoid blue light/screens at least 30 min before bed. Make sure your pillow and mattress are comfortable to you.

  10. Avoid eating a large or spicy meal 2-3 hours before bed.

Try these tips out to focus on sleep, recovery, and mental health!

Siengsukon, C. F., Al-dughmi, M., & Stevens, S. (2017). Sleep health promotion: practical information for physical therapists. Physical therapy, 97(8), 826-836.

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