Sleep and recovery: Five ways that sleep mends your body
Sleep is a free and powerful tool that only nature can provide! Although we sleep around a third of our lives, we put little faith into the miraculous benefits of sleep.
If you have recently had a sporting injury, or sprain, then sleep could be just the tonic you have been searching for…and best of all…you do it anyway and it’s free! This post will explain five fantastic benefits of sleep and why you should start taking your sleep more seriously.
- Adequate sleep regulates inflammation
The hormone prolactin, which helps regulate inflammation in the body is secreted while you are sleeping. This means that if you don’t get adequate sleep then you my be more likely to experience inflammation in the body. This lengthens the recovery time after an injury and may also put you at risk of further injuries.
- Adequate sleep regulates growth hormones
Hormones also play a role in sleep too. When your body enters into a deep state of sleep where you aren’t dreaming, (also known as the non REM phase of sleeping), your pituitary gland secretes growth hormones which stimulate muscle repair and growth. Likewise, if you don’t actually get enough deep sleep, then the amount of growth hormone in your body is depleted, thus you will take longer to recovery after an injury.
- Adequate sleep regulates blood flow
During the non-REM deep stage of sleep, your body heals itself by increasing blood flow to your muscles and tissues. Increased blood flow in the body means more beneficial nutrients and oxygen to aid recovery of injured muscles and to repair and regenerate cells.
Sleep is particularly great for healing blood vessels and the cardiovascular system including the heart. Conversely, without enough sleep, over sustained periods of time, you increase your risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke.
- Adequate sleep helps you to learn and retain information
Research from Harvard has found that getting enough sleep helps to improve brain function and aids your memory and decision-making abilities. So you should give credence to the idea of sleeping on a complex problem and then making a decision on it the following morning. While you sleep, your clever brain will be highly likely to formulate a remarkable solution to a problem, which was troubling and confusing you the night before!
- Adequate sleep helps you to regulate how hungry you feel
When you get enough sleep, the hormones that regulate how hungry or full you feel (ghrelin and leptin respectively) are in balance.
Ever notice how, when you’re extremely tired you also feel like eating a lot? That’s no coincidence! It’s because your body’s hunger hormone ghrelin has gone up and your leptin has gone down, making you hungry and craving unhealthy food. Sleep also regulates the body’s insulin levels which control blood sugar levels. Thus, a lack of adequate sleep over time can lead to an increased risk of diabetes and obesity.
So what is ‘adequate sleep’ anyway?
Well it depends on how old you are, or if you have recently had an injury.
Babies, children and teens have a lot of growing to do. So they therefore need a lot of time for sleep. Adults need less sleep because they are fully grown, so their bodies are simply in maintenance mode. In general, if someone has a serious injury, they will need more sleep to recover from it than a non-injured person.
- Newborns (0-3 months): 14-17 hours each day
- Infants (4-11 months): 12-15 hours
- Toddlers (1-2 years): 11-14 hours
- Preschoolers (3-5): 10-13 hours
- School age children (6-13): 9-11 hours
- Teenagers (14-17): 8-10 hours
- Adults (18-65): 7-9 hours
- Older adults (66+): 7-8 hours
Source: The Sleep Foundation
How to get a good night’s sleep
In the sensory-overload of the modern world, it has become increasingly difficult to shut off our minds and bodies each night, in order to let our natural healing mechanism of sleep to gently kick in. Here are some things you can try. These activities when done together will help to stimulate melatonin in the brain – the sleep triggering hormone.
- Stick to a sleep schedule, even on the weekend.
- Try watching the sunset each night
- Exercise each day
- Avoid caffeine after 2 pm
- Ensure that your bedroom is the right temperature, and doesn’t have too much sound or light intruding into it.
- Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows
- Avoid the alcoholic ‘nightcap’ before bed, it will actually wake you up once it wears off.
- Avoid having a late dinner or snacks before bed.
- Use the blue light filter on your phone and laptop. Blue light affects your wakefulness.
- Don’t fall asleep in front of the TV – the ambient sound and light will affect the quality of your sleep.
- Go electronics free at least an hour before bedtime.
- Keep your bed for sleeping and enjoying time with your spouse, don’t use it as a home office.
The team at Maroubra Road Physiotherapy strongly recommend sleep for the accelerated recovery from muscle strains, damaged tendons and injuries. Make sleep your friend and your body will heal itself quicker and get back into fighting fit form. Maroubra Road Physio offer a holistic approach to physiotherapy that examines and treats the whole person and their lifestyle, visit the caring and friendly team by booking an appointment or give us a call on 02 9314 3888.