Sleeping is an important part of our daily lives. Most of us will spend up to one-third of our lives participating in it. Adequate sleep is as important as eating healthy food and drinking enough water. The brain doesn’t shut off during sleep though, it stays highly active. Several vital tasks are performed by the brain during the different stages of sleep. Sleep is the time for the brain to process events and release important hormones. Recently scientists have found sleep is vital for removal of toxins from the brain. Several research studies show that lack of sleep can contribute to an increased risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, Type II diabetes, depression and anxiety.

Sleep deprivation is a condition in which a person is suffering from a lack of sleep. The American Academy of sleep medicine claim one on five adults fail to get the appropriate amount of sleep each night. They define a minimum of seven hours as a good nights sleep. Unlike most disorders, sleep deprivation is not biased to men or women and can affect people of all ages. Some populations of people may be more prone to being sleep deprived, such as people performing shift work, healthcare support workers (nurses), and people with medical conditions which interrupt their sleep (restless leg syndrome and Parkinson’s disease). 

The lack of sleep has many ill effects on individuals. Some of these effects may interfere with their personal and professional lives. Most people suffering from sleep deprivation are noticeably more irritable. They may also show signs of anxiety and/or depression, take more risks and make bad decisions. Lack of sleep also has profound effects on the ability of a person to perform due to:

  • Fatigue
  • Inability to concentration
  • Decreased reaction times
  • Decreased coordination
  • Forgetfulness

In addition, the lack of sleep may be associated with increasing the risk for musculoskeletal pain. Sleep deprivation is a known contributor to inflammation and stress, both of which contribute to pain. Some studies have looked at the association between sleep disturbance, active and high strain jobs and the occurrence of musculoskeletal pain. They show an increase in pain in the neck, upper back, and shoulder associated with sleep disturbance. Another study showed that sleep disturbance put individuals at a two-times increased risk for low-back related disorders.

Stress-related musculoskeletal disorders are very prominent in the workplace. Several theories exist as to the cause, but scientists think there is not one singular incident. It is likely there are multiple events leading to these disorders. One theory is that when we are stressed we switch to breathing with our chest (thoracic breathing) instead of with the stomach (diaphragmatic breathing). This change causes us to breathe too much, which can cause a mild hyperventilation. When this happens several chemical reactions take place due to the increase in oxygen in the system and the rise of the pH of the blood. These reactions create an environment that leads to muscle cramps, tension, spasm and decreased oxygen to the tissues. When this occurs the inflammatory process kicks in again and the cycle starts all over. Massage therapy has been shown to be a safe and effective method to alleviate musculoskeletal pain and stress. Reports also suggest that massage compared to other treatment methods has beneficial effects on sleep, mood, and stress. 

There are several resources on the internet for advice to getting a good night’s sleep. 

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services gives several recommendations. These include:

  • Setting and sticking to a sleep schedule
  • Refrain from caffeine and nicotine several hours before bedtime
  • Making your room free of excessive noise and light
  • Minimize meal sizes and alcohol intake before bed
  • Do something relaxing before bed such as meditation or a warm bath
  • Develop coping strategies to aid in the effects of sleep deprivation

If you are having difficulty sleeping on a regular basis try implementing some of the above strategies to help you overcome it. Speak to a healthcare professional if symptoms persist and interfere with your home or work life. 

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