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Sleep and its Role in Rehab

We know that sleep is important for our overall well-being and function. We know this because we are all aware of the effects of a poor night’s sleep. Aside from the general feeling of wakefulness and energy that we all strive for, did you know that a good night’s sleep can also affect how you recover from pain and injuries?

Sleep is necessary for the preservation of life. Sleep provides us with many functions while we are in that elusive state. Sleep is involved in energy conservation, immunity, memory and learning, emotional regulation, and healing.

The sleep cycle can be broken down into four stages: 1 through 3 non-rapid eye movement

(REM) stages and one REM stage. We cycle through the four phases throughout the night. Both the amount of time spent in each stage and the duration of each cycle changes as the night goes on.

All of the phases of the sleep cycle are important for our physical and mental well-being.

However, the healing that occurs during our sleep usually happens during stage 3 of the sleep cycle. This is when we are in a deep sleep. We spend most of our time in deep sleep during the first half of the night. While we are in this state, our bodies are involved in many tasks that enable healing and recovery. There is decreased production of free radicals for tissue repair, increased protein synthesis for cell regeneration, and the collection and clearing of metabolic waste.

Our bodies don’t reach stage three of the sleep cycle without passing through stages one and two first. If our sleep is interrupted throughout the night, it may be difficult to spend enough time in this stage or even reach it. If we don’t spend enough time in this phase of sleep, our bodies can’t recover as well from injuries resulting from our day-to-day lives and activities. Recovery is essential in allowing us to pursue the things we love doing.

Having proper sleep hygiene can help achieve a good night’s sleep. These are the habits,

practices, and environment that allows for sleeping well on a regular basis. Here are some

suggestions on how to improve your sleep hygiene.

● Go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning.

● Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and large meals before bed.

● Make sure your bedroom is dark, cool and quiet.

● Reduce your screen time before bedtime.

● Avoid napping.

A good night’s sleep can be just as important as an appropriate rehab plan and proper nutrition in your recovery from injury. Implementing even one of these suggestions (I swear by my earplugs) can make a huge difference - try it out!

Written by Stephanie Barnes - Registered Physiotherapist, K-TOWN Physiotherapy


Daniel A. Barone, Ana C. Krieger. The Function of Sleep[J]. AIMS Neuroscience, 2015, 2(2):



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