How Sleep Helps Healing

Most of us know that getting a good night’s sleep can help us feel rested, give us more energy, and allow us to be more alert the next day – among many other benefits. But for individuals recovering from serious injuries or illnesses, sleep is integral to the recovery process.

When a person sleeps, the body is hard at work recovering from the damage or illness that has occurred. Restful sleep cycles are imperative to a patient’s healing and recovery.  Consistent, quality sleep provides restorative, protective, and energy-conserving functions to patients. The quality and quantity of an individual’s sleep influences the body’s ability to repair and grow tissue, bone, and muscle. It also helps to strengthen an individual’s immune system.

Without proper sleep management, individuals can experience sleep disturbances and fatigue that may affect the recovery process. Disturbed sleep can cause diminished physical and cognitive functioning, mood instability, emotional distress, and amplification of symptoms.

To help ensure a person receives the quality and quantity of sleep needed to aid in his or her recovery, quality sleep/wake cycles are needed. The sleep/wake cycle refers to daily 24-hour sleep patterns that are controlled by the body’s circadian rhythms. Circadian rhythms are mental and physical characteristics that change throughout the day.

A person transitions through five stages of sleep every 90 to 110 minutes as long as sleep isn’t interrupted. Health benefits typically occur during the 3rd and 4th stages of sleep, which are called deep sleep. The average adult needs 7-8 hours of sleep, which means he or she is in the deep sleep cycle about four times a night.

To create a quality sleep cycle for someone who is healing from an illness or injury (or just for anyone to sleep better), lower noise levels and lighting at a designated time every night and maintain that environment until a specified time every morning. This consistency allows for restful sleep patterns.

Additional benefits of a restful sleep cycle for someone who is sick also can include:

  • Improved patient participation in recovery
  • Reduced fatigue
  • Less anxiety and stress
  • Stronger cognitive abilities
  • Formation of better long-term sleep habits