The combination of pain and insomnia can be extremely disturbing and distressful. It becomes a vicious cycle where one exacerbates the other and severely impacts the quality of life.
While taking medication for pain and sleep problems may seem to be the logical thing to do, it is not always the safest.
How Does Pain Impact Sleep?
On average, people need six to eight hours of sound sleep to be active and alert the following day. Those who suffer from sleep problems either find it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep through the night. Pain affects sleep by shortening this time and adding to the physical and mental stress.
Acute or chronic pain also causes people to wake up several times during the night. As they do, they find it tough to go back to it.
Apart from making them lethargic during the day, it also gives them stress about their health. The lack of sleep also makes them more sensitive towards other disturbances in the night. Some of them who find it challenging to cope with it develop sleep disorders later.
Although both acute and chronic pain can cause sleep problems, the latter is known to be the more profound one. It happens because the nervous system has to relax to make you fall asleep. Chronic pain makes the system active and prevents you from getting quality sleep.
How Does Sleep Affect Pain?
Sleep is essential to proper health as it is the time when the body and the brain recuperate from the events of the day. When you don’t get enough sleep for a few days, you will notice yourself feeling anxious, moody, or lethargic. It has similar effects on pain.
Research has proven that regular sleep problems can increase the chances of developing chronic pain in the future. On the other hand, people who get uninterrupted bedtime have more pain tolerance.
What Does Pain and Sleep Medication Do?
The most common type of painkillers are analgesics and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs(NSAID). These include Tylenol, aspirin, or Advil that you get at the drugstore. For more severe pains, your doctor may prescribe you stronger pain medications like muscle relaxants or opioids.
Such painkillers do not reduce the intensity of pain. On the contrary, they obstruct the signals that the body sends to the brain about the pain. For instance, NSAIDs contain special enzymes that interfere with the production of chemicals that mute the signal of pain.
However, these medications are not always safe. They may cause issues like kidney or heart problems. Moreover, if a person takes them too frequently, the body may become dependent on them.
Similarly, sleep medications include sedatives like antihistamines. Your doctor can give you a few pain killers and the best sleep aids. For more severe sleep problems, the doctors may prescribe hypnotics.
Sleep medication can cause a range of side effects ranging from dizziness, drowsiness, difficulty keeping balance, or impaired memory.
Moreover, as the patients discontinue the medication, they may experience rebound insomnia. It is a withdrawal symptom that may lead to nightmares or panic attacks in the night.
How to Cope With Pain and Sleep Problems?
It is advisable to understand your degree of pain and allow it to heal naturally, if bearable. If not, always consult your physician before taking any drugs.
When the pain first starts, it is unlikely that you will experience sleeplessness. As it increases or if you have continuous pain, your sleep may get impacted.
Every individual gets up multiple times in the night. Most people turn sides and go back to sleep without realizing it. However, if you are in pain, you will notice this pain as you wake up at night. It will hamper your sleep and may trigger the vicious cycle between sleep and pain.
Given below are all the things you can do to avoid this situation.
Use Relaxation Techniques to Fall Asleep
If you have arthritis or backache, you may notice that the pain increases at night. In reality, your daily chores keep you occupied during the day. However, as you hit your bed, there is nothing to keep your mind busy.
In this situation, relaxation techniques work best to get you to sleep. These come in audio recordings, and you can listen to them before bedtime.
While some of them will tell you to focus on your breathing pattern, others utilize the imagery form of relaxation. It makes you imagine a relaxing picture and takes your mind away from your current problems. As you do so, you find it easier to fall asleep.
Limit Caffeine and Alcohol
It is a well-known fact that caffeine makes you alert. Too much coffee during the day may cause sleep problems. Similarly, avoid taking alcohol in the evenings.
It is a common belief that the consumption of alcohol promotes sleep. Although it may help you to sleep faster, it impacts the quality of sleep. You will find yourself waking up frequently during the night.
Get Out of Bed
When you are in pain, you may get up at night due to its intensity. As you find it difficult to sleep, you may want to lie on the bed. However, the thoughts racing through your mind, along with the pain, will make it all the more difficult to fall asleep.
In situations like these, it is best to leave the bed and indulge in some dull activities. For instance, you can read a book or organize your drawers. Avoid watching TV or using your mobile phone, as the light and sound may further drive your sleep away.
Maintain a Healthy Sleep Schedule
When you do not sleep well, you feel tempted to nap during the day. If it is not in your daily schedule, it is inadvisable as it may disturb your sleep cycle. Try to sleep and wake up at fixed timings to feel naturally sleepy at night.
Maintain a healthy relationship with your bed and do not use it for office work. If you limit its usage, you will feel sleepy as you climb over it at night time. Moreover, create a calm and relaxed environment in your room with the right temperature and light settings.
Pain and sleep are interrelated, and if left unchecked, can adversely impact your quality of life. Although medications are sometimes unavoidable, you can follow natural ways to get sound sleep at night.