When you have a deep and restful night’s sleep your muscles are able to fully relax whilst your body works to repair and heal itself.
We also know that when you sleep well you can cope better with any discomfort or pain psychologically.
The energy that you usually use during the day is put to good use generating extra hormones and sending blood to the areas that need it most.
Getting the right sleep can help you with:
- Recovering from an injury
- Rehabilitation after surgery or an operation
- Stress and anxiety
- Managing long-term conditions, such as back pain and arthritis
- Preventing muscle injuries
- General fitness and wellbeing
- Getting the most out of your physiotherapy sessions
Six tips for a restorative night’s sleep
1 – Anticipate when your body will need a good rest
If you are going to be training extra hard at the gym during the week, then make time to get the sleep that you need at the weekend. This will help your muscles to repair and rebuild.
Or if you have recently been injured and have an event planned that you know will be a struggle, be sure that you get a good night’s sleep before and after.
Try to avoid unnecessary naps and get into good sleeping habits.
It’s also important that you follow your physiotherapist’s advice about resting after treatment with us. This helps to maximise the therapeutic benefits of your session which may have included manual therapies.
2 – Good sleep posture
Sleeping preferences differ from person to person, but if you are regularly in more pain when you wake up than when you go to sleep it could be time to check your mattress and posture.
Try to avoid falling asleep on the sofa or in a chair in awkward positions.
Be mindful of the alignment of your spine and neck when you are lying down.
Many of us can’t help the positions that we get into once asleep, but getting into good posture habits when falling asleep is worthwhile.
Your neck should be supported by your pillow. As a general rule, your ear should be roughly the same height as your shoulder.
If you have a stiff neck and shoulders or any upper body pain, then sleeping on your front with your face down or twisted to the side may aggravate the muscles. Try sleeping on your side or your back instead.
Don’t be afraid to make small adjustments that can help you to get comfortable, such as putting a pillow under or in-between your knees.
Whether you prefer a softer or firmer mattress is personal to you, but your mattress should be providing you with a decent amount of support. Turn your mattress regularly and replace it if it is getting old and sagging.
Getting the right mattress is a worthwhile investment, but finding the right one can be daunting. It’s important that you do your research and try before you buy or purchase from a store that offers a trial period if possible.
3 – Relax and unwind
It’s surprising how much tension we hold in our muscles. You can learn more about managing stress and anxiety here.
Taking a warm bath and stretching before bed can help you to relax and unwind.
If you’ve had a stressful day then this exercise can also help you to release tension and get to sleep:
1. When you go to bed, lie comfortably on your back and place a pillow under your knees if you find this makes you more comfortable.
2. Tense each body part for 3-5 seconds by contracting the muscle, then let go all at once and relax.
3. Work through the muscles in your body one at a time, starting with your toes and moving up your body, to your feet, calves, legs etc.
4. Try repeating this throughout the body for a few minutes, before relaxing completely and letting yourself drift off.
4 – Create the perfect environment
Do what you need to do to make your bedroom the perfect environment for sleeping in.
Accessories like blackout blinds and white noise machines can help to reduce disruptions from the outside world that may disturb your deep sleep. Whilst aromatherapy candles, night lights and removing screens from your bedroom can help you to drift off more easily.
In response to daylight our body produces a hormone called melatonin throughout the day, which regulates our circadian rhythm (also known as our body clock) and helps us to feel sleepy at the end of the day.
Blue light from screens suppresses melatonin production and disrupts our circadian rhythms, so try to resist scrolling through your phone at least an hour before bed.
5 – Avoid stimulants after midday
For a deeply restorative night’s sleep avoid alcohol, caffeine and cigarettes after midday or at least two hours before bed.
Metabolising stimulants like these while you sleep takes energy away from doing other things and can disturb your sleeping patterns.
6 – Don’t despair if you struggle to get a good night’s sleep every day
Lack of sleep is an unavoidable fact of life for many people, whether it’s due to insomnia, irregular working patterns or young children.
Do not to worry if you are unable to get as much sleep as you would like to every day. The most important thing is that you take the time to catch up when you can and when you really need to.
If you have had a draining week with the children and are suffering from back pain, ask a loved one to create the space you need to take a few naps in the day or to get a good night’s sleep.
If you suffer from insomnia it could be worth speaking to your GP or visiting the Sleep Council website for specialist advice.