Sleep and Your Feet: How Important Is Sleep For Injury Recovery?

The importance and impact of sleep during injury recovery

We often hear how important sleep is for many aspects of our lives. The same goes when it comes to injury recovery and prevention. Sleep can be considered the secret ingredient. Sleep is a vital part of human life and is the only part of the day when the body can heal itself both physically and mentally. Many different chemical and physiological reactions occur while sleeping. Research suggests that sleep can help aid in tissue, wound and painful tendinopathy healing.

What happens when we are sleeping?

Sleep plays a role in healing from injury. The growth hormone needed for tissue regeneration and repair, is secreted during sleep. 

Sleep occurs in two different stages. These are called NREM (stages 1-4), and REM (stage 5). As you sleep, you progress through each of thee stages, different brain and bodily functions occur. Each cycle lasts about 90 to 120 minutes. During these cycles your body undergoes recovery, maintenance and adaptation, with each stage of sleep focusing on different bodily qualities. As a product of this, if you don’t complete several sleep cycles during your bedtime you will miss a key opportunity for your body to recover, adapt and improve from your training the day before.

How can a reduction in sleep impact my feet?

As we now know, sleep is the time when your body repairs any soft tissue or muscular injuries. When we enter the deep stage of sleep, growth hormones responsible for muscle repair and growth are released. When our bodies don’t get enough rest, the secretion of these hormones declines and makes it more difficult for your body to recover from injuries. 

In the clinic we often see many injuries that experience delayed healing due to the lack of sleep.  An example of this is plantar fasciitis (a type of inflammation at the attachment point of the plantar fascia at the heel).  The time for the body to heal this inflammation and damage is mainly when we are off our feet and resting. If someone isn’t getting enough sleep, either a few days or weeks, the plantar fascia has no chance to heal and will continue to be painful and the pain will become chronic.

One night of poor sleep isn’t likely to have a negative impact on your ability to heal from an injury, but problems can start to creep up when you skimp on sleep for a few days at a time. The exact amount of sleep needed per night varies from person to person, but in general most adults should aim between 7-9 hours each night. Research suggests that getting fewer than an average of eight hours of sleep per night is associated with almost twice the risk of injury than those who get at least 8 hours of sleep over a 21-month period.


Hot tips for getting a better night’s sleep:

  • Reduce blue light exposure from TVs, phones and tablets, particularly before bed.
  • Avoid caffeine later in the day, try not to consume caffeine 4-6 hours before bed. 
  • Reduce irregular or long daytime naps
  • Try to maintain a consistent sleep routine by going to bed and waking up at the same times each day
  • Avoid exercise right before going to bed and try to exercise during the day, as exercise causes increased cortisol levels, keeping you awake.
  • Wind down and clear your head before bed, after a busy day allow yourself to rest before bedtime. If your brain is stimulated you will struggle to sleep.

Sleep is often overlooked when it comes to injury recovery. If you feel like you’re constantly battling with an injury and cannot seem to get it right, definitely look into your sleep routine and patterns.

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