25 NovSleep Matters

Do you ever find yourself lying awake at night trying to get to sleep but can’t? Do you feel like you toss and turn all night, and then all of sudden, your alarm goes off after what feels like a 30-minute nap? Do you sometimes wake up in the morning, and still feel exhausted and sluggish?

Getting enough sleep, and good quality sleep is extremely important for many pillars of health – Physically, mentally, socially, and emotionally. After all, we spend almost a third of our lives sleeping, so why not make the most of it? 

Why is sleep so important? 

We need sleep to recharge and bring us that refreshing feeling before we conquer the day to follow.  Sleep allows our bodies to rest and recover, and is so important in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. So what does the research tell us? 

  • During sleep hours there are a variety of normal physiological and behavioural changes that occur within the respiratory, cardiovascular and gastrointestinal systems; in endocrine, renal and sexual functions; and in thermoregulation1 
  • Having a few poor nights’ sleeps can lead to impaired concentration and attention, reduced quality of life, reduced work productivity and increased accidents at home and on roads (to name a few) 1,2,3 
  • When a few bad night sleeps turns into persistent poor quality sleeps, this can increase risk of a variety of cardiovascular disease, increase morbidity/mortality rates, obesity, type 2 diabetes, memory impairment and mental health conditions 1,3 

So how much sleep is enough sleep? 

The Sleep Health Foundation Australia recommends: 

  • Newborn 0-3 months: 14-17 hours 
  • Infant 4-8 months: 12-15 hours 
  • Toddler 1-2 years: 11-14 hours 
  • Preschool 3-5 years: 10-13 hours 
  • School age 6-13 years:  9-11 hours  
  • Teenagers 14 – 17 years:  8-10 hours 
  • Adults 18 – 65 years: 7-9 hours 
  • Older adults 65+ years: 7-8 hours a day 

Sleep and pain – is there a connection? 

The link between even just mild sleep depravation and increased pain sensitivity is well established in research5. Did you know that at least 50% of people with chronic pain conditions suffer from sleep impairments? 6. Worsening symptoms of many chronic conditions such as fibromyalgia, lower back pain, orofacial pain and rheumatoid arthritis, to name a few, may even be predicted by sleep impairment 6,7,8,9. 

What about sleep and stress? 

Stress can cause our body to go into “fight or flight mode” when hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol are released. These hormones are responsible for increasing blood pressure and heart rate, heightening our alertness and can make it more difficult to wind down and fall asleep. Having a stressful day in the office or within our relationships may affect our sleep later that day, but when stress becomes persistent over a long time, this can lead to chronic (long-term) sleep alterations10. 

Now on the flip side, lack of sleep can lead to increased stress on the body too. This bidirectional ßà relationship between sleep and stress can, as you can imagine, cause us to be stuck in a whirlpool that may be challenging to get out of 

What are some strategies to improve my sleep time and quality? 

  • Get regular. Try to go to sleep at the same time, and wake up at the same time. Ensure your body clock has some rhythm. 
  • Wind-down before bed. Think of activities you enjoy that are relaxing or calming. For example, taking a bath, practicing mindfulness, or reading a book.  
  • Close the blinds and keep a dark room. Streetlights, car lights, early morning sun can interfere with our sleep pattern. 
  • Exercise throughout the day 
  • Get some sunlight during the day. Exposure to sunlight increases our body’s natural sleep-regulating hormone, melatonin.  
  • See your GP if you have continued difficulty for management strategies or potential diagnosis of sleep-related conditions. 
  • Keep electronics out of the bedroom, and avoid using electronics and screens during your wind-down time 
  • Avoid eating right before bedtime, bur rather earlier in the evening. 
  • Avoid caffeine in the afternoons and evenings 
  • Decrease or avoid alcohol consumption, as alcohol can affect sleep quality 
  • Avoid increasing stress before bedtime. Catching up on overflowing work emails or worrying about tomorrow’s to-do-list can make it more difficult to fall asleep. Instead, you can write down tomorrow’s to-do-list or write your thoughts in a journal to come back to tomorrow. 

References 

  1. Chokroverty, S. (2010). Overview of sleep & sleep disorders.Indian Journal of Medical Research, 126-140. 
  1. Choshen-Hillel, S., Ishqer, A., Mahameed, F., Reiter, J., Gozal, D., Gileles-Hillel, A., et al. (2020). Acute and chronic sleep deprivation in residents: Cognition and stress biomarkers.Medical Education, 174-184. 
  1. Youngstedt, S., Kripke, D., & James, S. (2017). Sleep Duration, Morbidity, and Mortality.Sleep Disorders Medicine, 559-566. 
  1. Sleep Health Foundation Australia.(2015, February). Sleep Health Foundation. Retrieved November 23, 2021, from Sleep needs across the lifespan: https://www.sleephealthfoundation.org.au/files/pdfs/Sleep-Needs-Across-Lifespan.pdf 
  1. Vinstrup, J. J. (2018). Association of Stress and Musculoskeletal Pain With Poor Sleep: Cross-Sectional Study Among 3,600 Hospital Workers.Frontiers in neurology, 968. 
  1. Staffe, A., Bech, M., Clemmensen, S., Nielsen, H., Larsen, D., & Petersen, K. (2019). Total sleep deprivation increases pain sensitivity, impairs conditioned pain modulation and facilitates temporal summation of pain in healthy participants.PLoS ONE, 1-14. 
  1. Affleck, G., Urrows, S., Tennen, H., Higgins, P., & Abeles, M. (1996). Sequential daily relations of sleep, pain intensity, and attention to pain among women with fibromyalgia.
  1. Smith, M., & Haythornthwaite, J. (2004). How do sleep disturbance and chronic pain inter-relate? Insights from the longitudinal and cognitive-behavioral clinical trials literature.Sleep Medicine Reviews, 119-132. 
  1. Alsaadi, S., McAuley, J., Hush, J., Lo, S., Bartlett, D., & Grunstein, R. (2014). The bidirectional relationship between pain intensity and sleep disturbance/quality in patients with low back pain. 755-765.
  1. Lo Martire, V., Caruso, D., Palagini, L., Zoccoli, G., & Bastianini, S. (2020). Stress & sleep: A relationship lasting a lifetime.Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews , 65-77.