Relearning How To Sleep With Chronic Pain

[fa icon="calendar"] Apr 15, 2019 2:18:44 PM / by Florida Pain Relief Centers

Florida Pain Relief Centers

pexels-photo-935777For many of us, achieving quality, restful sleep remains a challenge. Most Americans average only 6.8 hours of sleep a night, with a whopping 40 percent of us clocking in at less than six total hours.

For neuropathic and chronic pain patients, the struggle to attain sufficient sleep levels consistently can often reach new heights.

A 2015 poll released by the National Sleep Foundation revealed that those with chronic pain, on average, experienced a 42-minute "sleep debt," or gap between the sleep they need, compared to the amount achieved, while those with an acute pain episode experienced a 14-minute sleep debt.

While these numbers on their own may not seem significant, pain-induced sleep deprivation can have a negative impact on the healing process, particularly for patients who were already not getting enough rest before their medical event. Lack of sleep has been directly linked to an increase in discomfort; our unrested bodies can suddenly become more keenly aware of pain signals that our rested selves could more easily ignore.

Additionally, elevated physical, mental, and emotional fatigue can lower tolerance levels, directly increasing pain acuity. A study conducted by the University of Washington on healthy, middle-aged women revealed that disrupted sleep reduced pain thresholds, increased dermal sensitivities, and intensified overall discomfort benchmarks.

Breaking The Vicious Cycle Of Sleeplessness And Chronic Pain

At the Sarasota Pain Relief Centers, our team of board-certified pain management specialists recognizes the importance of getting enough deep, REM sleep to repair and restore our bodies. However, our physicians also understand the very presence of discomfort itself often disrupts our rest patterns. Both chronic and acute aches can trigger heightened microarousals, or changes in our sleep state to a less restful stage, posing a direct, and potentially significant, sleep intrusion.

As a result, many of our patients find themselves simultaneously managing both the discomfort of their condition as well as various degrees of insomnia throughout treatment.

Assessing Your Sleep Hygiene

The medical professionals at the Sarasota Pain Relief Centers, believes that it is possible to relearn how to sleep with chronic pain. More importantly, our practitioners recognize sufficient rest as a significant influencer throughout the healing process. We consult with patients at every care phase to discuss various methods that may help increase the total hours of quality sleep attained each night.

The first step in recalibrating your sleeping patterns is to prioritize rest as a vital component in your wellness journey. Most people don't realize the importance of good "sleep hygiene," or the activities and things we do during the day that can directly disrupt sleep at night. It's important to take careful inventory of your current sleep hygiene and be ready to recalibrate existing habits, variables, and routines for better nightly results.

Some potential considerations include:

Light Levels

Exposure to light helps regulate our bodies, allowing us to discern when we should be awake and when we should be at rest. Melatonin, the hormone that promotes sleep, is triggered (as well as arrested) based on light levels. It's critical to increase sunlight exposure throughout the day and decrease artificial light at night to promote the release of melatonin in the body.


Nutritional intake can help or hinder our sleeping patterns. Heavy meals and foods with high fat and sugar content, especially close to bedtime, can increase the risk of insomnia. Avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and even chocolate at least 4 hours before bed can also help prepare your body for slumber.

Physical Activity

It's no secret that daytime activity can promote deep sleep. However, many chronic pain patients have physical limitations that restrict movement. At Sarasota Pain Relief Centers, our therapists and practitioners work closely with our patients to develop a plan for low impact activities and/or stretching that encourage longer periods of restfulness without exacerbating their conditions or impeding treatment progression.

Nighttime Factors To Consider

Once you've analyzed your daytime habits, it's essential to also evaluate some of the nighttime factors that may influence how well and how long you sleep each night. Some bedtime routine considerations may include:

Room Temperature

While everyone's body is different, most people find that they sleep better in a cooler room. Experiment with various temperatures ranging anywhere from 60-75 degrees to determine the best rest environment for you.

Go To Bed Sleepy

Reduce the amount of time you spend trying to fall asleep. Our body's energy levels ebb and flow throughout the day; learn to recognize when you're in an energy dip so you can capitalize on the opportunity for a fast REM transition. If you find yourself lying awake in bed for more than 20 minutes, get up and engage in a relaxing activity until your body is ready for the next energy decline.

Adjust Pillow Height

The right pillow and pillow adjustment can improve the quality of sleep for chronic pain patients. Based on your condition and specific health profile, your Saratoga Pain Centers clinician can suggest the best sleeping positions and pillow adjustments to help increase nighttime relief.

Designate A Daily Wake Time

While you may not always be in control of when (or if) you fall asleep, you can take charge of when you wake up. Setting a consistent daily wake up time establishes a benchmark for your body's circadian rhythms, so it understands what's expected of it every day at the same time. Additionally, a scheduled wake up time also helps you avoid oversleeping. While "catching up" on sleep may offer a temporary reprieve from fatigue, it can eventually lead to poor, restless, shallow rest that ultimately aggravates your pain thresholds.


About Sarasota Pain Relief Centers

Sarasota Pain Relief Centers offers chronic pain patients access to a diverse range of effective, non-invasive treatments and therapies. With five easily accessible local branches, Sarasota Pain Centers prioritizes the care experience and patient comfort to increase function and enrich overall quality of life. Contact us today to schedule an appointment with a board-certified pain management physician.


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Topics: Chronic Pain