Physical Therapists Can Play a Big Part in Improving Client Sleep


According to research published in the American Physical Therapy Association’s Journal, physical therapists play an integral role in promoting the importance of healthy sleep in their clients.

The study, published in August 2017 in an article titled “Perspective,” indicates that 62 percent of American adults experience sleep disturbance several nights a week. In fact, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has identified sleep concerns to be a public health crisis.

Sleep Disturbances Affect Daily Life

Researchers indicate that sleep plays an integral role in most body functions and systems, including:

  • Pain perception and alleviation
  • Immune function
  • Cardiovascular health
  • Tissue healing
  • Mental health
  • Mood disorders
  • Cognitive and motor skills

The CDC found that over 90 percent of sleep disturbances and disorders go undiagnosed.

Who Physical Therapists Can Help

These issues touch many populations that may already work with a physical therapist, including those with:

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Chronic back pain
  • Those who are recovering from an injury or surgical procedure

The study’s authors note that sleep disturbance likely affects a large percentage of PT clients, providing an opportunity for therapists to educate their clients on sleep health, potentially reducing instances of chronic conditions.

What a Physical Therapists Can Do For You

Steps that physical therapists take in their practices include assessing clients’ sleep health, screening for sleep disorders, and referring them to a specialist when needed. A physical therapist can also reinforce best practices for healthy sleep, such as waking up and going to sleep at the same time each day, avoiding large meals near bedtime, and shutting electronics off at least a half hour before bedtime.

They can also provide recommendations for optimal body positioning for a good night’s sleep, recommend an exercise program that will promote healthy sleep, and work with the client on bed-related problems with mobility.

In the article, the authors provide tools that can be easily adapted. They included screening questionnaires for common issues such as obstructive sleep apnea, insomnia, and restless leg syndrome. Physical therapists could play a role in the introduction of wearable technology to track clients’ sleep and gather other useful data.

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