Sleep is often mistaken for wasted time in our fast-paced world. Research continues to discover processes that happen in our sleep that are essential to our well-being. Chronic sleep deprivation changes our satiety hormones, giving us ‘the munchies’ and making it more difficult for us to use insulin the way we should. Cortisol is a chemical produced in both long term stress and with sleep deprivation, contributing to heart and blood vessel problems. It is clear as well that mood and concentration are among the most impacted with a lack of sleep, even for one night. Evidence is not available yet for long term effects on tissue healing, although 2-5 days of less than 7 hours of sleep has not been shown to have a serious impact on healing. Research did correlate a higher rate of recurrence in cancer patients who reported less than 6 hours sleep.
Somewhere in all of these detail elucidated from research is what our bodies have told us and we knew intuitively : sleep is good for us. It allows our minds to settle, our tissues to repair. But we have pushed it back further and further to get more done, and we are sleepier and more frazzled, with less emotional reserve. There was a noticeable shift after the economic mess in 2008. People took lunches, chatted, rarely fell asleep when they came for an appointment. Sometime in the spring of 2009, people started to work through lunches, take home more on laptops, and fall asleep more commonly during an appointment. You can see the exhaustion in faces and posture and the impact it has on the whole person. Pain is more acutely perceived. Concentration to see forward to a resolution for their injury is lost. Overall, the exhausted folks who come in just don’t seem to heal well.
Like the exercises physiotherapists prescribe for almost all patients, sleep is a change to the lifestyle. It takes some effort and thought to really be consistent with an earlier bedtime or a later wake up time, but it does help the body function properly. If you have been struggling with a stubborn injury, or feel like your shoulders ache all the time, sleep may be part of your challenge.