You know what it’s like: you’ve finally got to sleep, then you roll over and wham! A jolt of pain wakes you up again.
Every chronic pain sufferer understands this scenario. It’s a regular nightly routine for many, and insomnia results as interrupted sleep patterns feed chronic pain. But what is the link between poor sleep and pain – and how can you reduce the impact chronic pain has on your sleep?
Why Sleep Is Important
Sleep is when your body heals and restores itself. It’s as much about mental rest as physical – so disturbed sleep means your health and wellbeing both suffer in the long-term.
Some chronic pain issues, such as fibromyalgia, are directly related to neurological disruptions in sleep cycles. Others are exacerbated by lack of sleep because your body doesn’t have time to heal and rest if you keep waking up due to pain.
Fatigue is a common side-effect of chronic pain even when you’re awake – so not getting enough sleep at night makes it all a lot worse. The pain-sleep-pain cycle worsens over time: the more exhausted you are, the lower your pain tolerance. This means more sleep disruption, which means more fatigue, more pain, and even less sleep!
Lack of sleep feeds into mental health problems, such as depression, too. These disorders make sleep harder still, so the cycle continues.
Combat Pain-Induced Insomnia Without Painkillers
It’s tempting to reach for sleeping pills and prescription-strength painkillers to attempt a decent night’s sleep. However, without creating a sustainable long-term sleep routine, you risk developing a dependency on these medications.
Taking prescription medications might help pain in the short-term – but has a wide impact on your overall health. It can even make your sleep worse! Plus, these medications often make you feel groggy and ‘zombified’ the next day, adding to your fatigue and limiting your enjoyment of daily activities.
There are lots of ways to manage your sleep with chronic pain to reduce the insomnia risk and even break the pain-no sleep-more pain cycle, without turning to strong medications.
1. Exercise – But Not Too Late in the Day
Even on days when you’re feeling tired and ache to the ends of the earth, a little gentle exercise goes a long way.
Exercising daily helps to build your overall strength and flexibility. You’ll also find your muscle tension is alleviated with regular exercise: keeping sore joints rigid creates tension, which then contributes to pain. So, exercise helps loosen these tense areas, boosts blood flow, and strengthens muscles. Exercise also boosts mental wellbeing, which helps you lay your mind to rest when your head hits the pillow at night.
You don’t need to go all-out with a HIIT routine every day: gentle exercise helps improve sleep, too.
Try to avoid raising your heart rate too high a few hours before bedtime! This disrupts sleep as much as too much caffeine or alcohol can.
2. Create a Bedtime Routine
One of the easiest ways to start your journey to improved sleep is the introduction of a bedtime routine. Things like going to bed at a different time each night or using your phone until the small hours impacts sleep.
Your body loves routine! We work on natural rhythms of the day: that’s why we wake up at certain times, feel hungry, and – in theory – feel tired in the evening. Create a regular routine and follow the same every night. It’s like training your brain to recognise “It’s bedtime now!”. After a short while of following the same routine, your brain will automatically start to ‘power down’ towards bedtime, making it easier to fall – and stay – asleep.
- A bath or warm shower before bedtime, to help relax tight muscles and reduce pain with the heat
- A gentle night-time stretching routine to release muscle tension
- Putting your phone on charge in another room rather than taking it to the bedroom
- Switching off from screens at least half an hour before bed
- Meditation for pain relief or guided sleep-inducing meditation apps
- Going to bed at the same time each night (even if you’re not tired)
- Reading a book or listening to calming music to help you wind down
Following a routine like this helps you take time for yourself, too – so you’re taking care of your mental wellbeing at the same time as reducing your pain.
3. Avoid Stimulants in the Evening
Step away from the coffee! If you’re a caffeine addict, try reducing how much you drink. Switch to decaf in the afternoons if you can’t give up coffee altogether. It’ll help keep your heart rate steady – instead of rocketing through the roof just before bedtime!
Alcohol is a common culprit for disrupted sleep, too. Turning to a nightcap because it makes you feel sleepy might seem like a great way to battle your pain-induced insomnia. Stop!
First, if you take medications, combining them with alcohol can be dangerous. Second, alcohol disrupts sleep – so even if you fall asleep faster with it, your sleep patterns won’t be restorative. You’ll wake up exhausted and start the cycle all over again the next day.
4. Use BioWaveGo Instead of Painkillers
Before you go to bed, try using BioWaveGo on your problem pain areas. Unlike a traditional TENS machine, that targets pain at a skin-deep level, the patented frequencies used by a BioWaveGo machine get right to where it matters, deep in the muscle tissue.
BioWaveGo is used by VA hospitals, pain and ortho clinics, college sports teams, and professional athletes. For 80% of patients, the device offers up to 24-hour pain relief from chronic lower back pain after one 30-minute session. So, while you’re following your bedtime routine, add in BioWaveGo to help reduce pain without painkillers before bed. While you’re reading your evening book or listening to your favorite podcast before bed, BioWaveGo will do its thing.
With pain relief that works without prescription medications, you’ll be able to fall asleep – and stay asleep – to finally break the chronic pain and insomnia cycle.