Why it pays to look after your sleep if you have a neurological condition Most adults need about 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night. Some require more and some less. Are you getting enough? Sleep plays an important role in maintaining neuronal circuitry, signalling and helps maintain overall health and wellbeing. Sleep deprivation disturbs the internal body clock and exerts a negative impact on your brain and its physiological functions. We all have periods in our lives where our sleep has been affected due to stresses, worries or any other disturbances and this is normal in the course of our lives. Usually, these reasons pass, and our sleep improves. If this does not happen, we fall into chronic sleep deprivation, and this can have some serious effects. Living with a chronic condition, such as many neurological conditions like MS, stroke and others can present with challenging symptoms that may lead to poor sleep and poor sleep patterns. Fatigue is a common symptom, which for some means a needed rest is taken in the day. This needs to be managed correctly, so as not to affect night-time sleep. Pain and medications are another, which can often play havoc with our sleep routines. In addition, general life concerns can be amplified in those with a chronic condition which further impacts sleep negatively – money worries, relationships, uncertainty are all examples of these challenges. Don’t be surprised if your therapist asks you about your sleep. The clients we see are all engaged in various rehabilitation programs. We always ask about sleep because the benefits of quality sleep are not only relevant to your quality of life but also to the rehab setting. Research tells us that those who get enough quality sleep show: \tImproved short and long term memory \tImproved ability to learn \tImproved physical performance “Practice doesn’t make perfect, practice with sleep makes perfect” – Matthew Walker (Neuroscientist) Continued sleep deprivation can affect the immune system negatively due to the build-up of neurotoxins and imbalance of antioxidants and free radicals. In the long term, it can contribute to the development of a chronic disease or further exacerbate symptoms related to the condition i.e. fatigue, cognitive decline, energy levels and low mood. In the short term, poor sleep has the capacity to increase the likelihood of developing an illness i.e. cold or virus as well as reducing the ability to ‘bounce back’ as quickly. Your sleep habits should always be discussed with your medical or therapy team. There are many simple things you can adopt to improve this, as well as more complex management if it is needed. For starters, here is a tip from our Exercise Physiology Team; Did you know that the introduction of resistance exercise can positively influence your sleep? Experts today believe sleep and exercise have a bidirectional relationship. In other words, optimising your exercise routine can potentially help you sleep better and getting an adequate amount of sleep may promote healthier physical activity levels during the day. One important naturally occurring hormone, Melatonin, is important in relaxing the body in preparation for bed, whilst suppressing the release of dopamine, a hormone that helps you stay awake. Higher levels of melatonin have been observed during deep cycles of sleep. Research suggests that exercise such as progressive resistance training has an acute and delayed effect on melatonin secretion dependent on the timing of the exercise session i.e. completing a strength training regime in the late evening may blunt melatonin levels that are trying to rise in preparation for sleep. However, if a session is performed in the earlier portion of the day, there is a delayed onset of melatonin to aid with sleep quality at night. So, when do you exercise? Could you try and make a shift to exercising in the morning? There are many more tips you can adopt today to try and help your sleep routine. The Sleep Foundation offers many more suggestions on this topic. Ten Tips for a Good Night’s Sleep (sleephealthfoundation.org.au). However often, with a chronic condition, achieving a better sleep routine can be much more complex and difficult. Our therapists use a range of strategies and offer sound advice depending on your unique situation. Is this you? Talk to your therapist about how you can make some changes today.