Woman laying in bed while in pain

The Link Between Chronic Pain and Insomnia

Just as there’s a relationship between chronic pain and the food you eat, new science studies point to a connection between your sleep patterns and chronic pain. Even otherwise healthy individuals who experienced just one night of sleeplessness can experience an “uptick” in pain sensitivity, which means getting consistent good sleep is good for us all.

Solving both your sleep and chronic pain problems could benefit your overall health, as well. Research has indicated that both chronic pain and sleep disturbances overlap in a multitude of physical and mental health problems, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, and depression.

We understand the suffering and frustration associated with both problems, and are here to provide some solutions.

Increased Pain = Decreased Sleep = Increased Pain

Research estimates that between 50% to 80% of those living with chronic pain also regularly experience sleep disruption. Whether persistent pain makes it difficult to relax and fall asleep in general, or resting for a period of time in one position causes joints and muscles to stiffen with pain, waking up in the night thanks to chronic pain is extremely common.

This disruption has a cumulative, adverse effect on our entire health. When our bodies are unable to experience extended REM sleep, we’re unable to achieve full mental and physical recovery. And when that disruption continues for many nights in a row due to pain, it negatively affects our energy during the day — and therefore our future nights. It’s a problem that can potentially snowball into something bigger.”

Impact of Medicine

Though medication can play a vital role in alleviating chronic pain, what may be doing you good in one department could be causing harm in others. For example, certain opioid prescriptions can be associated with sleep-related hypoventilation, central sleep apnea (CSA), and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

Other pain medications that may interfere with healthy sleep patterns include:

  1. Alpha-blockers
  2. Beta-blockers
  3. Corticosteroids
  4. SSRI antidepressants
  5. ACE inhibitors
  6. ARBs
  7. Cholinesterase inhibitors
  8. H1 antagonists
  9. Glucosamine/chondroitin
  10. Statins

This means it’s vital to be in close conversation with your doctor about prescriptions for your pain management, as well as anything you may take to aid with sleep. Taking sleep aids in combination with pain prescriptions could greatly increase your risk for overdose, so monitoring all of your medications with your doctor is essential.

Ways to Improve Sleep, and Chronic Pain

Worrying about your chronic pain, your lack of sleep, and how they are contributing to each other may only elevate your stress levels — which can cause even more pain. So here’s some actions you can take to achieve the rest you sorely need.

  • Employ static stretches. Helpful for relaxing both your mind and body, gentle stretches done for 5 minutes within the hour before bedtime can soothe muscles, flex joints, and calm the mind.
  • Consider your blankets and pillows. The size, shape, and position of your pillows can shift your body’s position at night, which may have a negative impact on your pain. Equally, a weighted blanket may provide soothing comfort to sore muscles, though too much heat or being too cool can also disrupt your sleep. Spend a month experimenting with different shapes, sizes, coverings, and positions to find the right fit.
  • Aim for consistency. When you’ve had a sleepless night, it’s tempting to stay in bed longer in the morning. But waking up and going to sleep at consistent times can help your body establish a regular pattern.

We understand it may be frustrating not to have an “easy fix” for either your chronic pain or the sleep struggles it may be causing. We’re here to listen — and help find the solution unique to your needs.  Schedule an appointment with us online or call us at 770-929-9033.