The Healing Power of Sleep: Why It's Vital During Injury Recovery and Physical Therapy
by, Dr. Aaron Silverstein, PT, DPT, ATC
We all know that when we don’t get enough sleep we don’t feel our best. This is because sleep allows our body to recovery from the previous day's activities, reset, and recharge for the following day. This is important for people of all ages, especially if you are recovering from an injury, a surgery, or even a gruesome workout or physical event that pushed your body to its limits. Sleep is a vital but often overlooked component of recovery that can significantly affect your healing process. Sleep plays a crucial role in the body's natural healing mechanisms and is a cornerstone of any successful recovery journey. Let's explore why sleep is so important.
When recovering from an injury or trying to improve physical performance, achieving optimal
sleep has numerous benefits:
Increased growth hormone to repair tissue and increase muscle growth
During deep sleep stages, your body goes into repair mode. Tissue repair and growth occur more rapidly, helping to mend the damage caused by the injury or stenuous activity. When you're in a deep slumber, your body releases growth hormones, which stimulate the regeneration of cells, muscles, and tissues. This is essential for strengthening and rebuilding the affected areas affected, allowing you to regain mobility and functionality.
Inflammation is a natural response to injury as your body works to protect and repair damaged tissue. However, prolonged or excessive inflammation can hinder the healing process and lead to chronic pain. Sleep is a potent anti-inflammatory agent. It helps regulate the body's immune response and reduces inflammation, which is crucial for healing and pain management during physical therapy.
Endorphin release for Pain Management
Chronic pain can be a significant obstacle in injury recovery, making it challenging to perform the exercises and movements required in physical therapy. When you sleep well, your body releases endorphins, the body's natural painkillers. Additionally, your pain perception decreases during deep sleep, allowing further repair so your sleep isn't disrupted.
Enhanced Cognitive Function
Adequate sleep is essential for cognitive function and mental well-being (make sure to check out our last post about Mental Health!). Physical therapy often involves learning new exercises, techniques, and strategies to facilitate recovery. Sleep enhances memory consolidation and decision-making skills, helping you better retain and apply the information provided by your physical therapist.
Immune System Support
A weakened immune system can delay recovery, making you more susceptible to infections or complications. While you rest, your body produces white blood cells, antibodies, and other immune system components that help protect you from illness, ultimately speeding up your recovery process.
Stress Reduction & Improved Mood
Life itself produces stress, and injuries can be even more mentally and emotionally taxing, causing stress and anxiety. A good night's sleep is a powerful stress buster. It helps reduce cortisol, the stress hormone, and promotes relaxation, aiding in your overall emotional well-being and mental resilience during the recovery process.
Balance and Coordination
Sleep is closely linked to balance and coordination, essential skills when regaining mobility after an injury. Proper rest helps your brain process sensory information and fine-tune motor skills. This can lead to improved balance, coordination, reaction time, endurance, accuracy of movement and a reduced risk of re-injury during physical therapy.
While recommendations for sleep quantity may vary from person to person (mostly depending on age and daily demands) below are recommendations for improving sleep quality that EVERYONE will benefit from:
● Create a consistent sleep routine everyday
● Dark, cool, quiet sleep environment
● Avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol prior to bed
● Daily exercise
● Avoid screens 30-minutes to 1-hour before bedtime
Sleep is a fundamental component of injury recovery during physical therapy. It supports tissue repair, reduces inflammation, manages pain, enhances cognitive function, bolsters the immune system, reduces stress, and improves balance and coordination. Getting enough high-quality sleep should be a top priority for EVERYONE.
Remember that the healing process is unique to each individual, and getting ample rest is just one piece of the puzzle. Always follow your healthcare provider's recommendations and work closely with your physical therapist to ensure a safe and effective recovery journey. By recognizing and harnessing the healing power of sleep, you can improve your chances of a successful rehabilitation and a quicker return to an active and pain-free life.
Dr. Aaron Silverstein, PT, DPT, ATC
Physical Therapist at Out of the Box Physical Therapy