Restful sleep is something we all want, and our bodies know when we don’t get it. Waking in the morning with aches and pains makes sleeping seem like we wasted those eight hours in bed. Why is it that we wake up feeling even more tired and sore than when we went to bed? Chronic inflammation has a lot to do with it.
Contact the sleep experts at Silent Night Therapy for help finding out why you’re having trouble sleeping. With years of experience helping people sleep better, our specialists can help you find out what’s wrong and figure out how to manage it. Call us today at 631-983-2463.
What Is Inflammation?
“Inflammation” is just a term for the body’s natural immune response to a pathogen or damage. Whether the harm to the body is caused by a virus or by a torn ligament, the body fights the damage in the same general way: swelling and redness, heat (fever), pain and stiffness caused by swelling, and fatigue as more systems turn to fighting the damage.
“Acute” inflammation occurs at the moment of an injury or illness. When you sprain an ankle or catch a cold, the fever, swelling, sharp pain, and other symptoms are the body’s rapid response system being activated to mobilize against a threat. In the case of a cold, white blood cells are sent to attack invading viruses. In case of a sprain, extra blood is sent to the torn muscles to promote healing.
“Chronic” inflammation is what happens when your body is suffering from a long-term injury or a chronic illness such as a bad back or heart disease. If the response to an acute injury is the equivalent to the body’s fire department, the response to a chronic injury is the body’s sanitation department: A tired rattling garbage truck rumbling down the street day after day.
Chronic inflammation causes the body to be on perpetual alert, and the effect can eventually damage healthy cells and tissue. Worse, it can have an impact on your body’s rhythm and cycles, including sleep.
Sleep Knits Up All Kinds of Things
When Shakespeare wrote “sleep that knits up the raveled sleeve of care” he wasn’t kidding. Sleep and the immune system are interrelated in ways that science is still working to understand. Both sleep and the immune response are regulated by “circadian rhythms,” the daily wake/sleep cycle, and when one of them gets out of sync, the other follows.
If you live with chronic back pain or know someone who does, you may have already seen this in action. You have difficulty sleeping because of the back pain, and when you get up the pain is worse. When you go to bed that night, the pain is worse still, and your sleep is even less restful, and so the pain intensifies. Soon, you can’t tell which came first, the back pain or the bad sleep.
Other things can interrupt your circadian rhythms. Airline travel and jet lag disrupt our sense of when to sleep and when to get up. So does having to stay up late or wake up early or doing shift work. All these things cause irregular sleep cycles and contribute to chronic inflammation.
Too Much Sleep Is Just as Bad
Surprisingly, excessive sleep does just as much harm. In 2016, a review of multiple investigations into the relationship between heart disease and sleep found that excessive sleep (more than nine hours per night) raised levels of C-reactive protein, an inflammatory marker associated with high blood pressure, heart disease, and type-2 diabetes.
Because of the way our bodies’ systems interact, it is hard to know if too much sleep causes this inflammation, or if the inflammation is what creates a need for excessive sleep. What is certain is that they contribute to one another, and if you are regularly sleeping ten or twelve hours per day, something is amiss with your health.
When Enough Is Not Enough
Even if you are sleeping the correct number of hours, you may not be getting the kind of restful sleep you need to reduce the inflammation-causing proteins in your body. Even one night of shallow or interrupted sleep may be enough to cause higher levels of a protein called NF-kB, which stimulates an inflammatory response throughout the body.
This type of shallow, restless sleep is common today, where people often go to bed stressed or anxious, and then have difficulty staying asleep because of emotional or physical pressures. Noise, light, and other discomforts prevent restful sleep and contribute to any existing inflammation. Waking more tired in the morning is an experience we’ve become accustomed to.
So What Can I Do?
Too many people rush to take sleeping pills or have a glass of wine before bed, but those aren’t really the best way to proceed. Before going the chemical route, try a few other methods of settling in before bed.
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. This forces your body to follow its natural circadian rhythm.
- Establish a bedtime routine. Don’t just “fall into bed” every night, even if you’re exhausted. A regular routine helps your body wind down and demobilize the forces that cause inflammation.
- Find a sleep system that fits you. Some people prefer cool rooms, some like it hot. Some prefer firm mattresses, some want lots of pillows. Sleep is important, so don’t skimp on making your bedroom the perfect nest for the sleep you need.
It is also important to treat any underlying chronic conditions. If you have back pain or sleep apnea, it will continue to impair your sleep, so you will need to treat both conditions at the same time to reduce any chronic inflammation and chronic sleep disorders. Sleep apnea can be both the cause of restless sleep, and a symptom of more serious disorders.
Contact the Sleep Experts of Silent Night Therapy
By improving your sleep, you’ll fight any chronic inflammation you may have, and by treating any chronic inflammation, you’ll improve your sleep. If you want to know more about how your body depends on sleep, call Silent Night Therapy at 631-983-2463, or take our online test to see if your sleep is less than ideal.
Getting a good night’s rest isn’t just good for your brain, it’s good for your body. We can help you get the rest you need tonight.