I was tired.
Tired from waking up early enough to beat D.C. traffic and start seeing patients in the clinic at 6 AM. I did this for 3 years. I was getting around 6 hours of sleep a night – sometimes less and sometimes more. I thought that this wasn’t really that bad until I stopped having to do it. I noticed that my mood changed, I could think clearer, I lost weight and felt better all together.
This was a wake-up call. I had known that sleep was important, but now I had experienced what it was like to be deprived of sleep. That’s right, deprived.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends 7-9 hours of sleep for adults. Are you getting this much per night?
I believe that many of our patients suffer from issues surrounding sleep. From patients in the ICU to those with persistent pain, lack of sleep contributes to a number of issues that healthcare providers encounter often. I often wonder if we are picking up on this important factor?
Unfortunately, it took me to experience what lack of sleep felt like to see its effect on my own functioning. Sleep is critical for our survival and it has been said that we spend a third of our lives sleeping. Good sleep is essential for optimal immune function, pain modulation, mental health, memory, tissue healing and more. If we are deprived of sleep, it will most definitely affect these vital functions.
As I have developed in my own clinical practice (and due to my experience), I realized that I was doing a poor job of screening for poor sleep habits/hygiene. The interesting thing is that this is not hard to do. I would say that many of us are asking about sleep or at least including a sleep question on our intake forms, but what are we doing about it when the patient says “yes” to these sleep-related questions? I know I struggled to figure out the best approach to help with this important function. I was sleeping on the issue.
If you haven’t heard of Dr. Katie Siengsukon (@KatieSleepPT), you should get familiar with her. She is one of the leading sleep researchers in physical therapy. The purpose of this post is not to go into all the strategies to address sleep, however, I do think there are some great resources out there to help get up to speed on screening for and addressing sleep related issues. Here are a few:
- Siengsukon et al’s Physical Therapy Journal publication on Sleep Health Promotion for the PT – a must read.
- Why We Sleep – Interesting TED Talk.
Obviously there is much more out there regarding sleep and what to do regarding sleep health, but this is a great start. As PTs, or any healthcare provider, it is essential to screen for poor sleep hygiene. Hopefully you won’t have to experience what it is like to be deprived of sleep in order to recognize how important it is. Take this chance to wake up and do something about it so that we can promote optimal health and wellness for the patients we see!