“Sleep is the golden chain that ties health and our bodies together.” — Thomas Dekker
All of us know intuitively that we function better and feel better when we’ve had a good night’s sleep. Many of us also know how we feel when we fail to get enough sleep or suffer through poor sleep. But do we really understand how vital sleep is to our health and survival?
In studies of humans and other animals, researchers have determined that sleep plays a critical role in the immune system, metabolism, memory, learning, and other vital body functions.
And that’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg!
Why Sleep Matters
A good question to ask might be, “Why do we sleep?” While scientists who study such things understand a great deal about “what” sleep does, they really don’t know “why” humans and other living creatures sleep.
At best, they’ve determined that there are a number of theories but no real consensus as to why humans must sleep. But the research and study has produced reams of data and helpful knowledge as to why sleep matters.
One of the main things we’ve learned is that there are a number of negative consequences that stem from a lack of sleep. These manifest themselves as both short-term and long-term consequences.
In the short-term, a lack of adequate sleep can affect our judgment, our mood, and our ability to learn and retain information. These consequences can increase the risk of serious accidents and injury.
In the long-term, chronic sleep deprivation can lead to a number of health problems including obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and even early death. In fact, numerous studies have revealed that people who sleep poorly are at greater risk for a variety of diseases and health problems.
Sleep and Athletic Performance
Athletes and physically active individuals tend to regard sleep a bit more carefully, but the jury is still out on the actual impact of sleep loss and performance.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, there is little empirical evidence that even extreme amounts of sleep loss impairs performance in elite athletes. And, unfortunately, studies in this area have had numerous limitations so a reliable determination has not been established.
What we do know, however, is that training, recovery, and performance are somehow intrinsically linked to sleep. For example, the foundation’s website notes that,
“Both sleep loss and intensive training have been associated with a higher incidence of illness and injury, so the combination of these factors could be detrimental to athletes. Ironically, sleep impairment is one of the most reliable indicators that an athlete is training too hard and/or resting/sleeping too little to adapt to intensive training.”
Benefits of Sleep
Most everyone has experienced the annoyance of being less focused and irritable from lack of sleep. Others who suffer from insomnia or other conditions experience more severe symptoms and often must resort to OTC sleep aids or prescription medications in order to get any sleep.
What most of us probably don’t know is how beneficial that sleep is to our everyday functions and ability to perform everyday tasks.
A Harvard University website states,
“Sleep, learning, and memory are complex phenomena that are not entirely understood. However, animal and human studies suggest that the quantity and quality of sleep have a profound impact on learning and memory. Research suggests that sleep helps learning and memory in two distinct ways. First, a sleep-deprived person cannot focus attention optimally and therefore cannot learn efficiently. Second, sleep itself has a role in the consolidation of memory, which is essential for learning new information.”
In addition to learning and memory, sleep benefits us in many other areas, such as:
- Getting sick less often
- Being less prone to obesity
- Lowering the risk of health problems like diabetes and heart disease
- Reduces stress and improves your mood
- Ability to think more clearly and do better in school and at work
Not to mention being less irritable and more sociable!
Sleep and Back Pain
Because back pain is probably the most common pain complaint among people, sleep can be impacted by it.
While the majority of people with back pain adjust how they sleep to get relief from it, there are those who suffer from nighttime back pain, or nocturnal back pain, in which the pain does not stop when they lie down. In fact, for some, the back pain can actually get worse or not even start until they lie down.
Unfortunately, as with other back pain, the cause of nighttime back pain can’t always be known. However, this type of condition could be caused by:
- Problems with the way the spine moves or other mechanical problems, such as disc degeneration
- Injuries such as sprains or fractures or more severe injuries
- Diseases and conditions, such as scoliosis, a curvature of the spine, or spinal stenosis
In addition, kidney stones, endometriosis, some cancers, and forms of arthritis can all cause nocturnal back pain.
For most people, however, chronic back pain can be relieved at night by choosing a suitable sleep position. Recommendations vary between sleeping on your back with a pillow under your knees to keep your legs slightly bent, and sleeping on your left side with a pillow or cushion between your knees to keep your spine and hips aligned.
Pain & Performance Solutions for Relief From Chronic Pain
One thing we do know here at Pain and Performance Solutions is that chronic pain can have a negative impact on your ability to get a good night’s sleep. Our primary goal is to identify why and how your pain is caused and then correct it with as little discomfort as possible, so you can return to life – and sleep – without fear of it returning.
Contact us now at (707) 636-4404 or use our online booking form to set up a consultation and an office walk through. At the end of the day, we are here for you and to help you achieve a happy and healthy life.