All humans sleep and most of them perceive sleep as a matter of course. Nevertheless, there are only a few who know what sleep does to our bodies. Scientists have recently shown that sleep is a free medicine, with no side effects, that makes us fit for fight and that keeps diseases out of our lives.
By occupational therapist Pia Beck
The human body uses energy during waking hours. When energy is burnt, a signal substance called adenosine is accumulated in our brain convolutions. Adenosine attenuates the brain's capacity to transmit nerve signals, and adenosine concentration increases with and increased brain activity during the day. The higher the adenosine level in the brain, the more sleepy we become.
During the evening, the concentration of adenosine becomes so high, that the brain functions more slowly, and as the day goes by, we begin to feel tired. Eyelids become heavy, and sleep settles in.
Therefore, adenosine is of great importance for our sleep, and it is the reason why everyone needs to sleep every night. There is nobody that never sleeps, as this would mean that such a person would have randomly high quantities of adenosine in the body, which is impossible.
Scientists have shown that a good night sleep, especially a deep sleep, resets the level of adenosine, so that we are fresh and ready for a new day. On the contrary, if we do not sleep enough, there will be a high quantity of toxic substance in our brain, and we will thus quickly feel tired and sluggish.
We all need then to get into the deep sleep. Therefore, sleep should not be perceived as a matter of course, it should be taken seriously.
One of the requirements for sleeping properly is to lie well. A good mattress, blanket, and pillows are for many people essential factors for sleeping properly. Unfortunately, this is not a priority in professional areas. There are many places in the health sector, where careful budgeting in supplying determines which mattress, blanket, and pillow the individual will be offered. Besides the mattress, the blanket, and the pillow, position is also essential to sleeping properly.
Most people need a few minutes to find a comfortable position, before sleep settles in. People who can't position themselves on their own, are extremely dependent on the nursing staff to position them so that they are comfortable.
During the last years, there has been an increased focus on positioning bedridden patients. Among others, a project in Denmark, about the delimited positioning of the body, received a lot of attention. An exciting project, working with positioning distressed and hostile clients. At Vendlet, we agree that positioning must be based on creating stability and assuring the distressed client has a delimited position of the body. However, we generally question the use of blankets and pillows for positioning.
When blankets are used as positioning cushions
Blankets and pillows are designed for a very different purpose, and the blankets' purpose is to create heat. Blankets are not designed to provide stability, and the artificial stuffing, consisting of hollow fiber, is challenged when exposed to pressure. Hollow fibers lose their shape when pressed together, meaning that the material collapses.
Positioning with blankets and pillows is also important for breathability. It is difficult to breathe through a blanked that is rolled and pressed, and that leads to an increased accumulation of heat. This is unfortunate, because humans need to reduce body temperature during sleep. The lack of breathability can also have a negative impact on the client's tissues and on the perceived comfort. Most of the people who have suffered from high fever, know how unpleasant it is to lie in soaked bedding. Moreover, a moist bed increases the risk of tissue maceration.
Let the body's temperature sink
Reduced ability to get rid of the heat challenges sleep. Sleep has an energy-saving effect, as it reduces the body's energy level by reducing the body's temperature. When the body temperature is low, the body does not need so much energy to keep going.
This applies to all mammals and is a trick of the evolution. When it is dark, it is hard to find food, and it is therefore smart to lower the body's temperature in order to keep energy consumption to a minimum.
If the temperature is too high during the night, the body thinks it is still daytime, so it is difficult to fall asleep.
When the body lowers its temperature, it can happen in two ways: through sweat or through increased blood flow close to the skin, so that the blood is cooled down.
If the temperature around the body is too high, the body cannot emanate its own heat. Therefore, the body's only possibility to lower its temperature is through sweating. When the body sweats, it uses a high amount of energy, and as long as energy is used in order to lower the temperature, the body cannot relax and calm down.
Clearly, there are many factors coming into play, when striving for good sleep. However, a predominant factor is the importance of a good positioning.
At Vendlet, the concept of positioning means "the way we lay down when we should sleep". In addition, during Vendlet's many seminars, a clear picture becomes visible. Very few places work with an actual positioning plan. Positioning is not a main subject in healthcare education. In addition, there are more rules than exceptions, when it comes to using available means for positioning. Blankets, pillows, hand towels and many more can, when rolled and packed, be fine to create boundaries for the body. But what about the heat's effect on sleep?
The fact that too high temperatures in the bedroom can affect sleep has been known for a long time. The fact that the inability to regulate body temperature has a direct negative impact on sleep is less known. It should then be a factor to be prioritized when working with bedridden people. People who cannot choose one thing or the other, have the right to be taken care of by people who are prepared to create the premises for good quality sleep.