Sleep and Stress Affect Our Injuries

  • September 26, 2022

A bad night of sleep is no fun. We drag the next day, but hopefully get to bed early the next night to recover from it. No one likes to feel stressed either. Work deadlines, school projects, family disputes are all part of life.

Our nervous system can handle intermittent disruptions to it's rest and calm. The problem lies when it's under prolonged or extreme disruption. Hormones are little chemical messengers in our body! They can have wide spread implications on our tissues and organs. Hormones get a bad reputation, but they have a very important role.

Hormones are messengers through the body like email sent on a computer

Cortisol is an irritant

Cortisol is the stress hormone. It alerts our system to danger. Which is great when there is actual danger. But not so great when there is no danger. It puts your nervous system on high alert, ramping it up. Higher levels of cortisol are also released with sleep deprivation. When you have an injury, chronic or acute, the nervous system uses nociception (which is a whole topic in and of itself but simply put, the body's perception of noxious stimuli) to protect the area. The nervous system is put on alert so you don't further injure yourself. Can you see where this is going? When you have an amped up nervous system because of an injury, and you add in long term cortisol hormone whose job it is to alert the nervous system, you get a hypersensitive nervous system (especially in the area of the injury). YIKES. This explains why your symptoms feel worse when you're tired and stressed out.BUT THERE IS GOOD NEWS!

What You Can Do

Good sleep hygiene and mindfulness are things that you can control that impact cortisol levels and ultimately how your body feels during recovery from an injury. Sleep is additionally important because during our deep sleep phase is when we actually do our healing. Good sleep hygiene means a good sleep routine. Helps signal your body its time for sleep so you get to sleep faster, but also improves your quality of sleep. Quantity is important but quality is especially so (reaching deep sleep). As devices have become more abundant in our everyday lives, they have started to wreck havoc on our sleep. They emit blue light which disrupts sleep because it blocks a hormone called Melatonin which signals time for sleep. Hormones! They are so important, in the right balance.

Removing devices an hour before bed (or at least using those snazzy blue light blocking glasses / setting changes for a warmer screen tone) is a good rule of thumb. There are many ways to help your body unwind in the evening like a bath, warm cup of herbal tea, reading (not on a device). Getting outside in the evening as sun is starting to set also helps to increase your body's production of melatonin. Mindfulness, meditation and exercise are all good (and free) ways to help manage stress. A good mental health therapist is worth their weight in gold as well. All of this to say that our physical recovery is affected by how well we sleep and our stress levels!

Physical therapy for injury recovery in Columbia and Baltimore, Maryland

If you are struggling to heal from an injury, reach out to our office today!

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