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Morning Stiffness

October 2017

Morning stiffness is one of the common symptoms among people suffering from arthritis, fibromyalgia, rheumatism. It can also result from lack of sleep, lack of exercise, obesity, poor diet, and living in a cold, damp environment.

Sleep is when our bodies recuperate from the previous day’s activities. We need to rest and rejuvenate. We have a cycle during sleep that involves producing different hormones that affect the quality of sleep and when we feel sleepy. One of those hormones is cortisol. It is a steroid hormone that helps to reduce inflammation. Not having a regular sleep schedule gets these hormones out of balance and can affect the way we feels, the quality of sleep we get, and even lead to obesity. Other negative influences on our sleep include watching television or using electronic devices before bed, sleeping with the television on, and just plain worrying about things. Try to manage stress and be done with it long before bed time.

Obesity involves carrying around excess weight all day, which strains your joints, tendons, ligaments, and muscles. It can also interfere with sleep by causing snoring, apnea, and other issues. If you could stand to lose a few pounds, put together a plan and set goals to accomplish the weight loss.

A cold, damp environment can stiffen muscles. That is why many senior citizens move to hot, dry places like Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Palm Springs. When you are cold, the muscles generate heat by contracting. This happens even while sleeping. If the muscles remain tense for very long, they become stiff and get used to being like that. The cold also causes vasoconstriction. This is blood vessels shrinking and reducing blood flow to the various parts of the body, especially the arms and legs. Dress appropriately for the cold, whether at the office, outdoors, at home, or sleeping. Seal up any sources of drafts in your home or office. A hot shower or bath can help warm up the body and loosen the muscles.

Exercise conditions the muscles to behave a certain way. Stretching exercises, naturally, will help to reduce stiffness. They lengthen the muscles and help them to relax more. Using the muscles throughout their full range of motion keeps them from stiffening up during exercise. For example, fully extend the elbows when doing biceps curls, instead of only going down part way. Remember that strenuous exercise has the tendency to stiffen the muscles, so pay attention to your body while working out. Exercise also reduces emotional stress and this benefits us physically. Regular exercise also helps us to get better sleep.

Diet is a big factor in quality of sleep and, therefore, can have a tremendous effect on everything that sleep affects. Eating too many sugars and carbohydrates disrupts the sleep cycle and affects cortisol levels. Dessert before bed elevates blood sugar levels, which then crash during sleep and interrupt sleep. Eating too late before bed can have a similar effect. Dinner should be hours before bed and include lots of good proteins and fats, and fewer carbs. Indigestion and heart burn will also affect your ability to sleep and rejuvenate through the night. Sleeping posture is a factor as well. For example, sleeping on your stomach puts more strain on the spine and the resulting discomfort may disrupt your sleep, making you more tired and stiff in the morning.


Health News and Tips

Dr. Jeremy T. Bryson


Austin Kinesiology & Chiropractic