For individuals dealing with pain, trying to get a goodnight’s sleep can seem like an exhausting endeavor. Whether from a tender tooth or a sore lower back, pain is difficult enough to deal with during the day, but can become downright unbearable when desperately wanting to get some much needed rest. Individuals dealing with persistent pain often cannot get comfortable enough to fall asleep at night due to their continual discomfort.
If falling asleep at night wasn’t already difficult enough, pain can also make it impossible for someone to stay asleep throughout the night. Once pain starts to interfere with your sleep schedule, your condition is likely to keep causing trouble night after night, as pain-related insomnia only gets worse over time.
If you suffer from pain that’s keeping you awake at night, know that you’re not alone. Studies have shown that two out of every three people who suffer from chronic pain have trouble sleeping at night, according to the National Sleep Foundation. If you’re wondering if chronic pain is behind your recent sleepless nights, here are a number of ways that pain can interfere with sleep.
Sleep Cycle Disruption
Unfortunately, not all sleep is created equal when it comes to helping the body feel rested. Each night your body goes through three sleep stages that include light sleep, deep sleep, and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Each stage of the sleep cycle plays an important role in helping you feel rested upon waking the next morning, and most nights you’ll go through between four to six sleep cycles a night.
However, individuals who suffer from pain that causes them to wake frequently throughout the night may never reach the second or third stages of a sleep cycle. Spending too much time in light sleep deprives the body of the time it needs in latter stage of sleep, especially REM sleep. Individuals who receive too little REM sleep may actually experience increased sensitivity to pain, and have an even harder time falling asleep at night.
Poor Sleep Position
Specific types of pain, such as orthopedic pain and arthritis pain, could prevent you from finding a comfortable position at night. Even when you do manage to find a position that offers enough comfort to allow you to fall asleep, muscle and joint pain often results in people experiencing trouble staying asleep at night, which causes the cycle of trying to find a comfortable position to start all over again.
While taking pain medication before bedtime may seem like an obvious solution to helping you fall asleep at night, some types of pain medication can actually cause insomnia. Opioid pain medications like morphine, codeine, and vicodin can not only cause insomnia, they can often cause sleep apnea, a condition that results in a person pausing their breathing while asleep. This causes the body to react by waking a person from sleep so they start breathing again. So while you might think to eliminating your pain through medication would help you sleep better, taking these types of drugs can actually make it more likely you develop a sleep problem.
Lack of Exercise
Individuals in chronic pain often have a difficult time exercising regularly. Studies have shown that individuals who exercise frequently sleep better at night when compared to those who rarely or infrequently exercise. Failing to exercise can also lead to weight gain, which can make sleeping more difficult, especially if the weight gain causes you develop sleep apnea.
If you suffer from any of these pain related sleep issues, talk with your doctor about finding a successful treatment method that is right for you.
Timothy Lemke is a freelance health writer. To read more of his work, visit the website of Dr. Sarah Barber, a Vancouver dentist.