Learning how to sleep with chronic pain.At Augusta Pain Center, we understand chronic pain and the vicious cycle between pain and emotional health that our patients deal with daily. Patients suffering from chronic pain are sometimes depressed, which can even make your chronic pain much worse. Similarly, those patients who live with chronic pain usually have trouble sleeping. So you’re saying, poor sleep contributes to pain and the chronic pain makes getting a good night's rest a challenge? Phew, you might say there is no way to win in this shattering cycle of pain and exhaustion that chronic pain patients deal with continuously.
A recent study shows that an estimated 50 to 80% of people with chronic pain also have constant sleeping problems.Trouble falling asleep is a constant battle for those individuals dealing with chronic pain, lower back pain, hip or knee pain etc. In fact, in the United States, pain is cited as the no. 1 cause of insomnia. Insomnia is defined as a pattern of trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or difficulty returning to sleep. Chronic insomnia is insomnia that happens more than 3 times a week for 3 months in a row. Whether or not you suffer from occasional sleeplessness, full on insomnia, or some deathly chronic insomnia, there are things you can do right now to make tonight's sleep better. Check out the following tips and information from Augusta Pain Center to understand how sleep and pain are connected, and how you can finally get a good night's rest even with chronic pain.
Why does sleep matter for my chronic pain?Anyone who's spent the night of tossing and turning, counting sheep or internally considering every possible option, knows that NOT being able to sleep is the absolute worst. In fact, insomnia feels like torture. Lack of sleep not only makes you irritable, more likely to get into an accident, decreases your drive/ work performance, affects your mental health and alters your mood, it actually negatively contributes to physical healing and pain. So, how does sleep affect your pain? Research has demonstrated that poor sleep makes feelings of chronic back pain worse. According to a study in Review of Pain, pain patients who have trouble sleeping "report more severe pain, longer pain duration, greater levels of anxiety, depression and health anxiety and worse impairment in physical and psychosocial functioning." In addition, if your pain is associated with a known cause or physical injury, sleep is necessary for physical healing. Sleeping lets your body rest, cuts down inflammation, reduces bruising and swelling and even releases hormones that promote tissue growth.
But enough about why sleep matters for your pain, you’re trying to understand how you can sleep better amidst the constant pain.If you've ever thought "I'm in too much pain to sleep", you're not alone. As we know, pain is the leading cause for sleeplessness and insomnia. For a host of reasons, people living with pain face countless more challenges than only falling asleep. Here are the top reasons people with pain have trouble sleeping:
- Pain is uncomfortable. It's simple, when you're in pain it's tougher to find a comfortable position. In addition, pain may be so bad that it will wake the sleeper up in the night, making it difficult to fall back to sleep.
- Narcotic pain medication. Although pain medication will temporarily relieve pain and help you fall asleep, narcotic pain meds can also cause insomnia. Prescribed painkillers can affect the body's REM cycle and irregular sleep patterns. Changing doses of medication can also affect your ability to sleep. Ask your doctor about the side effects of any narcotic pain medication you're taking.
- Stress & Anxiety. People with pain also report higher levels of stress. Stress can also lead to insomnia since it's hard to "turn off your mind" and wind down. A busy mind can keep your cortisol levels high, which makes it more difficult to shut down.
- Depression. Pain and depression are deeply linked. Similarly, your emotional state and insomnia are closely tied. Trouble sleeping is not just a symptom of depression, it can sometimes be a cause.
Break your sleepless, chronic pain cycle with these tips from Augusta Pain Center.Like the number of factors that are working together and causing you to lie awake at night, a bunch of things work together to help you sleep better. By employing these tips that are proven to promote better sleep, you should be able to catch more zzz’s at night and spend less time wishing that you were. So rest easy and think about the following tips to help you get a better night’s rest.
- Create a Timed Bedtime Routine - Set an alarm before bedtime. This will help form habits before bed. If you've been prescribed pain medication or sleeping medication, take it during this pre-bedtime routine. After a few days, your body will get the memo that it's time to fall asleep at the same time each night. During your routine, turn off all stimulating electronics and try reading, journalling or listening to an ebook or podcast.
- Exercise - Running through low-impact exercises at home as well as keeping active during the day has many benefits. Moving helps with physical pain, but it also helps combat stress, depression, anxiety and helps with sleep.
- Ice - If you have joint pain or specific parts of your body causing you pain, ice before bed. Icing numbs your painful area, and can reduce pain naturally.
- Lights Out - Artificial light confuses the part of the brain, affecting the circadian rhythm. Having lights on can disturb your natural sleep pattern. It's important to always sleep in a dark room, without the glow of electronics or other artificial lighting. A blackout curtain may be a helpful investment.
- Limit Your Liquids - It's very simple: what goes in, must come out. Drinking too much water, juice, soda etc., before bed will inevitably lead to a bathroom break and wake you up.
- Avoid Stimulants- Teas, sodas, chocolate bars and other foods contain caffeine. Caffeine builds up in the body, meaning that even if you drink an extra cup of coffee at 10am, it can still affect your sleep at night. Read labels of your foods and drink because there may be a surprising amount of caffeine. Nicotine is also a stimulant that can keep you awake.
- Cooler temperatures - Temperatures between 60 and 67 degrees fahrenheit is optimal for sleeping. This is likely cooler than what you set the rest of your house at, so consider opening the window during cooler months, or using fan or window AC in your bedroom.
- No Napping - This is easier said than done if you're exhausted. However, napping during the day will 100% impact your ability to fall asleep, and stay asleep, at night. Fighting through the day without napping could offer the full night's sleep you've been longing for!
- Take Sleep Aids, With Caution - Always ask your doctor about taking any sleep aids like Benadryl or Melatonin. Take prescribed medications with great caution.