Getting enough sleep is essential for our overall health and wellbeing. We need enough sleep for our brain to function well and for our physical health.
Long term poor sleep can increase your likelihood of chronic diseases, such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
For children and young people, getting sufficient sleep is important for the growth and development of their brain and body.
Sleep and the Stress Response
Lack of sleep over long periods can set up a stress response (fight or flight) in your body.
This creates physiological changes in your body to make you ready for action and to face potential danger or threat.
When your body is in a stressed state, this mobilises resources – raised stress hormones, higher blood pressure, higher pulse among many other changes – and shuts down other systems, such as digestion and immune function (not required when you’re running from a tiger!).
The stress created in your body from lack of sleep can create a wide range of effects including increased muscle tone, poor concentration, depression and anxiety and poor digestion.
Not getting enough sleep affects our concentration and judgement. We may even find that our physical coordination is affected. Insufficient sleep can make us feel tired, grumpy, angry, frustrated, sad and irritable.
A Wide Variety of Effects
Not getting enough sleep can therefore affect the way you feel, think, work and study. It can even affect your ability to get along with others.
Many people find that when they haven’t had enough sleep, they overreact to something negative or they might not feel as much happiness if something good happens.
Sleep loss affects your mental health, but your mood can influence the amount of sleep that you get. Sleeplessness is often a symptom of conditions, like depression and anxiety.
If you suffer from stress and anxiety, this keeps your body aroused, making it difficult to switch off.
You may also notice changes within your physical body, for example a fast heart rate and rapid breathing.
Tips For Getting a Good Night’s Sleep
The good news is that most issues with sleep can be addressed. Here are some tips for getting a better night’s sleep:
- Stick to a routine, including going to bed and waking up at the same time each day.
- Avoid drinking coffee, other caffeinated drinks and alcohol close to bedtime. Finish eating a couple of hours before going to bed.
- Avoid using your phone, iPad or TV close to bedtime.
- Set up your bedroom to be relaxing. Make sure you have a good quality, comfortable mattress and pillow. Turn down your lights as you get into bed.
- Try some meditation techniques or focus on your breathing. Take slow, deep breaths.
- Enjoy a warm bath or shower before going to bed.
- Read a book for 30 minutes or so before attempting to go to sleep if you’re wide awake. Don’t spend the time looking at the clock.
If you’re still having trouble getting to sleep you might like to mention this to your chiropractor, general practitioner (GP) or other healthcare practitioner. They may be able to give you further tips or advice.
Having a healthy spine and nervous system can help you get a better night’s sleep.
There are two ways in which a poorly functioning spine and nervous system can influence sleep. The first is easy to understand aches and pains that cause discomfort for you in bed might be keeping you awake.
The second is a little more complex and once again relates to the stress response.
Just as with lack of sleep, damage messages (not necessarily conscious pain, but messages passing around the nervous system related to damage, that neurologists call ‘nociceptive’ messages) tend to cause a stress response in the body.
When you are in a stressed state, it is difficult for your body to settle into sleep.
Many of our patients tell us their sleep improves as their spine and nervous system improves, and this is the most likely mechanism.
Chiropractors use spinal adjustments to improve spinal motion and nervous system function. When the nervous system in functioning better, sleep tends to be better.
In addition to providing nervous system care, chiropractors can also provide helpful advice regarding mattresses, pillows and sleeping positions.
If you would like some more information about the spine and nervous system and how it relates to sleep and other aspects of your health, please check out the other articles on our Facebook page or go to our website: www.spinecentre.com.au.
Also, make sure you read the other interesting articles we post on the current topic, Mental Health.