By William Brightman DC, MS, MEd
We certainly know that a good night's sleep certainly can help boost your energy, spirits, and overall well being the next day. Waking up refreshed and ready to go is truly a gift. Unfortunately, there are millions of people waking up each day unrefreshed, in pain, with little energy to move forward throughout the day. The National Institutes of Health estimates that approximately 30 percent of the general population complains of sleep disruption, and approximately 10 percent have associated symptoms of daytime functional impairment consistent with the diagnosis of insomnia.
Insomnia is a crisis and there are many reasons for it. Needless to say stress is probably at or near the top of the insomnia equation. Other causes of insomnia include medical conditions, depression, and lifestyle to name a few. Insomnia is extremely complex and those who are suffering should seek council from an expert in the field. Insomnia tends not to go away on its own and it is critical to get to the underlying problem.
The intent of this article is to highlight one medical condition that may be contributing to sleep disruption which can lead to insomnia and other ill effects on the body. Musculoskeletal pain has a reciprocal impact on sleep. In other words, individuals who have a sleep disorder are more prone to musculoskeletal pain and people who have musculoskeletal pain are more likely to suffer from insomnia. This may be difficulty falling asleep because of pain, waking up during the night secondary to pain, or not being able to fall back to sleep due to the pain. It can play out in several different scenarios. The bottom line is the pain is not getting better, the individual is more likely to develop other health problems in response to the sleep disruptions, and the problem becomes cyclical and more entrenched the longer you avoid treatment.
Chiropractic care has been studied in populations that have sleep disturbances. One population is people who suffer from fibromyalgia. Studies demonstrated that consistent chiropractic care helped these patients with not only pain but better quality sleep. Other studies have shown that patients whose sleep disturbance is related to their spine have benefited greatly from chiropractic care. If musculoskeletal pain is the root cause of the sleep problem then natural care such as chiropractic can offer mitigation of symptoms and allow the individual to sleep more soundly. Furthermore, your chiropractor can offer a lifestyle council with diet and exercise to help the patient who suffers from sleep disruption.
Obesity is directly correlated to sleep apnea and these patients need council on weight management. I will refer out to a nutritionist for dietary assistance, and refer out to an experienced personal trainer who has helped clients with weight management in a safe manner that does not stress their joints too much.
Individuals who eat late at night, drink alcohol, smoke, and have caffeine are more likely to suffer from insomnia. There are also medications that disrupt the circadian rhythm. Sometimes there are simple solutions to the problem. Unfortunately, food and alcohol are tied into addiction and the problem may be deeper than just a lifestyle modification. A visit to the mental health counselor may be in need for therapy and program changes!
There are a lot of natural remedies such as melatonin (hormone made by the pineal gland that helps support circadian cycles- sleep- wake cycles), theanine (an amino acid that helps reduce anxiety), magnesium (deficiencies have been associated with sleep disorders, anxiety, and heart irregularities), valerian root (increases neurotransmitter GABA that helps with calmness). Each of these may benefit the sleep sufferer.
A good mattress that is firm and pillows to keep your body in natural alignment are also very helpful in a good night's sleep!
The bottom line is sleep and associated sleep disorders are very complex. As a chiropractor I would only make suggestions and offer treatments that I think may help my patient sleep more soundly. If the root of the problem is musculoskeletal pain and I can help with manual therapies and other modalities then it is a win win! When the patient feels less pain and sleeps better, that is music to my ears!. However, it is recommended that patients seek a specialist to help with more serious sleep disturbances. In the meantime, a chiropractor, some lifestyle council (diet and exercise), and maybe a supplement like melatonin and magnesium may do the trick!
William Brightman DC, MS, MEd
Sports Chiropractor & Exercise Physiologist
Private practice Mahopac NY
Dr. William Brightman has been a practicing chiropractic physician since 1998 and has been in health promotions since 1989. He currently has a successful private practice in Mahopac, NY, where he specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of joint and muscle pain.