Poor sleep is an increasingly common problem, with approximately 1/3 of the population not getting enough. A change in the way we live and work is thought to be the cause of sleep problems becoming more common. For example, computers, smartphones, and working hours bleeding into the evenings all contribute to not getting enough sleep.
A lack of sleep does not just lead to irritability and fatigue. It can also cause serious problems for physical health. Long term sleep deprivation can increase the risk of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes, and is associated with a lower overall life expectancy.
In contrast, getting enough sleep can boost the functioning of the immune system, lower weight gain, improve mental wellbeing, and increase sex drive and fertility.
Adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep a night, but the amount varies for each person. Signs of sleep deprivation include:
• still feeling tired after waking up
• difficulty concentrating/mental fog
What causes poor sleep?
For some people, lack of sleep is caused by insomnia, which is characterized by an inability to fall asleep and/or frequently waking up through the night. Insomnia can have many causes, including:
• stimulants such as alcohol, caffeine, or nicotine
• recreational drugs, such as cocaine
• an uncomfortable sleeping area - too hot/cold, uncomfortable bed
• jet lag/shift work
Some diseases, and the medications to treat them, can also cause insomnia, including:
• overactive thyroid
• sleep apnoea
• restless leg syndrome
• chronic pain
Treating insomnia can be quite difficult. For a number of years, the standard treatment was sleeping tablets, but this has changed. Doctors now are reluctant to prescribe sleeping tablets, unless it is for short term relief of untreatable insomnia. This is because sleeping tablets can have unpleasant side effects and they are easy for people to become dependent on.
How chiropractic care can help with sleep problems
Chiropractic care is best known for its treatment of lower back and neck pain, but the treatments that chiropractors offer can have a much wider effect on the body and mind. The spine is intimately connected with the nervous system and the rest of the body, and any adjustment to the spine can have a knock-on effect on the rest of the body's systems.
Of course, if the insomnia is caused by chronic pain, chiropractic treatment will focus on reducing the pain, which will help with sleep. However, it can also help with sleep problems that are due to other causes.
Chiropractic treatments can lower stress, anxiety, and depression, lower blood pressure, and increase relaxation, all of which can help to relieve insomnia. Some of the treatments can include:
• spinal adjustments (these will also help to boost the immune system)
As well as these treatments, the chiropractic care treatment plan will also include advice about lifestyle changes that can help tackle insomnia, including exercise, nutrition, and sleep planning.
Sleep problems can have serious effects on physical and mental functioning, but treating them can be quite difficult. Most people want to avoid the use of sleeping medications, which are addictive and have unpleasant side effects. Chiropractic care is a natural, whole-body approach to treating sleep problems that can have immediate and long term benefits.