Promoting Sleep Health: A Physical Therapist’s Role
By Austin Mizell, SPT
This week marks the National Sleep Foundation’s Sleep Awareness Week, geared towards promoting the connection between good sleeping habits and better health.
Roughly one-third of human life is spent sleeping. Some people may see this as a waste of time, but a good night’s sleep allows our bodies to heal and continue functioning properly. One major process that occurs during sleep is bone remodeling; this is a process of removing damaged bone and laying down new bone, making it stronger and more resilient. Not getting enough sleep denies your body the opportunity to rebuild damaged tissues and has been associated with a low bone mineral density, which can lead to osteoporosis and put you at a higher risk for fractures. Another important process that occurs during sleep is the release of growth hormone which stimulates muscle repair and growth.
Based on several research study findings, the ideal amount of sleep per night is 6-8 hours. Between 50 and 70 million adults in the United States experience sleep disturbances. Failing to achieve adequate sleep can cause you to experience a greater perception of pain, a longer healing process for orthopedic injuries, and an increase in your risk for injuries and falls. It’s recommended that to improve the quality of sleep, you must have better “sleep hygiene”. Examples of ways to improve sleep hygiene include:
- Having a set time to go to sleep and wake up (tip: set reminders on your phone, use sleep apps that alert you when it is your “bedtime”)
- Avoiding technology use before bed; decrease stimuli (tip: put down the phone and pick up a book!)
- Breathing exercises and progressive muscle relaxation techniques can help prepare your body for sleep. Discuss these strategies with your Physical therapist!
In physical therapy, gaining quality sleep can often be difficult for patients to achieve due to pain. Physical therapists can not only implement interventions to help mitigate pain, but they can also provide tips and strategies to promote improved sleep quality through positioning modifications and pre-sleep exercises. While undergoing physical rehabilitation for injuries, it’s important to ensure your body has adequate time to recover, repair and grow injured tissues. If you’re experiencing sleep disturbances, talk to your Physical therapist so they can help devise a plan to get you back on track to a better night’s sleep!
For more information on the National Sleep Foundation and Sleep Awareness Week 2022, please visit https://www.thensf.org/sleep-awareness-week/
Catherine F. Siengsukon, Mayis Al-dughmi, Suzanne Stevens, Sleep Health Promotion: Practical Information for Physical Therapists, Physical Therapy, Volume 97, Issue 8, August 2017, Pages 826–836, https://doi.org/10.1093/ptj/pzx057