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Sleep and The Vestibular System

What is sleep and why do we need it?

Sleep is defined as an altered state of consciousness. Research is ongoing to learn the importance of sleep. What we know so far is that sleep is an important part of our everyday life to help with healing and repair. Sleep gives our brain a chance to reset and allow our body to repair. Lack of sleep has been linked to other health issues such as anxiety and depression (Kim et. al). 

There are two main types of sleep, light sleep and deep sleep. Light sleep is when you’re able to wake up more easily and spring into action if needed as a protective mechanism. Deep sleep can be broken down into slow wave and REM (rapid eye movement). Slow wave sleep is a time for your physical body to heal and be refreshed for the next day of movement. Deep sleep happens in the late hours of the night and into the early morning which is why having a consistent bedtime to capture these hours is important for healing both body and brain! 

What does sleep have to do with my vestibular system?

Our vestibular system is connected to sleep in a number of ways. Thirty percent of those with vestibular disorders have reported an abnormal amount of time asleep and disrupted sleep patterns (Albathi). 

When getting ready for sleep, our brain is listening to our vestibular, somatosensory and visual systems to know we are lying flat and aren’t moving so our brain knows our body is safe and ready to sleep. Those with vestibular conditions can have a harder time with sleep because their brain has a harder time getting this message that it’s time to rest. 

Another connection of the vestibular system and sleep is when sleep levels increase, vestibular signals decrease. This is why drowsiness is commonly felt when motion sickness or vestibular systems worsen, and why sleep can help you feel better. In those without vestibular conditions, poor sleep showed slower reaction times and increased motion sensitivity. If you do have a vestibular condition, it is vital to get good and restful sleep for proper vestibular function. 

Sleep and its healing properties can be extra vital for vestibular rehabilitation therapy. During REM, new connections are being made and strengthened in our brains and are important in forming new, positive connections with movement to help move with reduced or zero vestibular symptoms! Sleep is important for rehab and should be a part of your treatment and recovery. 

Lastly, vestibular migraine has been shown to have a connection with sleep. Having good and consistent sleep is something we have discussed before as an important part of raising the migraine threshold. People with migraine may need more sleep than those without to help with raising their migraines threshold and vestibular recovery each day to reduce migraine attacks (Albathi). 

Tips for better sleep

  1. Exercise regularly. Research shows that people who exercise regularly will have decreased risk of insomnia. This can be beneficial for anxiety, stress and general health too! (Banno)
  2. Keep a consistent sleep schedule. Even on weekends and vacations! Choose your favorite 7-8 hours; your brain LOVES a routine and LOVES a habit. And, a brain also managing a vestibular disorder loves ‘boring’. This means that you need to go to sleep and get up around the same time every single day.
  3. Sleep in a cool room. We need to drop our core body temperature by 2 degrees to fall asleep. Sleeping in a cool room, even if you’d like a big blanket, will help to optimize your sleep 
  4. Get enough Vitamin D and B Vitamins. Not enough of either of these can reduce your ability to sleep, and can increase attacks. 
  5. Try to avoid naps longer than 20 minutes. Napping longer than this in the day can make it harder to sleep at night. 
  6. Establish a relaxing bedtime routine that you enjoy. Turn off the TV, stretch or do yoga, listen to a meditation, or something else relaxing. Remember to turn off all screens during this time
  7. If you don’t fall asleep within 30 minutes, get up out of bed. Get out of bed, and go to another room in your house. Sit on the couch, pull out a book or magazine, something analog is preferable and read for some time. DO not look at a screen, that will perpetuate the issue.

Other Resources

Dr. Stasha Gominac 

Dr. Gominac spoke at the World Migraine Summit 2021. Dr. Gominac discusses the use of vitamins to help restore sleep quality and protect the body from migraines. Consider reaching out to learn more about her programming and consult your doctor if this would be right for you! 

Louisa Nicola

Louisa Nicola is host of the podcast ‘The NeuroExperience Podcast’ and founder of NeuroAthletics. She has great FREE resources and content on her podcasts with interesting guests to listen to and learn from! 

Want to learn more about sleep, the vestibular systems and ways to get better sleep?  Find out more at this link: https://thevertigodoctor.com/about-group/

Disclaimer:

Remember: this post is for informational purposes only and may not be the best fit for you and your personal situation. It shall not be construed as medical advice. The information and education provided here is not intended or implied to supplement or replace professional medical treatment, advice, and/or diagnosis. Always check with your own physician or medical professional before trying or implementing any information read here.

Resources

Kim, Sung Kyun et al. “Relationship between sleep quality and dizziness.” PloS one vol. 13,3 e0192705. 7 Mar. 2018, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0192705

Albathi, Monirah and Agrawal, Yuri. ‘Vestibular Vertigo Is Associated with Abnormal Sleep Duration’. 1 Jan. 2017 : 127 – 135. 

Banno, Masahiro et al. “Exercise can improve sleep quality: a systematic review and meta-analysis.” PeerJ vol. 6 e5172. 11 Jul. 2018, doi:10.7717/peerj.5172

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