Sleep is vital. Certainly performance is affected by fatigue but so is pain. Unfortunately, many people whom I see will describe disturbed sleep, perhaps due to their pain waking them through the night. The cycle of fatigue is a challenge to break.
During the night our blood pressure drops meaning that the perfusion of blood and hence oxgen through the nervous system reduces. The ensuing acidity is detected by the sensitised nerve endings and signals are sent to the brain via the spinal cord. The altered responsiveness of ON and OFF cells in the brain stem mean that this flow can be facilitated, in particular when we move to change position. This rouses us and we can feel pain.
Lying in bed at night, surrounded by darkness and silence, there can be little else to grab our attention except the pain. In these difficult moments, being proactive tends to deliver better results, for example actually rising and having a walk around the room to alter the blood pressure and change the context. Subsequently practicing mindfulness or gentle movements that are tolerable or pain free (using other body areas) can also help to change the state of the nervous system and hence the pain. Avoiding stimulating activities is also important, for example watching TV or looking at a handheld device.
Difficulties sleeping are the end result of a range of factors including feelings of stress, anxiety, pain, activity levels and the prior pattern of sleep. Within a comprehensive treatment and training programme for pain, creating the conditions for overall change in the state of the neuroimmune system alters the sleep pattern.
Russell Foster is a circadian neuroscientist: He studies the sleep cycles of the brain. And he asks: What do we know about sleep? Not a lot, it turns out, for something we do with one-third of our lives. In this talk, Foster shares three popular theories about why we sleep, busts some myths about how much sleep we need at different ages — and hints at some bold new uses of sleep as a predictor of mental health.
Russell Foster studies sleep and its role in our lives, examining how our perception of light influences our sleep-wake rhythms.