In a world where, as a society, people are go go go, many things are pushed to the side, with one of those being sleep. Sleep is a small yet huge factor when it comes to recovery from an injury or surgery.
Oftentimes after an injury or surgery, big or small, sleep is neglected due to any number of reasons, from pain to ability to get comfortable. As a result, the pain seems more intense and many other factors such as mood, mentality, inflammation and swelling are all affected. There are many reasons sleep should be a top priority when recovering an injury not just for healing but also for the patient's overall well-being.
In recent studies, on the effects of sleep on the recovery process, scientists have found that lack of sleep can impact the inflammatory process leading to prolonged swelling and inflammation in the area. The longer this process lasts the longer the pain threshold stays elevated as well. In a separate study it was found that lack of sleep can affect metabolic function resulting in losses in muscle mass and function. Though these findings did not show huge losses, over a prolonged period could lead to noticeable difference especially in recovering from a muscular injury. What does this all mean for the average person? If you are not prioritizing rest and sleep during the recovery process many systems on the body can be affected. In turn the muscles take longer to heal, pain threshold stays high for longer, swelling and inflammation stay elevated for longer and in general the overall mood and mindset is greatly affected.
What can you do to make sure you are getting enough sleep? Do what you can, and as advised by your doctor, to keep pain levels under control. This will allow you to rest and sleep with less interruptions due to pain. Find a spot and position that is comfortable. Given the nature of some surgeries such as knee replacements, it can be hard to find a comfortable position. Experiment with different positions, furniture and ask your doctor or physical therapist for recommendations on sleep positions that are safe yet effective given your condition. And lastly try to keep your schedule clear for the first couple of weeks to allow yourself time to focus on recovery which in turn will give you plenty of time to make sleep a priority along your road to recovery.
-Allison Bivins, PT, PTA-
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