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Benefits of sleep for healing injuries

Published: 16 July 2019 - Injury Treatment and Prevention

Image of a female sleeping

Sleep is the state of natural rest and a specific activity of the brain. Early on we used to think everything in our body shuts down while we rest, however over the past 60 years scientists have discovered that our brains and body functions are very active while sleeping.

What happens while we sleep?

During sleep, changes occur including a reduction in muscle movement, decreased reaction to external stimuli, decreased cell breakdown, and increased cell synthesis. Our bodies require sleep to recharge, repair tissues, aid memory and learning, hormone secretion, and maintain normal immune function.

Benefits of sleep for injuries

We all know that we should apply ice to injuries immediately after they occur to reduce inflammation. In the past even the highest-level athletes would interrupt their sleep during the night to put more ice on their injuries! Today, with new information, most elite athletes have stopped doing this in favour of a good night’s rest.

Most people know when they are sick with a cold or flu the best thing for them is rest and getting to bed early - it is the same for musculoskeletal injuries in the early stages.

Studies have shown that sleep deprivation impacts our ability to repair muscle, leading to reduced muscle function during recovery and rehabilitation. At night our bodies increase the release of growth hormones, stimulating the cellular repair process. These hormones are what help to initiate protein synthesis for tissue repair. This process is at its most active during deep sleep, so unless we get solid sleep, our bodies may not reach this point.

How much sleep do I need?

The average adult requires between seven and nine hours of sleep per night. It is believed that the highest potential for tissue healing is between 11pm and 1am.

So next time you have an injury make sure you get tucked into bed nice and early for a good night sleep and let your body do the rest!