Sleep can often be an afterthought behind diet and exercise when trying to improve health. We’ll go over what sleep is, the different stages of it, how it affects your health, and some helpful tips to improving your sleep.
Sleep is essential for good health. It is often overlooked even though we spend ¼ to 1/3 of our lives asleep. Survey information also suggests that very few stroke survivors are asked about sleep or provided information post-stroke. Sleep affects our brain, heart, lungs, metabolism, immune functions, and mood. Sleep is when our bodies recover, and our brains maintain pathways important for cognitive functions.
Benefits for Stroke Survivor
This is the brain’s ability to adapt and rewire itself to allow healthy areas to take over function for impacted areas.
Reorganization and motor learning are consolidated during sleep.
Learning and Memory
Loss of sleep makes it much more difficult to process new information and remember it in the future
Decreased Risk of Stroke
Good sleep is important for heart health and healthy blood pressure
Poor sleep is associated with decreased mood and higher incidence of depression in stroke survivors
Sleep Wake Cycle
We have a biological clock in our brains that affects alertness. During a typical 24-hour day, sunlight/light tells our brains to be alert and awake. Darkness causes melatonin to be released which tells our brain to wind down, increasing tiredness. This is important information for good sleep as many people’s pre-sleep routine involves TV, phone, or computer use. Bright artificial lights increase alertness and make it much harder to fall and stay asleep.
We go through 4 stages of sleep. Completion of all 4 stages is one “cycle.” Typically, we experience 4-6 cycles in a night.
Stage 1 (1-7 minutes)
Begin to drift off and your brain/body prep for deeper stages
Stage 2 “Light Sleep” (10-25 minutes)
Body temp drops; Heart rate and breathing slow; muscles begin to relax
Stage 3 “Deep Sleep” (20-40 minutes)
Restorative sleep needed for body recovery and growth
Stage 4 “Rapid Eye Movement (10-60 minutes)
Brain activity picks up with vivid dreaming
Important for memory, learning, and creativity
This stage gets longer with each cycle
How Much Sleep
Not everyone needs the same amount of sleep. A typical adult need between 7-9 hours each night. You can tell if you need more by listening to your body and mind. Being mindful on how you feel day-to-day can help you decide if you need to make adjustments to get more quality sleep at night.
Do you need more sleep?
These are some common signs you may need more sleep:
Feeling tired/sleepy during the day
Fatigue is common safter stroke but is made much worse with low sleep
Can be physical or mental due to missing sleep stages
Thinking and decision making can feel slower and harder to do
Lower Attention Span
It can be much harder to focus and maintain attention to tasks/conversations
Irritability, anger, anxiety and depression are all exaggerated on low sleep
Our emotional regulation system becomes overwhelmed with low sleep
Going to bed and waking up at the same time is a great practice for consistent sleep.
Physical exercise is great for our bodies and will make sure you are appropriately tired at night.
Find ways to limit sudden noises by trying white noise sources like fans or certain phone apps.
The best temperature for adults is around 65 degrees but ranges from 60-72.
Limit your exposure to light to make sure you don’t trigger alertness before bed.
Journaling how you feel each day can help keep track of sleep needs and sleep disturbances.
Sleep is as important for your health as diet and exercise and should not be neglected
Schedule and routine is very important for good sleep. A healthy sleep routine is a mindset that may need to be worked at for success. Identify sleep barriers and work to ease them.
A cool, dark, quiet room is a great start to improving sleep hygiene.
Blue light from phones, computers, and TVs stimulate our awake hormones. Try not to use any devices at least 30 minutes before bed.