Pain and Sleep

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What can people do at home?

Practicing good sleep hygiene is key to achieving a good night's sleep. Some tips for people with chronic pain are:

  • Stop caffeine consumption.
  • Limit alcohol intake, with no alcohol in the evening.
  • Avoid vigorous exercise. However, light exercise in the afternoon can be helpful.
  • Briefly napping in the afternoon, no more that 10–20 minutes.
  • Use of pain killers and/or sleeping pills are effective, but should be used under the supervision of a physician.
  • Practice relaxation techniques, such as deep abdominal breathing.

When is it time to see a doctor?

It is time to seek professional help when pain causes sleep problems two to three times a night, and you are unable to fall asleep again. There are a variety of treatments available to ease the sleep problems of chronic pain sufferers, including medication and physical therapy. Doctors may also recommend seeing a psychiatrist or psychologist.

--Dr. Lavigne is a professor of dentistry and psychiatry at the Université de Montréal .

This article originally appeared in the Summer 2003 issue of sleepmatters.