How to Sleep While in Pain
Getting a good night’s sleep while in pain is vital to your physical and mental health, as well as your quality of life. That’s because, when you sleep, your body can rest and repair itself while your brain processes information, recharges and prepares for a new day.
Everyone knows that good sleep habits are critical. However, understanding the importance of getting quality sleep does not necessarily mean that it’s easy to do. This especially holds true if you are among the more than 100 million Americans who suffer from acute or chronic pain which means:
You are likely suffering from discomfort, insomnia or another sleep disorder. Night after night, getting quality, restful sleep can be a significant challenge.
These ten expert tips on how to improve the quality of your sleep and help you with pain management will provide relief to those who are experiencing poor sleep because of pain. This essential resource can help you discover simple, yet effective, ways to combat sleep-disrupting pain so you can:
- Get out of the vicious cycle you’re in and experience better quality sleep every night.
- Improve your quality of life, both in terms of enjoying sleeping more and experiencing less pain during the day.
How to Improve Your Quality of Sleep When You Live with Pain: 10 Essential Tips
1. Exercise at the right time
Regular exercise can address both pain and sleep problems. For pain issues, exercise (like low-impact, strength-building workouts) can enhance and support natural healing processes. For sleeping problems, exercise can reduce body temperature, stress, and anxiety while supporting circadian rhythms.
The key is to make sure that you finish exercising at least 4 to 6 hours before bedtime. Doing this will prevent the rise in endorphins and body temperature, which occurs immediately after a workout, from disrupting your sleep patterns.
2. Schedule and limit napping
If you need to nap during the day, make sure your naps happen before 5 p.m. and that they don’t last longer than about 20 minutes. Late and long naps where you’re getting too much sleep affects your circadian rhythms and can impact your ability to stay asleep at night.
3. Try to keep a regular schedule
In other words, try to wake up and go to bed at around the same time every day or night. This routine can help set and regulate your internal clock, getting your body used to rising and sleeping at roughly the same times every day.
4. Avoid stimulants and sleep-disrupting chemicals before bedtime
Caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol can all contribute to sleep deprivation, especially when combined with certain pain medications. So, limit your intake of these substances, and try to avoid them within 3 to 6 hours of bedtime.
5. Set and keep a relaxing bedtime routine
A good bedtime routine should be calming, helping you wind down from the day while signaling (to your body and mind) that it’s time to go to sleep. Some elements of a soothing bedtime routine that can release tension while promoting sleep include:
- Watching TV
- Practicing relaxation techniques
- Showering and bathing
6. Listen to your body and go to bed when you’re actually tired
Avoid forcing yourself to go to bed when you’re not tired. If you try to sleep and are still awake 15 to 20 minutes later, get out of bed and find a relaxing activity to do in another room. Trying to force yourself to sleep can lead to tossing and turning, which can exacerbate pain and cause frustration or stress. That stimulation activates the mind and makes it that much harder to fall asleep.
Keep a bedtime or sleep journal, where you can write down the day’s stresses and challenges and what—if anything—brings you pain relief. Doing so can be helpful to alleviate your mind before going to sleep. Similarly, if the night doesn’t bring you quality sleep, take some time in the morning to write down the types of problems you experienced.
Journaling on each side of the sleep experience—meaning before you go to sleep and after you wake up—can be very helpful to identify the recurring stresses that may be disrupting your sleep, as well as the precise nature and frequency of your sleeping problems. All of this information can be critical to finding the best solutions for overcoming both.
8. Make your bedroom an environment that promotes sleep
Keep your bedroom dark, cool, quiet and soothing to avoid a lack of sleep. While this may mean adding blackout curtains, fans or noise machines, it can also mean:
- Strategically placing clocks, lights, and cell phones in your bedroom, so they do not act as stimuli when you’re going to bed or sleeping
- Not letting disruptive or bed-hogging pets sleep with you
- Avoiding bringing computers, books or work to bed with you so that you don’t break the association between bed and sleep
9. Talk to your doctor
Chronic pain (or even sporadic joint pain) may be only one of the issues disrupting your sleep. The medications you take to treat your pain—and maybe even other conditions, like sleep apnea—may also be contributing to poor quality sleep.
If you’ve been fighting to get good sleep for a while and if lifestyle changes and current medications don’t seem to be helping, it’s not a bad idea to see your doctor, talk about the issues and find out if something else may be going on.
10. Get a new mattress and pillows
Old or poor-quality mattresses and pillows will not adequately support your body while you sleep. This can prevent you from finding a comfortable position, causing misalignments, tension, insomnia as well as worsening pain from tossing and turning all night.
With a new, quality mattress and pillows personalized to your body, you can get the perfect support and comfort. And that can be a game-changer when it comes to alleviating pain and getting the sleep you desire every night.
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