Disrupted Sleep

September 9, 2013 by
Filed under: Case of the month, Cases, Spinewave Bulletin, Symptoms 

disrupted sleep chiropracticAwaking refreshed and revitalized – Craig.

Sleep loss affects the stress systems in our bodies and is important because these systems enable us to deal with everyday challenges. The two stress systems are the autonomic nervous system and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, as they both relate to the adrenal glands.

These two systems together impact our overall health and how we respond to stress. They are responsible for energy balance, delivery of fuel and oxygen to all parts of the body and muscles, and appropriate balance of sugars and hormones.

Lack of sleep, which can be cumulative over a long period of time, puts the body into a subconscious state of stress. This makes one more prone to sickness, chronic fatigue, pain, cardiovascular problems like high blood pressure, mental health problems like depression or anxiety, and even changes in brain plasticity and ageing1.

Because disrupted sleep affects the autonomic nervous system (one of the stress systems), it alters pain perception. People become more sensitive to pain2. Why this occurs is because the main nerve cell bodies associated with the autonomic nervous system reside in the brainstem, and the brainstem is responsible for processing sleep. Lack of sleep disrupts the way the brainstem works and alters feel-good chemical outflow like serotonin, as well as increasing inflammation. Reduced serotonin and increased inflammation is what can lead to depression and why people feel miserable when they’re tired. Antidepressants might be prescribed in this situation but are not a sustainable solution.when-falling-asleep-feels-easiest

Sleep has a mild suppressive effect on the body’s stress systems. Disrupted sleep elevates the activity of these systems and if sleep deprivation is accrued over time, stress levels don’t actually return to baseline: Each day they build up, making health problems worse.

People commonly associate lack of sleep with emotional change, however, don’t see the underlying changes to the autonomic nervous system and hormonal systems.

Most of the phenomenal changes seen in clinical chiropractic practice are due to the effects chiropractic has on the autonomic nervous system3,4,5. Many people are not aware they even have an autonomic nervous system, but if you can measure it, you can change it. Normalising the stress systems through specific adjustments to the spine helps people sleep better and reduce overall pain sensitivity ■

My initial visit to Spinewave was prompted due to general physical pain that I realized would not be alleviated through painkillers alone (I had tried that route and it was a dead end!).

I was amazed at how much improvement there was in my overall well-being after just the first consultation. Not only was I virtually pain-free apart from a few minor niggles here and there but one really unexpected side-effect was I was started to sleep through my nights.

Having experienced fitful sleeping for many years, I had grown accustomed to regularly waking up in the middle of the night. Going to sleep was never really that much of a problem but I was always guaranteed to wake up at least 2 or 3 times a night, sometimes more often than that. And then, once awake in the middle of the night, it was always touch and go as to whether I would fall asleep easily or not.

From my initial consultation with Spinewave onwards I have been sleeping through the night and am constantly awaking refreshed and revitalized – something that I haven’t experienced for years.

The fact that my sleep quality would have been so dramatically improved is not something I would previously have associated with a chiropractic program. However I am now a convert and would highly recommend chiropractic as a first step towards overall improved general well-being.

In fact, sleep aside, since I have been having regular chiropractic sessions not only am I pain free but I feel like I have had a new lease on life!

Thanks to Team Spinewave for the great care and attention I have received.

Craig Barker

© Dr Neil Bossenger 2013


  1. Meerlo, P. et al. Restricted and disrupted sleep: Effects on autonomic function, neuroendocrine stress systems and stress responsivity. Sleep Medicine Reviews. 2008. 12: 197–210.
  2. Schestatsky, P. et al. Pain–autonomic interaction after work-induced sleep restriction. European Journal of Neurology. 2013. 20: 638–646.
  3. Zhang, J, MD, PhD. et al., Effect of chiropractic care on heart rate variability and pain in a multisite clinical study. JMPT. 2006. 29: 267-274.
  4. Budgell, B. and B. Polus. The effects of thoracic manipulation on heart rate variability: A controlled crossover trial. JMPT. 2006. 29 (8): 603-610.
  5. Budgell, B. and F. Hirano. Innocuous mechanical stimulation of the neck and alterations in heart-rate variability in healthy young adults. Autonomic Neuroscience. 2001. 91: 96-99.
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