Falling asleep and staying asleep can be a big problem for many people.
Not only does it affect your patients’ day-to-day life, but now it can lead to chronic pain later on. The Journal of the International Association for the Study of Pain found that sleep problems can lead to chronic pain after studying 1,753 adults ages 19 to 25. The young adults were initially tested and then tested again three years later. The researchers found that more than half still had sleep problems and 38 percent of those people had persistent chronic pain.1
But there are ways to help cure sleep problems now that can help your patients avoid pain later on. Here are a few ways to help them get better sleep tonight.
This may seem a little odd, but wearing socks at night can help your patients sleep better. Researchers have found that the temperature of both the hands and feet can effect how fast you fall asleep. A 1999 study by the Chronobiology and Sleep Laboratory found that the degree of dilation of blood vessels in the skin of both feet and hands helps sleep come faster.2
When you heat cold feet, the blood vessels dilate of vasodilation occurs, which tells the brain that it is time for bed. Then as the blood vessels open, heat is distributed around the body and you fall asleep faster.
Limit caffeine intake
Having a cup of coffee as an afternoon pick-me-up might seem like a great idea to get through the rest of the day, but it actually affects sleep later on. While caffeine right before bed is never a good idea, consuming caffeine even six hours before bed can effect sleep. The Sleep Disorders & Research Center studied the effects of caffeine on sleep zero, three and six hours before bed. They found that taking 400 mg of caffeine anytime within six hours of going to sleep can significantly disrupt sleep. Consuming caffeine six hours before bed decreased sleep by an average of one hour.3 Instead, recommend other options such as herbal tea.
Use scents to deepen sleep
Scents such as lavender can help your patients fall asleep and stay asleep longer. Lavender has been found to slow down heart rates and blood pressure and create a relaxed state. In May 2016, the Journal of Neurophysiology found that using odor enhanced the slow-wave activity during non-rapid eye movement sleep.4 The results showed that using odors can deepen sleep. Another study by Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice gave aromatherapy sticks to patients diagnosed with cancer. Ninety-four percent of the patients reported that they used the sticks and 64 percent said that they sleep better while using the sticks.5
Use the proper pillow
Finding the right pillow to help you sleep can be challenging. But there are specific pillows designed to improve sleep based on the position that you sleep that you can recommend to your patients. For side sleepers, recommend a firm or extra firm pillow to keep the body in proper alignment. A 2015 study by the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics found the most comfortable height was about four inches high.6 For back sleepers, opt for a medium-loft or medium firm pillow to support the neck and head. For stomach sleepers, choose a thin and soft pillow with down or feathers to support the neck and not leave it sore.
1. Bonvanie IJ, Oldehinkel AJ, Rosmalen JGM, Janssens KAM. Sleep problems and pain: a longitudinal cohort study in emerging adults. Published April 2016. Accessed May 2016.
2. Krauchi K, Cajochen C, Werth E, Wirz-Justice A. Warm feet promote the rapid onset of sleep. Published 1999. Accessed May 2016.
3. Drake C, Roehrs T, Shambroom J, Roth T. Caffeine Effects on Sleep Taken 0,3, or 6 hours Before Going to Bed. Accessed May 2016.
4. Peri O, Arzi A, Sela L, Secundo L, Holtzman Y, Samnon P, Oksenberg A, Sobel N, Hairston IS. Odors enhance slow-wave activity in non-rapid eye movement sleep. Published May 1, 2016. Accessed May 2016.
5. Dyer J, Cleary L, McNeill S, Ragsdale-Lowe M, Osland C. The use of aromasticks to help with sleep problems: A patient experience survey. Published February 2016. Accessed May 2016.
6. Sacco ICN, Pereira I, Dinato R, Viterbo SF. The Effect of Pillow Height on Muscle Activity of the Neck and Mid-Upper Back and Patient Perception of Comfort. Published July 2015. Accessed May 2016.