When dealing with chronic pain, sometimes sleep seems like it’s out of the question, but it doesn’t have to be.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, 15% of all people experience sleep difficulty, but that number jumps significantly in those suffering from chronic pain, 2/3 of of whom have problems sleeping. In another Pain Resource article found here, we discuss how sleep can help to rid the pain.
It’s a vicious cycle when one’s pain related sleep disruptions prevent them from relieving their daily pain, in turn making the pain worse thus making it even harder to sleep.
The best way to combat chronic pain illness is to treat the pain and sleep at the same time. There may be multiple approaches, treating psychological and behavioral issues associated with insomnia along with medication. There also may be conditions other than the pain that are contributing to the insomnia, like restless leg syndrome or sleep apnea.
It is important for your doctor to take a multi-disciplinary approach and treat all of these conditions together. Meanwhile, regular follow-up visits should be maintained because new symptoms, worsening conditions, or other factors might require an adjustment in medication or new treatment options.
Don’t quiet the house
When going to sleep each night, you might be inclined to turn off the lights and silence everything in the house, in the hopes of beginning a good night’s rest. However, a typical chronic pain patient’s brain might not be satisfied with total silence. Without background noise to focus on, it could be quite difficult for some people to fall asleep or to remain asleep throughout the night.
Keep a fan running, leave a television on in the other room, play some relaxing music, or leave some lights on throughout the house. While you might think these distractions would make it hard to sleep, your brain will have an easier time drifting off if the focus is on the clicking noise that accompanies every strained fan oscillation, rather than how much your back hurts.
Good sleep practices
Many people refer to this as “good sleep hygiene”, practicing positive and healthy sleep regimens. Such a regimen would include setting a specific sleep schedule in which you go to bed and wake up at the same time each and every day. Even with a consistent schedule, you should not get into bed until you are sleepy.
If you are not tired yet, listen to music or read a book until you are. Avoid watching TV however, because it tends to lead to more significant insomnia. If you go to bed and you aren’t asleep in 30 minutes, get out of bed and try some relaxation techniques again. Do not just lay in bed trying to fall asleep for 3 hours. This will lead to additional stress, making it even harder to fall sleep.
A good bed can be pretty expensive, but a comfortable bed, particularly with soft sheets and blankets and a supportive pillow, is essential to a good night’s sleep. If you can’t get comfortable in your own bed, it will be be hard to sleep thoroughly.
Also, don’t engage in any stressful activities while in your bed, like paying bills or tense phone calls. Your bed should be a sacred place of relaxation and sweet dreams. Most importantly, if you’re having trouble sleeping through the night, avoid taking naps throughout the day.
Even though you are exhausted from a night of tossing and turning, allowing yourself to sleep out of schedule will only make things worse for you at night. Additionally, refrain from sleeping on the couch. Make a habit of sleeping in the same place, at the same time, every night.
There are a few final things to remember about sleeping through the night. Avoid stimulants like nicotine, alcohol, or caffeine for at least an hour before bed. Plan any rigorous exercise for early in the day. Endorphins keep you alert and will likely last for several hours.
Also, there are many alternative ways to treat pain and to battle insomnia. Massage, acupuncture, hypnosis, and deep breathing techniques can all assist in treating these conditions.
While the ultimate goal is to treat the pain, remember that adequate sleep is an essential way for your body to assist in the treatment of your pain. For information about a study that discusses the correlation between sleep and pain, check out Pain Resource’s article, Expect Less Pain With More Sleep.