Best 5 Ways Physiotherapy can Improve your Sleep Quality

Sleep quality is crucial for good health. Yet so many people get poor quality sleep. Many people will not even be aware that they sleep badly, but will be unable to work out why they wake up exhausted, and feel sleepy throughout the day.

Sleep is good for our minds and bodies. Sleep is very good for our immune system. Sleep is good for recovery. Sleep is good for health.

Let’s first look at our parasympathetic nervous system. This is our “rest and recover” part of our autonomic nervous system, and helps our body slow down. When we are in a parasympathetic state, our heart rate slows, breathing rate slows, blood pressure drops, digestion increases, and our bodies prepare for rest and recovery. The opposite is our sympathetic nervous system, our fight/flight response that increases heart rate, breathing rate, blood pressure, and releases adrenaline and cortisol for additional energy. Being in a parasympathetic “calm” state is important for sleep health.

Physiotherapists can help patients suffering sleep issues. This might come as a surprise to many people reading this article. Let’s look at how and why physiotherapists and osteopaths can help your sleep improve:

1. Reduce Pain

Pain will prevent people getting comfortable in bed. Chronic pain has a significant negative effect on sleep quality. People in pain will often wake in the night. Let’s look at an example of a real patient, aged 50, who I am treating at the moment. She had shoulder surgery for a torn rotator cuff. This is called rotator cuff repair, and is a complex operation. She struggled from day one to sleep. She was unable to lie on her operated side, and also got pain lying on her good side (as the operated shoulder would drop forward). She found it very hard to sleep on her back. When she turned over in bed, she would immediately feel pain that would wake her. Physiotherapy treatment reduced her shoulder pain, sped up her recovery, and helped her sleep better. Once she could sleep better, her body started healing better too. Everything improves when you can sleep well.

2. Breathing Exercises and Training

Physiotherapists and osteopaths often have additional training in breathing skills. Many of us are training in delivering breathing exercises. I’ve studied many breathing techniques from all over the world, read many books, and taught myself the benefits of diaphragmatic breathing. Many people snore or have sleep apnoea. If this is you, I can assure you that you are not breathing correctly. We can teach you how to diaphragmatically breathe, how to nose breathe, how to avoid mouth breathing, and how to take slower more consistent breaths. Practising deep slow breathing prior to bed can help relax your mind and body, helping you sleep better.

3. Stress and Anxiety Reduction

We’re not just mechanical practitioners. Yes, we work on joints, but we’re also a good source of knowledge when it comes to issues around stress and anxiety. This is part of our holistic package of care, especially at Surrey Physio where many of our team understand stress and anxiety. We have between twenty and thirty minutes with each patient, during which time we can speak about anxieties, stressors, and ways to manage or improve it. Just today, I had a long chat to my patient who is a chronic depressive, perfectionist, and suffers with OCD. I believe he felt better after our conversation, which included empathy, listening, and some gentle but supportive advice to help him. We’re brilliant at helping patients reduce stress and anxiety, so please speak to us about this while you are having the treatment. When you reduce stress and anxiety, you’ll definitely sleep better.

4. Weight Loss

We often support patients on their weight loss journey. We often weigh patients, and we’re well educated on supporting weight loss. Why? Because obese patients get more joint pain, especially on the weight-bearing joints like the ankles, knees, hips and spine. Obese patients typically sleep badly. They often have sleep apnoea and snore too. This is a generalisation, but it’s something we do see a lot of. Obese patients also get hot and sweaty in bed. Being cooler in the room can help aid sleep. Being bigger when sharing with a partner can also be an issue with space on the bed. At Surrey Physio we’ll often talk to you about weight loss, where appropriate (and when we don’t think it will cause offence).

5. Posture Advice, Exercises and Treatment

We help people to improve their posture. While posture is highly variable, we seek to support patients returning to normal ranges. For example, having a forward head posture can cause considerable issues getting comfortable at night. Patients often struggle with trying various pillow styles and thicknesses, and wake in the morning with a stiff neck and headaches. Correcting or improving forward head posture with treatment and rehabilitation exercises can help. Poor posture can present throughout the spine, and people can be supported with improving their spinal posture through corrective exercise.

Although you might not first consider physiotherapy or osteopathy as a useful adjunct to improving your sleep, imagine how many patients come back a week after their last treatment saying to us “I had the best night’s sleep in ages after your treatment”. This happens a lot. Physiotherapy and osteopathy really do help sleep.

For more information and to see one of our team please call us on 0208 685 6930 or email us for more information [email protected]