Pain and Sleep

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to get enough sleep reported sleeping 36 more minutes per night across the week compared with others (7.3 vs. 6.7 hours). Even among those with pain, a higher motivation to get sleep was associated with longer sleep durations and better sleep quality. That's a striking metric, indicating as many as 4.2 hours more sleep per week in motivated individuals. 

Pain and sleep: a preventable cycle 

When pain is first experienced, most people do not experience sleeplessness. However, when pain becomes a problem, it can be a vicious cycle. If someone experiences poor sleep due to pain one night, he or she is likely to experience more problems the next night and so on. It gets worse and worse every night.

Also we know that pain triggers poor sleep. For instance, someone experiencing lower back pain may experience several intense microarousals (a change in the sleep state to a lighter stage of sleep) per each hour of sleep, which lead to awakenings. However, microarousals are innocuous for a person not experiencing chronic pain. Pain is a serious intrusion to sleep. Pain is frequently associated with insomnia and these coexisting problems can be difficult to treat. One problem can exacerbate the other.

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 or limit caffeine consumption.
  • Limit alcohol intake, particularly in the evening.
  • 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 find a sleep professional when pain causes sleep problems 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.


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