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BY DR. ARNAN SISSON PT (June 26th, 2023)
I had a client last week who was having some back issues and some problems sleeping, and most folks would think right off-the-bat the problem was coming from his back pain, but that’s not always the case. Some folks with back pain don’t have problems sleeping, and for this particular client, the back pain was not the root cause of the problem. I gave him some simple tips to help him get his sleep back on track.
The first tip is to avoid hitting the snooze button. When you wake up in the morning to the sound of your alarm, and your first instinct is to hit the snooze button, what you’re really doing is putting your body through a new sleep cycle. However, because you’re only going back to sleep for about 10-15 minutes, your body won’t consider it a full cycle, and studies have shown if you don’t complete your sleep cycle, you’re going to feel groggier and drowsier than you would just waking up immediately. You’re better off having a glass of water next to you to sip on when you wake up, keeping your eyes open for at least 20-seconds, and getting a good stretch in. You can also try putting your alarm on the other side of the room to give you the extra boost of motivation to get up and moving.
The second tip, which I am most guilty for, is late night exercise. I am always encouraging people to be active and get in some good exercise, but you want to make sure you don’t do it right before bed, because it elevates the heart rate, increases the blood flow and puts you in a fight or flight type of mood, which can make it hard for some people to go to sleep. I would advise folks to either try to cut out a time in the morning to exercise or give yourself a few hours before bedtime. You’ll be surprised how much that will affect your sleep quality.
The third tip is to be aware of excessive sofa-time. Studies have shown that if you’re not moving and on the couch more than six hours throughout the day (even less than that), your mood is affected in a negative way and your anxiety goes up. Your mood itself has a close correlation to how well you sleep. So, every 30-minutes, try to get up and move, and if you have time, try to go for a little walk. That exercise will elevate your mood and translate into a better night’s sleep.
The fourth tip is avoid drinking too much coffee. Now, believe me, coffee is good, and we serve a lot of it here at the clinic, but it affects people in all sorts of different ways. Studies show that coffee keeps its effect for about six hours. So, I tell those folks, who are having a hard time sleeping, to watch the time they have their coffee and try to drink it earlier in the morning or mid-afternoon as opposed to the evening. Trial it out for yourself to see how it affects your sleep and adjust the time as needed.
The final tip is preventing the bad timing of alcohol. Folks may have wine/alcohol here and there and notice that it does make you fall asleep, but more importantly, it affects the quality of your sleep. You may not see it right away, but if you’re drinking alcohol regularly before you go to bed, your sleep quality goes down. Many folks say it knocks them out for a few hours, but it traditionally causes them to wake up in the middle of the night and can cause a good bit of grogginess in the morning. My advice is to try to limit your alcohol intake to one glass early in the evening, every other day, and try to drink no more than three times a week to improve your sleep quality.
P.S. Here's my 13 Step Back Pain Cheat Sheet that's great at helping folks get a good night's rest, if pain is the true culprit. Its an easy way to begin to get back to exercise, long walks, and uninterrupted sleep!