If you have a spinal cord injury and you have trouble sleeping, you are not alone. A new study from the Cumming School of Medicine at the University of Calgary has found something quite astounding about people living with spinal cord injuries: as a whole, most people with SCI have trouble sleeping, so much so that it impacts their quality of life and puts them at risk of sleep disorders.
Most people in the spinal cord injury community already know about this issue, but this latest study finally proves that anecdotal evidence as fact. At the Cumming School of Medicine, the Phillips Lab collaborated with colleagues in Europe to tap into a massive data set of people living with spinal cord injuries.
When the researchers revealed their data, they did not reveal extensive details, but they did share that they collaborated with colleagues in both Canada, Serbia, and Croatia to research data from over 60,000 people with SCI. What they discovered from that data set was quite astounding. The first thing researchers shared is that people who live with paralysis are in a high-risk category of fatigue, ie, not having enough energy and tiring easily.
Not only did they say that people with SCI are in a high-risk category of fatigue, they went further to say that people with SCI are at risk of feeling fatigued nine times more than people who are not paralyzed. Doctors do not know enough about fatigue, but it is now an issue that needs to be addressed in people living with paralysis.
Their data set included 60,000 people with SCI. A huge amount of people. They also revealed that people with spinal cord injuries are five times more likely to suffer from sleep apnea. This is because, after monitoring the cerebral blood flow in the brains of people with spinal cord injuries while sleeping, they're not getting enough oxygen to the brain. They also discovered that people with SCI who have a high injury, are more at risk of sleeping disorders.
After further research into their data set, researchers also discovered that people with paralysis often suffer from very disturbed breathing while sleeping, which affects vital organs like the brain. Breathing disorders have been tied to brain disease. Many health dangers can occur from having sleep disorders. People with SCI need to be vigilant in their attempt to get good sleep to avoid these secondary conditions.
How can people with spinal cord injuries get improved sleep? Be aware of your temperature in your room. It is always best to keep the temperature as cool as you can allow. Around 68° is an ideal sleeping temperature. It is also important to find a pillow that gives you proper neck support, especially if you’ve had a cervical injury. Many people with paralysis have difficulty getting comfortable in bed and getting in the right position as well. Anxiety is also common in people with SCI and can cause insomnia.
This study is the biggest sleep study to look at people with SCI to-date. We now know we must do everything possible to get good sleep. Also, consider natural supplements. Melatonin can help induce sleep, but the more popular option currently is CBD, a byproduct of cannabis that many people have discovered as a cure for their insomnia. Make sure to check the law in your state before purchasing any products with CBD.
And lastly, ask your doctor about a referral to a sleep clinic if you’re suffering from insomnia.
Written by Spinal Cord TeamSpinalCord.com has been created as a resource for patients of spinal cord injuries and their families. Find everything you need to learn more about your injury, locate a doctor or treatment center, or discover financial relief to support you through this difficult time.
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