Sleep has long been recognised as a great healer. It is a time when the body is able to restore and repair itself. So it’s not surprising that getting quality sleep following surgery, or an injury, is a particularly important part of the healing process.
During sleep, the brain triggers the release of hormones that stimulate growth, helping cell reproduction, cell regeneration and the regulation of the body’s metabolism. This helps wounds to heal faster and it restores sore or damaged muscles.
Immune system boost
The body also produces additional white blood cells – an important part of the immune system – to fight viruses and bacteria in order to speed up the healing process. When one doesn’t get enough sleep, the immune system cannot protect the body from infection.
When sleeping, fewer demands are made on the heart. Blood pressure drops and the body releases hormones that slow breathing and relax the muscles. These hormones can also reduce inflammation, recover achy joints and promote healing.
Given that one’s general energy consumption is lowered while the body and brain are at rest, more energy can be used to restore bones and muscles, both through an increase in growth hormone production, and an increase in blood flow to the area in need. In deep sleep, just under half the amount of usual blood flow to the brain is redirected to the muscles to help restore energy.
Although sleep is known for its healing properties, deep quality sleep is not always easy to achieve – particularly if you are a personal injury victim recovering from surgery or mental trauma. And although you may not be able to control all the factors that interfere with good sleep, you can adopt some habits to help you sleep better:
- Stick to a regular sleep pattern: Try and go to bed and rise at the same time every day. Aim to limit the difference in your going-to-bed time between weeknights and weekends to no more than one hour.
- Don’t go to bed too hungry or too full: Also, the stimulating effects of nicotine, caffeine and alcohol can negatively impact your overall quality of sleep.
- Examine your bedroom: You can create a restful space by investing in thick, light-blocking curtains, sleeping with earplugs, or running a fan to create a soothing background sound. Also cut out screen time before bed.
- Limit sleep during the day: As a rule of thumb, daytime naps can interfere with night-time sleep. If you do nap, don’t nap for longer than 30 minutes and avoid doing so late in the day.
- Get regular physical activity to sleep better: However, do not get too much exercise before bedtime, as this can overstimulate the body and make falling asleep difficult. If you are injured and unable to exercise, simply spending time outdoors every day can help.
- Know when to speak to a doctor: While most people experience an occasional sleepless night, ongoing sleep disturbances may slow down your natural recovery process.