Sleeping with Pain
Pain & Insomnia
Sleep is a built in ability that usually doesn’t take much effort at all. I mean, how simple can it be to sleep? You just close your eyes, relax and get taken away to your dreams. But for many, many people, sleeping isn’t as easy as that.
It is known that insomnia, pain and psychological distress are intertwined; therefore a combination approach works best. There is hope, however, in overcoming insomnia.
How does pain affect sleep?
Chronic pain and insomnia go hand in hand, with the vast majority of chronic pain patients reporting disturbed, interrupted or poor quality of sleep. Indeed, 7.8 million people in UK have chronic pain, and two thirds of these report sleep problems. For people experiencing chronic pain, secondary insomnia is usually diagnosed. However, due to the complex nature of chronic pain many people experience emotional issues and also may find their sleep is affected by the pain medications.
Research demonstrates that disrupted sleep will, in turn, increase the chronic pain problem. Therefore this becomes a vicious cycle in which the pain disrupts your sleep, and difficulty sleeping makes your pain worse, which in turn makes sleeping more difficult and so the cycle continues.
Chronic pain can disrupt your sleep in many ways. Often the best way to understand how chronic pain can make it difficult to fall asleep; is to think about the process associated with going to sleep at night. Whilst getting ready for bed, we often try to eliminate all distractions or influences, by turning off the lights, trying to get comfortable in an effort to try to ‘relax’ and begin to fall asleep.
However, these activities which make our environment quieter can cause problems for people with chronic pain, because the only thing left to focus on, is the experience of pain. Many of my patients report that one of their main pain management strategies during the day is being able to distract themselves from their pain by being involved in various activities and staying busy.
When trying to fall asleep, there are no other distractions to focus on, except for their pain. Often, the perception of pain actually increases when trying to go to sleep. The longer it takes to fall asleep, the more stressful the situation becomes and the more pain is experienced, so the vicious cycle continues.
In addition to the difficulty of actually getting to sleep, many people with chronic pain wake up frequently throughout the night. Therefore chronic pain can be a significant intrusion into the night’s sleep and very disruptive to the normal stages of sleep. This often causes ‘non-restorative sleep’ where the person with chronic pain awakes but feels unrefreshed;leading to lack of energy, low mood, fatigue and increased pain during the day.
Let’s work together and I can help you manage your sleep and regain control of your pain and your life.
As soon as you start to take action, you are starting to be back in control of your life, so why not click here to start with.