It's no secret that we all need sleep for our tissues to heal, we've known about that for a while. Australian scientists and pain specialists Lorimer and Moseley suggest that sleeplessness may contribute to ill health and also to increased sensitivity of tissues. They also say that if we don't get enough sleep the body doesn't get a good enough chance to repair itself.
There is a fascinating book by Matthew Walker, entitled Why We Sleep, that if you're interested in the topic is well worth a read. Matthew is a professor of psychology and neuroscience who has been researching what the role of sleep in health and disease is at the University of California for many years. Evidence now suggests that sleep deprivation is linked to heart disease and is even pointing to an increase risk of diabetes and Alzheimer's.
We have 4 stages to our sleep that occur each night. One stage is REM, or Rapid Eye Movement sleep. This stage of sleep is a deep sleep where we experience dreaming and is said to create a state where we have no stress or anxiety. During this stage, our energy consumption is lowered therefore more of our energy can be used to power restoration of tissue health in the body. Combined with this, blood is redirected from the brain to our muscles and other tissues to fuel the repair process.
Our last blog talked about the difference between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. The Parasympathetic nervous system controls things we don't think about, such as heart rate, breathing and digestion whereas the sympathetic nervous system is responsible for the self protection "fight or flight" mode, where stress and adrenalin help you stand and fight or run away from a scary object. Stress in the body is ok in small doses like this, but long term can be detrimental to our bodies.
If pain is keeping you awake at night and you're feeling stressed out by it, remember, it is important to try to switch off your sympathetic nervous system for a period during the day by taking 10 minutes to yourself, or doing something to relaxsuch as yoga or meditation. By doing this, we help make sure that the body spends time and energy concentrating on the parasympathetic nervous system, helping aid digestion and repair the body. No wonder we need at least 8 hours of sleep a night!
"The shorter your sleep the shorter your life." (Matthew Walker).