A Practice Area Worth Digging Into for Physical Therapists
Written by Andrew Koppejan, PT
As physiotherapists, I can say with confidence that we decided to join this profession to provide an opportunity to tangibly help people with their health.
Last year, I was reflecting how there was one specific area where I felt pretty helpless in my ability to help patients. The problem was that it was an area that was really impacting their ability to function and was affecting their recovery.
I would do my best to give them information that I had, but I knew it wasn’t very helpful and definitely not enough to make a difference in their daily life.
You may be wondering, what area am I talking about? Well, that area is sleep health.
There was one patient in particular that I remember from a few years back, who was struggling with persistent pain and his sleep was very poor. I told him what I knew about sleep hygiene, but I could see it in his eyes that I wasn't telling him anything new. He was a really nice guy so I could tell that he was just trying to be nice.
I did some Google research and found a sleep outcome measure and had him fill it out, but unfortunately I didn’t really know how to interpret the outcome measure or what do next.
So began my quest to see if I could get a better handle on this topic. Unfortunately, in asking other clinicians I didn’t come up with much that was relevant to physiotherapists. So last year I decided to dig into this topic in a serious way to help ignitephysio members and the greater physiotherapy community.
I’ll be honest. I was a little naive about the depth of research and knowledge in this area. I thought it would be an exploration around the evidence for sleep hygiene recommendations, but the more I researched this topic, the more I began to realize that there’s a lot more involved in sleep health and the non-pharmacological options for people suffering with poor sleep.
I also began to discover the exciting new research around the relationship between sleep and pain and how this could be impacting our patients’ recoveries.
Is this something I should care about?
So you may be wondering why I should be concerned with sleep health in my practice. There are a lot of reasons why. Sleep has significant implications on our immune system, our pain experience, our performance, among others.
Let’s take the area of sport performance in adolescents. There was a study that was published in the Journal of Paediatric Orthopaedics in 2014. The authors wanted to better understand the impact of sleep loss on injury prevalence.
Although it was a small data sample of 112 adolescent athletes, they found that the amount of sleep per night was associated with injury risk in adolescent athletes. Athletes who slept less than 8 hours per night had a 1.7 times greater risk of being injured than those who slept more than 8 hours.
They go on to say:
“Sleep deprivation can affect motor function, mood, and cognitive functions, all of which could affect a young student’s athlete’s performance and injury risk.”
Interesting results, aren’t they?
It’s easy to dismiss a patient’s sleep as not specifically relevant to their recovery, or treatment compliance. But the more I was researching and having conversations with patients, the more I realized that sleep was a foundational element to their health and recovery.
Interested in Learning More?
If you’re interested in learning more about sleep health then you’ll want to check out my free report of the most common sleep mistakes patients make and how that's impacting their recovery.
Interested in Learning More?
I’d encourage you to download my free report of the 7 mistakes patients are making with their sleep and how it’s impacting their recovery.
REPORT: 7 Mistakes Patients Make with Sleep
Download this free 6 page report outlining key mistakes that can be impacting sleep and ultimately patient recovery.
Andrew Koppejan, PT
About the Author
Andrew has been a practicing physiotherapist for eight years and lives in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. He is also the founder of ignitephysio, an online community of 3,000 Canadian physiotherapists. ignitephysio is focused on supporting and nurturing ongoing professional growth through community-based knowledge sharing.
It was more than a year and a half ago when he finally started deeply researching the topic of sleep and how physiotherapists can help patients with this important driver of health.
Milewski, M., Skaggs, D.L., Bishop, G., et al. (2014). Chronic lack of sleep is associated with increased sports injuries in adolescent athletes. Journal of Pediatric Orthopaedics (34,2): 129-133.