The value of sleep cannot be overstated enough! There’s a reason that it’s one of the so-called 4 main determinants of health (along with exercise, nutrition, and social connections). While a lot of people know what it is to sleep poorly, a lot of us don’t know what it is to consistently sleep well (as the neuroscientist Andrew Huberman points out in his podcast series).
As a new parent with a 2-year-old who didn’t sleep well, I’ve had a first-hand experience of what long-term sleep deprivation can do. As anybody who’s gone through sleep issues can probably agree, there is a reason that sleep deprivation is torture. Even with valuable parenting tools like coffee, it’s hard to get past the fatigue, difficulty concentrating, short-term memory issues, and mood disturbances that can occur.
Regardless of why you’re not getting good sleep, something that often surprises a lot of patients is that poor sleep, especially over a long period of time, can also be a major factor that contributes to ongoing pain. My patients seem unsure why I ask about their sleep, and the answer is that optimising sleep, can be a big part of the solution to what they are coming in to see us for.
Sleep and pain influence each other. If you get pain at night, your sleep gets disturbed. If you have a bad night’s sleep, this tends to sensitise your nervous system, and you can get more intense pain the next day. We may also be more fatigued, both because of the pain and the lack of sleep, and this can mean we don’t engage in the activities we love to do, or go out and be engaged with the people we love to spend time with, both of which are good for helping our health.
So, if you’re dealing with pain, it’s important to consider – how’s my sleep?