As Physical Therapists, we focus a lot on what patients do during their waking hours (hydration, physical activity, proper body mechanics, etc). However, it is just as important to look at what we do at night in order to speed up the healing and recovery process. Sleep is a key ingredient in speeding the recovery process after injury as well as maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Here are some tips to help improve the quality (and quantity) of your sleeping patterns:
Set a goal to go to bed and wake around the same times each day. By going to sleep and waking around the same time each day (even on weekends and holidays), the body is able to adjust to a routine and proper cycle, allowing for adequate rest and recovery each night.
Part of a consistent sleep schedule should also include soothing and relaxing activities within a few hours prior to going to bed. Activities include a warm bath/shower, reading (a book—more on this later), or mediation as effective techniques to relax the body and mind before bed.
The light emitted from cellular devices, computers, and tablet devices can result in increased brain activity prior to bed. Limiting the use of these electronic devices 1-2 hours prior to bed can help ease and relax an over-stimulated brain. If television is a part of your current pre-bedtime rituals, make sure to dim the room lights around the TV and avoid graphic programming that could increase your heart-rate. (Yes, that means limiting how many episodes of “The Walking Dead” you watch right before bedtime).
Refrain from going to bed on an empty stomach or overly stuffed, as both can disrupt the body’s natural sleep cycle. The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) recommends eating at least 2-3 hours prior to bedtime and avoiding the intake of alcohol, nicotine and caffeine during that time.
Get the right environment:
Creating the proper environment to allow the body to rest and recovery is important for quality sleep. Limiting noise, light and heat are all important, as the NSF recommends a comfortable bedroom temperature of 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit. They also suggest considering “blackout curtains, eye shades, ear plugs, ‘white noise’ machines” or other noise-cancelling devices.
Light to Vigorous physical activity on a daily basis is another important component to ensuring quality deep sleep.
Limit excessive napping:
Although napping may appear to help get you through the day, by over-doing it you can actually disrupt the body’s consistent sleep schedule, making it more difficult to achieve quality sleep when it counts. Try to limit naps to less than 30 minutes and earlier in the day is best.
For more information and tips, please visit: http://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-tools-tips/healthy-sleep-tips
by Cole Racich, Physical Therapist, DPT