AOPT Health Blog
Sleep – the key to recovery

According to the CDC, 1 in 3 Americans do not get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation is a condition with serious health consequences. As you go through the process of physical therapy, sleep is paramount to the healing process.

What is Sleep Deprivation?

Sleep deprivation is not a medical condition but rather a state of being. It has multiple underlying causes but all have similar long-term health outcomes. It is generally defined as an adult getting less than 7-8 hours of sleep a night multiple nights a week.


  • Insomnia
  • Sleep Apnea
  • Narcolepsy
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Life stressors (ex. new baby)
  • Aging – Those over 65 have increased chances of sleep problems

Short and Long Term Health Effects

Short Term Symptoms:

  • Drowsiness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Memory issues
  • Diminished physical strength
  • Weakened immune system

Long Term Symptoms:

  • Increased risk of mental illness including depression
  • Increased risk of stroke and heart attack
  • Increased risk of life-threatening accidents (ie: car accidents)
  • Mood swings
  • Overeating or undereating
  • Severe mood swings

Sleep Deprivation and Effects on Healing Tissues

When our bodies lack sleep, protein synthesis stalls. Protein synthesis is essential for the rebuilding and healing of damaged muscle, tendon, and ligament. Therefore, sleep deprivation prolongs the time it takes to regenerate injured tissues in the body.

Lack of sleep can also decrease coordination and awareness and studies have shown that it increases risk of injury and accidents. This is especially true in adolescent athletes.

Sleep deprivation also increases our cortisol levels — cortisol is a fat storing hormone and can cause undue weight gain.

Simple Ways to Improve Your Sleep Habits

  • Manage stress
  • Exercise 20-30 minutes a day
  • Avoid stimulants – caffeine
  • Create a sleep routine: consistency on tasks done close to bed time can aid in falling asleep faster. Some examples include:
  1. A warm bath or shower before bed
  2. Meditation
  3. Reading a book before sleep
  4. Drinking warm, decaffeinated tea

Sleep is essential to your recovery. Whether you are rehabbing a knee, back, shoulder, or anything else, getting 7-8 hours should be as big of a priority as doing your physical therapy exercises and practicing a healthy balanced diet! Get stronger faster by getting those zzzzs!

  1. Milewski MD, Skaggs DL, Bishop GA, Pace JL, Ibrahim DA, Wren TA, Barzdukas A. Chronic lack of sleep is associated with increased sports injuries in adolescent athletes. J Pediatr Orthop. 2014 Mar;34(2):129-33. doi: 10.1097/BPO.0000000000000151. PMID: 25028798.
  2. Liu Y, Wheaton AG, Chapman DP, Cunningham TJ, Lu H, Croft JB.          Prevalence of healthy sleep duration among adults — United States, 2014. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2016;65(6):137–141.
  3. Dáttilo M, Antunes HKM, Galbes NMN, Mônico-Neto M, DE Sá Souza H, Dos Santos Quaresma MVL, Lee KS, Ugrinowitsch C, Tufik S, DE Mello MT. Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Acute Skeletal Muscle Recovery after Exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2020 Feb;52(2):507-514. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000002137. PMID: 31469710.
  4. P. Schwarz, W. Graham, F. Li, M. Locke, J. Peever,
    Sleep deprivation impairs functional muscle recovery following injury,
    Sleep Medicine, Volume 14, Supplement 1, 2013, Page e262,ISSN 1389-9457,

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