Sleep – the forgotten factor in health? #physiotalk 11th June 8.30pm

We had planned this #physiotalk on sleep a while ago, but the importance of sleep was re-emphasised to me this weekend.

My son was travelling home and needing picked up from the airport – but a flight delay meant that he eventually arrived home at 3am. That meant that all of us were sleep deprived the next day and potentially a little grumpy! The day after that he was taking part with my husband in a 60 mile cycle event – so that also led me to wonder how much their cycle ride might be impacted by their lack of sleep (*I’ll let you know as I’m writing this blog post whilst they are out on the course!)

There are times in our life when we are often sleep deprived – ask any new parent!

There are times when, like this weekend for me, we get less sleep than normal.

How much sleep is enough – do we really need more sleep as teenagers and less sleep as we get older?

How important is sleep for health and what are the issues if you have long term insomnia or other sleep problems and what can we do about it as physiotherapists?


Do we ask about sleep habits enough and if we do, do we know enough about sleep to intervene?

The NHS choices webpage on sleep lists 7 ways that a good nights sleep can boost your health:

  • Sleep boosts immunity
  • Sleep can slim you
  • Sleep boosts mental wellbeing
  • Sleep prevents diabetes
  • Sleep increases sex drive
  • Sleep wards off heart disease
  • Sleep increases fertility

So a good nights sleep does you good – I think we all knew that. But what if you have issues that lead to a long term chronic sleep debt? It has been reported that people with persistent pain get 42 minutes less sleep than they need each night.  It has also been estimated that 60 – 80% of pain patients experience symptoms of insomnia – trouble falling asleep and / or staying asleep.  So lack of sleep is a huge issue in people with pain generally and particularly persistent pain. However research has shown that this is often neglected or poorly understood by physiotherapists.

What can we do about it?

Well, it will be no surprise at all that exercise can help!

As with many other issues exercise is beneficial in improving sleep patterns and of course has one of the side effects of pharmacological treatments for insomnia and all of the other well known health benefits. But what type and how much is less understood.

There are lots of other issues that can be addressed as well – from beds, pillows and mattresses to position when we sleep, room temperature … The list goes on! We know good sleep hygiene is important, but what do we know about it and can we advise effectively about it?

Pre chat questions to consider

  1. Do you consider sleep habits during a routine physiotherapy assessment
  2. If you do – what do you ask about?
  3. Pain and sleep – what do you understand about the link between the two
  4. How do you address sleep issues in patients
  5. How do you measure the effectiveness of any intervention for sleep

Pre chat reading

*They finished, were pleased with their times and had a fabulous experience!


Missed the chat? Catch up with the transcript


Resources posted during the chat

Thanks to our participants there were loads of useful resource posted during the chat – so here they are!

Getting a good nights sleep

The good night guide for children

The good night guide

Healthy sleep in adults


Evaluating sleep

Epworth Sleepiness Scale

Sleepiness-Wakefulness Inability and Fatigue Test (SWIFT)

Resources from the Running Physio – thank you Tom!

Sleep your way to better recovery

Research articles

Sleep, recovery and athletic performance

Optimised sleep

Sleep Interventions Designed to Improve Athletic Performance and Recovery

The Clinical Validation of the Athlete Sleep Screening Questionnaire

Athlete Sleep Screening Questionnaire

Sleep disturbances and sleep disorders in adults living with chronic pain: A meta-analysis

British Sleep society



And a recommendation that we all read ‘Why we Sleep’ by Matthew Walker

1 Comment

  1. For the physiology of sleep, read Matthew Walker’s ‘Why We Sleep’ which is in paperback. Very readable.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.