What to Do When Pain Interferes with Sleep
By Sarah Johnson
It can be hard to get a good night’s rest on an average night let alone one filled with aches and pains. Unfortunately, lack of sleep permeates into all aspects of your life from your emotional state to your eating habits. That means the one area you can’t afford to let the pain take control is sleep.
Pain and sleep deprivation form a vicious cycle in which it’s easy to get trapped. It often starts with pain in some of the most common areas like the back, neck, or shoulders. That pain leads to nighttime wakefulness, and before you know it, you’re only getting four or five hours of sleep. Anytime you get less than seven hours, the body enters a state of sleep deprivation.
Once sleep deprivation sets in, the body changes how it functions. Most noticeably, your pain tolerance goes down. One study found that when comparing two groups of people, those who’d gotten eight hours of sleep those who’d gotten four, that the group who’d gotten a full night’s rest had a 25 percent higher pain tolerance. Similar studies have recreated these same results—as the number of hours slept goes down pain tolerance follows.
Along the same vein, sleep deprivation has also been shown to reduce the effectiveness of pain medications. It’s almost as though sleep loss blunts the effects of medications even powerful ones like codeine. Many people turn to higher dosages or more powerful medications to get the same results
Because of the close relationship between sleep and pain perception, adequate sleep deserves a higher spot on the priority list because it helps treat current and prevent future pain. Better sleep (and less pain) often start with a bedroom that’s created to support deep, healthy sleep.
Your brain needs an environment that’s dark and quiet. Light, especially blue spectrum light, can cause a suppression of sleep hormones. Even light that filters through your eyelids from moonlight can be enough to disrupt your sleep. Keep your bedroom as dark as possible to prevent wakefulness.
Sound is another common disruptor. Noisy neighbors or passing cars can be hard to ignore when your bedroom is quiet. For that reason, static, white noise, or nature sounds from an app can help cover outside sounds so they don’t interfere with your sleep.
Your bedroom should provide peace of mind. You can do that by making sure fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are up to date as well as securing your home before bed. Taking precautions allows your body and mind to relax.
With the right conditions in place, you’re ready to begin daily pain management. There’s always over-the-counter pain medications like Ibuprofen and acetaminophen, but sometimes that’s not enough, particularly if sleep loss is reducing their effects.
Some of our favorite pain relief techniques include:
Meditation: Meditation has been shown to reduce the anticipation of pain and therefore the perception of it as well. Mindfulness meditation, in particular, trains the mind to stay in the present moment and can help trigger the body’s relaxation response, which brings down the heart rate and blood pressure.
Yoga: Yoga reduces pain-causing inflammation. It can also be used to stretch out sore muscles and points of tension. Of course, no yoga poses should lead to additional pain. Instead, choose poses that target your trouble spots and leave feeling calm and relaxed.
Exercise: Exercise comes with a long list of health benefits, including a decrease in inflammation, reduced use of medication, and increased mobility. Don’t get sucked into the idea that you need an hour of vigorous exercise every day. Any exercise is better than none. Pilates, walking, swimming, and biking are easy on the joints and can be done in short increments if necessary.
Finally, if pain disrupts your life and prevents you from participating in activities you love, call us today. A licensed chiropractor can do a comprehensive evaluation to identify your pain points, the causes, and recommend effective ways to reduce pain so you can get a better night’s rest.
For more information on how chiropractic care impacts sleep watch this video:
(14)Sleep Paradox: What do when pain interferes with sleep by Dr. Matt Hammett