When Aches & Pain Disrupt Sleep
It's a vicious cycle -- pain keeps you awake, and sleeplessness makes pain worse.
Pain and Sleep continued...
Any pain can interfere with sleep. But some common causes of disturbed sleep
- Back pain
- TMJ pain, which is pain in the temporomandibular joint of the jaw
- Fibromyalgia, which can cause pain throughout the body's muscles,
ligaments, and tendons
- Neuropathy, or nerve pain
- Premenstrual cramping
Acute injuries, surgery, and more serious diseases, like
cancer, can also cause pain and sleeplessness.
It's not just the intensity of pain that can make it hard to
sleep. Lavigne says that pain that varies -- that is worse some days than
others -- is often the most likely to cause sleeplessness.
"It makes sense," he says. "If you have constant
pain for six months, you figure out how to cope with it. But if the pain level
goes up and down, if it's unpredictable, you can't get used to it and it can
really interfere with sleep."
Experts strongly recommend that people with chronic pain and insomnia
practice good "sleep hygiene," a medical term for good sleep habits.
These suggestions aren't specific to people with chronic pain -- they can help
anyone with sleep problems.
Cut back -- or cut out -- the caffeine. If you're
overtired, coffee, tea, and caffeinated sodas may help you get through the day.
But in all likelihood, they're just worsening your problem, since they disturb
your sleep at night. So struggle through a few days without your dose of
caffeine and see how you do.
Avoid naps. "Napping during the day just reduces the
amount you can sleep at night," says Roth.
Exercise, but not too late. While physical activity is
good for everyone, intense exercise -- especially in the late afternoon and
evening -- can rev your body up and make sleeping at night difficult. So try a
more moderate exercise routine and make sure to do it before the evening.
Cut out the alcohol in the evening. A nightcap might seem
like the perfect way to put yourself to sleep. But the problem is that alcohol
can interfere with your sleep cycles and wake you up later.
Don't overeat in the evening. A stuffed stomach may make
it harder to sleep, says Lavigne.
Make your bedroom a calming place. It's very easy to have
your bedroom become a multipurpose dumping ground. It might be filled with
baskets of laundry, your kids' toys, and a blaring TV. But experts say that you
should make your bedroom a more neutral, soothing place. In fact, they
recommend that you reserve you bedroom only for sleeping and sex. Get rid of
Relax before bed. Don't do anything before bed that could
get you anxious or excited. Avoid doing work in the evening or even getting
into serious discussions with your spouse. Instead, try focused relaxation or
If you can't sleep, don't lie awake in bed. Willing
yourself to sleep won't work -- you'll probably just make yourself anxious. So
if you're not asleep within 15 minutes of lying down, get out of bed and do
something else. Read a book. Take a bath. Listen to soft music. Once you feel
yourself getting tired, get back into bed.
Get up at the same time every day regardless of when you went to
sleep. It's one way of getting yourself onto a schedule.