Physical therapy is, for many, a way to get their life back. This type of treatment is so crucial to healing after an injury, especially for those who are very active like professional athletes. It is important to note, though, that often the physical therapy alone is not enough to bring about a full recovery. Sleep is critical for the proper functioning of the body, including immune function, tissue healing, pain modulation, cardiovascular health, cognitive function, and more. It goes without saying then that when a person’s body needs to heal, sleep is even more important. Consider the following: in survey studies, physical therapists overwhelmingly agree that sleep is important for health and therefore poor sleep impairs function in therapy.
Sleep is vital to healing and restoration. Muscle weakness and decreased athletic performance are just a few of the things associated with not enough sleep and not reaching the deep stages of sleep. University of Chicago sleep researcher David Gozal says “Sleep is food for the brain. And a great many of us aren’t just hungry for sleep, we are starving.” It isn’t just him. Sleep scientist James B. Maas, PhD, has already shown the real-world power of sleep by training pro athletes looking for an edge. For example, after working with Maas to improve her sleep habits, U.S. figure skater Sarah Hughes reported improved performance, contributing to an Olympic gold medal.
So, how does it work? According to WebMD, while you sleep, your brain triggers the release of hormones that encourage tissue growth. This can help you recover from injuries, including cuts, muscle contusions, or even sore muscles from your last workout. You may feel like you’ll be in physical therapy forever, but your brain is working hard while you sleep.
The right bed makes this sleep possible. An injury often makes sleep more difficult to achieve, but it doesn’t need to stay this way. For many people, getting a good night’s sleep could be as easy as changing their mattress and pillows. Sleeping on the wrong mattress and pillow could very possibly be the catalyst that transforms a minor joint, muscle, or ligament problem into a chronic condition.
The primary function of a pillow or mattress is to provide support for the resting body. Yet, it would be a mistake to hear “support” and think you automatically need a firm mattress to experience the restorative powers of sleep. This misunderstanding was passed on to patients from their Physical Therapists for years, and it is now finally being debunked. The firmest mattress isn’t always the best solution. As long as the spine is supported, your mattress can be plush and still help you alleviate back pain! There are innerspring and latex options, luxury firm and plush, even Euroslats® or traditional slats for your base. You could also choose an adjustable bed to help you lay at exactly the right angle. And don’t forget the pillows! Pillows should support the head and neck in the same position as if the person was standing upright. A poor pillow will cause neck, back, and shoulder pain as easily as a bad mattress- and exacerbate a pre-existing injury, of course. Many times, you will not know exactly the right bed for you until you lay on several models and try them out in person.
When keeping the spine in its natural position, the life energy that flows through the spine can deliver a deep, restorative night’s sleep. This sleep, combined with the exercise prescribed by a physical therapist, can do wonders for your body. Without drugs or surgery, or with as little as possible, your body can repair itself and function the way it was designed to.