Sleeping Your Pain Away

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It has long been agreed that a good night's sleep is important for our health.  Recent brain and sleep research has now shown that poor sleep actually results in pain, inflammation, memory and concentration problems, an increased risk for cancer and up to 4 x increased risk for obesity and diabetes.  This isn't just for severe insomnia but also from mild sleep disturbance.  

To understand this a little better it is important to know that not all sleep is equal.  There are different phases of sleep and one of these phases is called "slow wave, dreamless sleep."  This phase is a relatively short window where our brain organizes itself as well as detoxifies stuff like amyloid-beta proteins, a substance found in the brains of those with Alzheimer's and early dementia.  If our brain is unable to organize itself and detoxify the wast products of metabolism in the brain, then we may feel tired in the morning, have more soreness, feel foggy in the head and tend toward cravings of sugar and alcohol.  If this cycle continues for a long time it can contribute to chronic diseases including pain, inflammation, cancer, obesity and diabetes among others.

So how do we get a good night's sleep?  Let's use a fishing analogy.  Catching good sleep is like catching a fish.  1st- we have to be at the right place (environment), 2nd- we have to be there at the right time (timing), 3rd - we have to use the right kind of bait (preparation), 4th - we have to be in the right place for long enough to catch the fish (length of sleep time), 5th- the hook has to go deep enough to catch the fish (depth of sleep time).  

Environment - Your sleeping area should feel safe, clean and uncluttered.  Your room should be very dark.  Even small amounts of light from a nightlight, a cracked door or even an alarm clock will prevent you from going deep enough to get good sleep.  If you snore or have sinus problems, especially in winter, use a humidifier to condition the air.

Timing - Try very hard to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, 7 days per week.  This routine will help to set your circadian rhythm to deepen your sleep.  Also, reading in bed, watching TV or other activities other than sleep and intimacy could disrupt your sleep habits and result in poor quality sleep.  So just use your bed for sleeping and intimacy.  If you are having problems falling asleep or staying asleep, don't just toss and turn.  Sleep research shows that is the worst thing you can do to promote sleep.  Get up after 20 minutes and do some calming activities such as listening to light music, meditating, relaxing breathing or focusing on things you are grateful for.

Preparation - Walking for 30 minutes in the sunlight during the day will help prepare your brain and body for sleep at night.  Try and avoid bright "blue" lights 2 hours before bed.  This includes televisions, computers, handheld devices and efficiency lighting.  Nutrition - 1) Try and allow 3 -4 hours between dinner and bed. 2) Avoid eating spicy, greasy food at dinner. 3) Avoid sugar and dessert before bed.  4) Hydrate during the day and avoid drinking too many fluids in the evening.  Most people who wake up at night say it is because the have to go to the bathroom.  For more information on nutrition you can visit the nutrition section of Practicalpainrelief.org.  Stress - learning how to deal with stress during the day and avoiding stressful experiences at night are very important for good rest and sleep.  Activities like mindfulness meditation are excellent ways to deal with stress during the day and reducing stressful feelings at night.  Visit the meditation section of the website to learn more.

Supplements and Vitamins - Vitamins and minerals like vitamin D3, B12, folate and magnesium help to reduce pain, inflammation and to relax the nervous system which help with sleep.  Using supplements like melatonin and L-theonine 1 hour before bed can also help you to fall asleep faster and sleep deeper.  Tart cherry juice has been shown to help sleep as well because it contains natural melatonin as well as anti-inflammatories that promote sleep and reduce pain.  A good sleep cocktail =  Mix 1 oz of tart cherry juice with 2 oz of water and drink use to wash down 3 mg melatonin, 200mg L-theonine and 200 mg magnesium chelate.

Staying Asleep and Sleeping Deeply - If you have the right sleeping environment, work on your sleeping timing, and use the preparation suggestions from above, then even if you have pain, you should be able to sleep for longer and catch some of that good slow-wave sleep.

 

 

For more tips on sleeping well and to access the sleep research I have referenced in this article visit:  www.dansplan.com or click on this link