Sleep.... sleep.....sleep. It's all my doctors seem to want to talk about these days. I can count on every doctor I see to ask me how I'm sleeping. When I tell them the truth I always get THAT LOOK! A look I'm sure anyone with a chronic illness/pain is used to seeing. Then they proceed to tell me why I need to sleep more. That being said I've always wondered how much of a difference sleep really makes. And why it is so much more important for us (the chronically ill and those with chronic pain) than other people. So I decided I would do some research and pass on what I found to you guys!! The 2015 Sleep in America Poll found that 21% of Americans deal with chronic pain, along with 36% who suffered, in a period recent to the time of survey, from acute pain. That shows that only 43% of the population report being pain free. Pain joins with stress and poor health in general equals poor sleep, shorter duration of sleep and poor sleep quality! The people who suffer from either acute or chronic pain are more likely to have problems sleeping that will impact their daily lives. More than half of the people with chronic pain and were part of the poll say that sleep difficulties have or will interfere with their work. That. Number drops under 25% for those who have no pain. Those with pain also report that lack of sleep often Interferes with their mood, the activities they may take part in, relationships and overall enjoyment of life.
People with chronic pain also feel that they have less control of their sleep, the report that worry more about lack of sleep could affect their health. This group of people also say that they are more likely to have their sleep impacted by environmental factors that make it more difficult to get a good night sleep. These could be things like noise, light, temperature, mattress or even the person who they share the bedroom with. Just to give you an idea the survey indicates that sleep is a significant problem for those with chronic pain. The statistics don't lie. It showed that almost one in four people with chronic pain (23%) said that they have been diagnosed with some kind of sleep disorder by a dr. That is compared to just six percent of those who don't have any issues with pain.
These statistics above show what we all know. They show that those with chronic pain issues don't sleep well. But why is it so important?!? Some doctors feel that the duration and quality of sleep should be considered a vital sign, because both are known to be strong indicators of qualify of life and overall Health. It is recommended that a person gets 7-9 hours of sleep a night. The importance of good sleep should never be underestimated. Sleep deprivation has been clearly linked to increased rates of obesity and increased body fat. Along with a compromise immune system, and even diabetes. Research shows that a full nights sleep (7-9 hours) is essential to help the body repair and rejuvenate. Lack of sleep has been linked to poor performance on the job and very slowed reflexes behind the wheel. A non-restorative sleep pattern can potentially cause diminished energy, depressed moods, fatigue and along with experiencing more pain. That being said new research is showing that getting a full night of sleep can not only help you be more alert and it can also reduce inflammation and pain. Basically the takeaway from this is that sleep deprivation and poor sleep along with chronic pain are part of a vicious cycle, that can be hard to break.
The good news they say, is that sleep deficits can be remedied easily and the effects of lack asleep can be reversed. There are specific ways to improve your sleep hygiene that can give you immediate rewards. The American Sleep Association there are some steps that one can take to make sure that you can get better sleep. These steps are done to help you wake up feeling refreshed and energized for your day!
The following are steps recommended by the American Sleep Association(ASA):
- Keep the room cool- In General when we sleep our body temperature drops. So it is recommended that you keep your bedroom around 65 degrees. That is so you can add blankets. The drop in body temp signals your body that is time to sleep!
- Go to bed earlier- Just like kiddos, adults can get over tired and won't be able to fall asleep. Also for those who like to stay up late and sleep fewer hours research has shown that those who keep that as part of their routine oftentimes report more negative thoughts and more pain.
- Stay on Schedule- In order to help your body get used to sleep, try to go to bed and get up at the same time. By doing this your body will get used to this rhythm. This making sleep somewhat easier.
- No Naps- This is a very debated topic. That being said the ASA says that nap decrease the "sleep debt" that makes it harder to fall asleep at night. So by napping during the day you increase the odds that you will have trouble falling asleep and/or staying asleep!
- Turn off screens- Turning off all kinds of sleep a couple hours before bedtime for all ages allows the body and brain to settle down and shift into sleep mode.
- Make the bedroom only for sleep and intimacy- In today's society the bedroom have become multifunctional. It is no longer just for sleep, it is used by some as their office, or a place to workout or a movie theater of sorts. By making your bedroom uni-functional it will make it easier to sleep there. It's hard to relax and go to sleep when you can see your desk piled high with tasks that need to be completed. By making the bed and bedroom just for sleep one can hope that your brain will subconsciously associate being in the bed or bedroom with being asleep. They also say that one shouldn't lay in bed and surf their phones, watch TV or even read. They suggest sitting in a chair in the bedroom to do those tasks and crawl into bed only when you are feeling sleepy.
- No caffeine or other stimulants after noon - in order to get better sleep it's best to avoid any caffeinated beverages, cigarettes and alcohol after noon. By doing so it is hoped that your body & mind will be able to wind down and sleep when it's time for bed.
Let me be real and honestly say I don't think that this is something easily changed or reversed. As someone who has suffered with insomnia for many years and have made many of these changes through the years. And I just don't see the great change in my sleep by doing so. That being said these tips may benefit one of you reading this greatly. So I feel like even if it hasn't helped me I want to share this information with others in hope that it can help someone else. By doing this research I was able to see the dangers that can come from not sleeping. This the importance of getting a good nights sleep every night. So I am willing to make these changes once again and see if it is beneficial to me. I will try the tips listed above for a month or so and report back to you all as to whether or not they have improved my sleep!
Finally take a moment to look at the graphic below. It shows some Interesting information on this topic. Graphic is from the National Sleep Foundation.