Have you been walking in your sleep – or stumbling around half awake – and is it adding to your pain? A professor of neuroscience in psychology at the Center for Sleep and Human Science at the University of California Berkeley warns that walking through life in an underslept state can affect your concentration, memory, immune system, blood sugar levels, your appetite and more. All of these can have an impact on your perception of pain, and the ability of your body to recover and heal from injury. Insomnia facilitates your “fight-or-flight” response, which neurodynamically gives you less options to tolerate or understand what you are feeling.
Matthew Walker has also done many studies to also investigate a possible link between inadequate sleep in the development of Alzheimer’s disease, which we will feature in a later blog.
The recommendation for sleep from the World Health Organization is eight hours of actual sleep time – not only time on the pillow. Epidemiological studies referenced by Walker seem to all conclude that shorter sleep predicts a shorter life. Lack of sleep, according to Walker, officially occurs at six hours or less, but the real benefits of sleeping arise between six and eight hours. How can we get this, when many people do not even have eight hours available to them for sleep, or they can’t relax enough to fall asleep? Walker describes meditation as a very effective way of quieting the mind, and dampening the fight-or-flight syndrome, which is a key feature of insomnia.
It quite interesting feature is that Dr. Walker comments that if you are awake and in the middle of the night, that you should not stay in bed, you should go to another room that’s dim, because your brain associates the bed then with being awake, rather than being asleep. He recommends reading a book, no screens, no phones and then only when you were sleeping return to the bed. That way your brain relearns the association with bedroom, rather than wakefulness.
Walker talked specifically about melatonin, which a lot of our patients use. Melatonin is a hormone released naturally in your body when darkness begins. He clarifies once again what I tell my patients, that melatonin does not actually generate sleep. It’s essentially a hormone that regulates other prohormones, in a cascade, setting the stage for the conditions that allow you to fall asleep. Melatonin levels help regulate the timing of your sleep, and that’s why melatonin levels in the body ideally arise around the time of dusk. So technically it helps you in the process of falling asleep, when your natural body clock responds to the time of day, or levels of dusk or darkness.
As far as other sleep medications go, Walker is not big on them; he suggests none of the current offerings produce a truly naturalistic sleep. Likewise. Alcohol removes consciousness from the brain, but also doesn’t produce a natural sleep. There is a lot here on that.
I highly recommend this article from NPR.org. The link is here.
As a Chiropractor in NE Portland, Blue Heron Chiropractic is a full service clinic featuring modern and effective chiropractic and chiropractic orthopedics, massage, exercise rehabilitation and natural medicines on Northeast (NE) Broadway in Portland, Oregon. Directed by Dr. Dana Sibilla, we treat new pain and persisting pain, auto or work injuries. Furthermore, we integrate well with almost all other providers. We manage wellness and treat a range of conditions, from back pain to whiplash to migraines to fibromyalgia, sciatica and joint pain. Finally, if you have questions about how Chiropractic can help you, or about exercise, pain or pain management, schedule an appointment today.