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Pain and Sleep Quality: How Each One Affects the Other

Pain and Sleep Quality: How Each One Affects the Other

Your constant pain may be ruthless during the day, but when it's time to go to sleep, it becomes an even greater enemy. Both acute and chronic pain can cause insomnia and poor sleep quality. As if that's not frustrating enough, the opposite also applies; when you don’t get enough sleep or your sleep quality isn't up to par, it can make your pain even worse by lowering your pain threshold.

Researchers believe that poor sleep may disrupt your nervous system's pain signaling ability and heighten your sensitivity to painful stimuli. When your pain tolerance decreases, it's even harder to sleep. It's a dreaded vicious cycle for many people who suffer from chronic pain. At some point, it may become difficult to determine whether the poor sleep is caused by pain or the pain is caused by poor sleep.

What We Know About Sleep and Pain

It's obvious that pain affects sleep quality. About 15 percent of the U.S. population and 50 percent of the elderly population experience chronic pain. Out of the group, about 60 percent report sleep problems such as frequent sleep disruption or non-restorative sleep. A recent clinical study revealed that approximately two-thirds of people with chronic back pain suffered from sleep disorders.

Science is now starting to explore the less obvious problem: Sleep quality affects pain. For example, a 2013 study of migraine sufferers found that pain sensitivity seemed to be related to a lack of sleep and that inadequate sleep may be a headache trigger.

Tips for Improving Sleep Quality

If you suffer from chronic pain, making a few changes can help you sleep better. Try the following suggestions to increase sleep quality and your pain tolerance.

  • Ask your doctor about the timing of your pain medications, treatments or physical therapy exercises in relation to your bedtime. Decreasing your pain before bed is one way to beat the cycle.
  • Try a new mattress. If you have back or limb pain, a mattress that reduces pressure points may allow you to lie comfortably in one position for longer periods of time, which can reduce frequent awakenings. Different types of mattresses work for different people. Discuss your options with your doctor, or use the trial-and-error approach.
  • Improve your sleep environment. Play soft music, white noise or nature sounds to distract your mind and block out unwanted noise. YouTube offers a vast selection of videos designed specifically for sleep and relaxation.
  • Avoid consuming large meals of caffeine for about five hours before bedtime.
  • If conservative methods fail, consider using medications to help you sleep. Before resorting to prescription drugs, you may want to try over-the-counter sleep aids or herbal remedies. Be sure to consult your doctor before you try anything new; some over-the-counter remedies may interact with prescription drugs that you're taking.

Let Advanced Pain Care Help You Break the Vicious Cycle

At Advanced Pain Care, we specialize in diagnosing and treating many types of chronic pain using an integrated approach and the latest advances in medical technology. We give our patients more control over their quality of life and stop pain from robbing them of the sleep that they desperately need. If you're in Texas and pain is keeping you awake or lack of sleep is making your pain worse, contact us today, and discover how professional pain management can help you break free.