As a society, we are chronically underslept. Adults should be getting 7.5-8 hours of shut-eye each night, but are averaging less than 7. (1) Once you take into account the actually quality of that sleep (i.e. undisturbed and restful), the outlook is pretty grim. We’ve turned into a nation of sleepwalkers, and it now may be one of the number one causes of chronic back pain.
Health Implications of Sleep Deprivation
Though scientists don’t yet understand the full complexity of what happens to our bodies when we sleep, there’s no doubt that it is critical to our health. After all, why would we risk lying unconscious and vulnerable for several hours each night if it wasn’t? Evolutionarily, it doesn’t make sense, and yet humans have been sleeping since the beginning of time.
Elevated Cortisol Levels
When you are underslept, your body produces higher amounts of the stress hormone Cortisol. (2) This is the same hormone released when you have a looming deadline at work or are being chased by a bear.
When your cortisol levels are chronically high, a whole host of health problems follow, including (2)(3)(4)(5):
- anxiety and depression
- digestive problems
- heart disease, hypertension, and stroke
- weight gain and obesity
- memory and concentration impairment
Those who are chronically underslept or who suffer from insomnia have self-reported diminished productivity, higher stress, and poor mental and physical health. (6) (7)
Chronic Lack of Sleep and Back Pain
New research has shown that chronic lack of sleep may be one of the largest contributing factors that plague most Americans. Your body’s inflammatory response to a lack of sleep and high cortisol causes your whole body to be on edge – your muscles, joints, ligaments, and nerves. They become hypersensitive and thus cause you to feel pain. (8) (9) (10)
If you suffer from low back pain and are consistently sleeping for less than 7 hours each night, or don’t feel energized and refreshed after waking in the morning, a lack of quality zzz’s could be the culprit.
6 Ways to Reset Your Sleep Cycle
Regular exercise not only helps you fall asleep faster and for longer, but it also improves the quality of your sleep. Be careful not to exercise too soon before going to bed, however, as sometimes the hormonal response to higher intensity physical activity can increase feelings of wakefulness for a few hours after, making falling asleep a challenge. (11) (12)
2. Establish a Routine
Our crazy schedules have wreaked havoc on our bodies’ circadian rhythms, which are what help us go to sleep and wake up each morning. To reset yours, you must establish a bedtime routine. Going to bed at the same time each night, and waking up at roughly the same time each morning, is critical to your rhythm. Also, having a bed time routine – like changing into your pjs, washing your face, then brushing your teeth – will cue your brain that it’s time to sleep.
3. Include Sleep-Encouraging Foods
4. Herbs and Essential Oils
There are several herbs that people have been using for centuries to help them get better sleep. Most can steeped into a tea, or taken in pill form. Try using this herb or diffusing these essential oils two hours before going to bed.
5. Yoga and Stretching
Everyone knows regular yoga and stretching can have a profound impact on our bodies and even help to heal from disease. What many don’t realize, is that there are specific yoga poses and stretches that when performed before bed, can help you sleep better. Try this 6-move routine or one of these 10 moves to fall asleep faster.
6. Thing to Avoid
- Large amounts of heavy food
- Use of Electronics
- Loud, upbeat music
Tricks to Reduce Back Pain
There are many yoga poses that promote back health. Try these 8 poses for immediate relief.
This is similar to acupuncture, except it is far less invasive and you can perform it on yourself. Try these points on your feet to free yourself of back pain.
You can even try a wearable acupressure device like this one from aculief, which can be worn on your hand as a great alternative to painkillers.
Much of our problems with back pain stem from being overly stressed. This simple, 1-minute meditation will help relieve you of even your worst back pain.
5. Anti-Inflammatory Foods
Inflammation is the root of all chronic pain. Try this tea with anti-inflammatory powerhouses ginger and turmeric to reduce inflammation naturally.
6. Tape Trick
For on-the-go back pain relief, try this easy tape trick. It will take care of your back pain while you go about your day normally.
Using these tricks, start sleeping better tonight to cure your chronic back pain.
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