For most people, there’s nothing quite like a really good night’s sleep. That’s because sleep is nature’s therapeutic elixir. It helps your body heal, recharge and restore itself. It can lead to more energy, better stress reduction and an improved sense of well-being. If you’re not getting the seven to eight hours of sleep a night recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), it’s time to take a look at the potential consequences of burning the candle at both ends. Skimping on sleep can affect your heart health, immune system, weight, mood—and even your ability to withstand pain.
The symbiotic relationship between sleep and pain
Pain and sleep are integrally related. In some cases, pain is responsible for decreasing a person’s sleep quantity and quality; in other cases, sleep deprivation lowers a person’s pain threshold and make existing pain feel even worse. This can lead to a challenging cycle of increased sleeplessness and exacerbated pain, which can quickly spiral out of control, causing moodiness, depression and increased anxiety.
Fifty-seven percent of Americans report having either acute or chronic pain and nearly 65 percent of chronic pain sufferers report having sleep disorders, such as disrupted or non-restorative sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 50 percent of Americans with chronic pain claim that sleep difficulties interfere with their ability to work and 23 percent report higher stress levels due to lack of sleep.
Time to take control
Studies show that people with chronic pain feel less control over their sleep, worry more about lack of sleep affecting their health and generally exhibit greater sleep sensitivity. For these individuals, certain behaviors can be adopted to help achieve a good night’s sleep, including stopping or limiting caffeine; reducing alcohol intake, especially in the evening; and using simple relaxation techniques when sleep seems elusive. In addition, practicing good “sleep hygiene”—habits and practices that are conducive to sleeping well on a regular basis—is key. Good sleep hygiene includes:
- Going to bed at the same time each night
- Sleeping in a quiet and dark room—and neither too hot nor too cold
- Removing all TVs and computers from the room
- Making your bed as comfortable as possible and using your bedroom for intimacy and sleeping only
- Blocking out all light and distracting noise
- Avoiding heavy, spicy or sugary meals before bedtime
- Exercising regularly, but not right before bed
Help is on the way
During a good night’s sleep, endogenous neurochemicals necessary for pain relief are replenished and fatigued muscles get a reprieve—which is why pain management specialists understand the importance of treating any insomnia issues for a person suffering from chronic pain. Although pharmaceutical medications tend to be the most common treatment for insomnia, complementary alternative medicines (CAM) avoid the risks associated with this approach.
According to a 2006 study from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), more than 1.6 million Americans treat their insomnia or sleep disorders with varying forms of complementary medicine and other remedies such as:
- Melatonin, a naturally occurring hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle
- Acupuncture, which can increase the amount of serotonin in the brain to promote sleep and relaxation
- Biofeedback, which involves training patients to control physiological processes such as muscle tension, blood pressure and heart rate as a way to induce relaxation and sleep
- Meditation, which can reduce nervous system arousal
- Light therapy, which can help recalibrate a person’s internal clock to align with a healthy sleep cycle
The bottom line
Lack of adequate sleep can make daily life more challenging for anyone, particularly for people who live with chronic pain. If you suffer from chronic pain and aren’t getting adequate rest due to insomnia or disturbed sleep, your pain management specialist can help you resolve—or manage—both conditions.
If you’d like to learn more about treatments for addressing your chronic pain and sleep disorders, call Pain Management and Injury Relief at (877) 724-6349 to make an appointment today.