If you are having trouble sleeping at night, you are not alone. The Australian government estimates that one third of Australians experience insomnia at some point in their lives, and 5% need professional treatment to deal with it.
At Canberra Spine Centre, we notice that many people who visit our centre complain of poor sleep. Lack of sleep can be detrimental to your health in a number of ways.
In a recent article written for Time magazine, Christine Gorman reports that sleep deprivation is responsible for slower reaction times and poor memory. After 20 hours without sleep, reaction times are similar to those with a 0.08 blood- alcohol level, making it significantly more dangerous to operate a motor vehicle, for example. More recently, poor sleep has been linked to a multitude of health problems such as poor cognitive function, depression, obesity and diabetes.
Some people suffering from insomnia try medication, such as prescription sleeping pills. While these may be effective in the short-term, every medication has side effects that can harm your health. If you are looking for a more natural alternative, some of the following advice may be of assistance.
Are you physically uncomfortable?
A mattress or pillow that has seen better days can lose its original shape and/or ability to support you in bed. If this is the case, the resulting discomfort could be keeping you from a good night’s sleep. A quality mattress should last around 10 years.
Check that your pillow and mattress support you in good posture (have a partner or friend check your alignment as you lay down in your bed), and if not, you may need to replace them.
Is your bedroom noisy?
Some people, especially those with a ‘wound up’ nervous system, can be extra-sensitive to noise. If you are one of those people, you may want to consider wearing ear plugs to bed. This may seem extreme, but can be very helpful in creating a good night’s sleep. Another method to consider in helping with insomnia is “white noise”.
White noise is any regular background noise that does not interfere with sleep. The sound can block out other, sharper noises that might interfere with sleep. It could be something as simple as the radio hissing, or the more soothing sound of waves on the beach. There are apps created for just this purpose.
Are you frequently getting up to urinate?
Cut out caffeine and alcohol (both stimulants), especially in the afternoon. Both drinks can increase night time urination and therefore sleep disturbances.
Are you using tech devices prior to sleep?
Using smartphones, tablets, and computers prior to sleep can lower levels of melatonin and shorten REM cycles. In fact, any bright screens can create this effect, even watching TV before bed. Turn off your tech devices at least one hour before sleep.
Is your schedule confused?
Your body likes regularity, so try to go to sleep at the same time each night, after a similar set of pre-sleep activities. A regular routine helps your body set its own rhythms.
Do you use your bed for tasks other than sleep?
Some people eat in bed, watch movies, or use their electronic devices (see above!). Unfortunately, if we do non-sleep-related activities in bed, our brain begins to associate the bed with them. When you lay down at night, your body is physically ready to do whatever it believes it’s programmed to do in that environment. If you sleep in your bed, and nothing else, you may find it much easier to sleep.
Poor sleep can originate from a variety of causes. At Canberra Spine Centre many of our patients list poor sleep among their initial complaints. Many of those people report excellent improvement in the quality of their sleep as a result of their treatment.
How Can Chiropractic Help?
Though chiropractic care is often viewed as primarily a means for managing back pain, it can also have an important role in improving your sleep. Chiropractic adjustments may be of benefit in helping improve sleep. There are at least two possible reasons.
The most simple one is that when you are uncomfortable in bed, it is difficult to get to sleep and stay asleep. For many people, just lying there in bed, or turning over, is uncomfortable. When their spine and nervous system is functioning better as a result of their chiropractic treatment, the patient is more comfortable in bed, and therefore sleeps better.
Another reason is related to the ‘stress response’, one of the most studied physiological responses in the body. When your body is not functioning properly, damage accumulates (think of an out-of-tune car) gradually. These damage messages are constantly zipping around the nervous system, and this barrage of damage messages (called ‘nociception’ in neurophysiology circles) creates an internal stress response.
A stress response is all about mobilizing resources to ward off or run away from perceived danger. This is the opposite of what is required for sleep. When your body is running a stress response, it will be unlikely to be sleeping well. Chiropractic adjustments restore proper motion to the spine and thus improve the function of the nervous system.
As the body functions better, it heals, leaving less damage and the associated nociception. Mechanoreceptor (movement sensation receptor) input into the brain also improves when the spine is moving properly. This also influences the stress response.
There may be other means by which chiropractic treatment may improve sleep, such as more appropriate physiology (eg. hormone secretion), but these have not been studied well enough to comment on.
See us at Canberra Spine Centre
If you have sleep-related issues, you can take control of them by talking to your doctor of chiropractic at Canberra Spine Centre. At Canberra Spine Centre we provide holistic advice and treatment to assist people with a variety of health issues including poor sleep.