Most of us get less than we’d like, but we all know the importance of sleep. Our life depends on it – our cognitive function and physical processes, as well as our mental health and happiness. Deep sleep boosts the immune system, helps the brain get rid of waste products, strengthens bones and muscles, and is necessary for repair.
When I see patients suffering with chronic pain, many will also have trouble sleeping and say that it is a vicious cycle. Sometimes the pain causes the sleep problem and then the lack of sleep exacerbates the pain, or it can also be the underlying stress or anxiety that's causing the pain is also causing the sleep problems.
Healing Pain is a treatment and therapy practice serving Manchester and Greater Manchester. Where anxiety and stress can often intensify pain and cause sleeping difficulties, I want to share some top tips and treatments that can have you slipping into a deep, healing slumber.
Insight into Insomnia
Did you know that insomnia is not actually the inability to sleep? It is being annoyed by persistent poor quality sleep. This relentless annoyance and anxiety surrounding someone’s lack of sleep can cause enough stress to stop us from falling asleep!
Make Your Bedroom A Sacred Space for Sleep
It’s important that we associate the bedroom with sleep – that means you should resist the temptation of working from bed; including emails read on your phone. If you can train yourself to keep your phone out of the bedroom altogether, that is even better. When you can’t sleep, it’s easy to get stuck streaming through the internet or social media. In fact, you should avoid looking at all blue light screens like laptops, phones, and tablets from at least half an hour before going to bed. That’s because the blue light inhibits the production of melatonin, our sleep-inducing hormone. Night time screen apps can help to soften the light to a yellow or orange glow, but you are still likely to remain alert and distracted from sleep.
Be Kind to Your Body Clock
Our body clock gages when it's time to sleep based on light, exercise, sleep and meals. To maintain a healthy body clock – or circadian rhythms – you should try to stick to a regular routine of sleeping, eating, and exercise. At night, our body clock will register darkness. It is the reason many of us will struggle to roll out of bed in winter. Ensuring that your bedroom is in darkness will stimulate the production of melatonin and help to prepare your body for sleep.
If you’re tired from a bad night’s sleep, you can supplement with naps, but it won't replace a deep sleep. If you nap in the day, make sure it's no longer than 30 minutes; otherwise you will likely disrupt your body clock.
Pull the Plug on Daytime Stresses with Meditation and Journaling
Meditation and journaling work similarly as methods to successfully dispel the brain of the anxieties dancing around when we need to relax into sleep. Stress can inhibit melatonin production so by releasing our stresses we can effectively ‘put things to bed’ and then do the same for ourselves.
Ideally, you should spend around 20 minutes meditating and it will likely require some practice to find the best techniques for you. Journaling is less widely known but is perhaps more easily accessible and methodical. Writing down lists of our worries, or jobs to do tomorrow can have immediately positive and therapeutic effects. You can even write about your sleep, helping release the pressure or anxiety on account of your sleeplessness. Ending your entry on a compassionate note can further aid the release of stress. Helpful phrases can be "even if I'm tired tomorrow it's ok" "I've done all I can today and tomorrow is a new day".