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Managing Pain That Steals Your Sleep

The first step is to reduce the pain, Falco says. “Pain control reduces anxiety and depression, improves sleep, and makes for better overall quality of life.”

Falco adds that people with pain and sleep problems should undergo a diagnostic sleep study.

When it comes to medications, tell your doctor about the sleep problems you’re having as a result of your pain. Then follow his or her orders. Painkillers and/or sleeping pills can work for some people, but they should only be used under the supervision of a doctor.

And in terms of pain that follows surgery, banking up on sleep a few weeks beforehand may help. “People don’t intuitively think they need to rest up for surgery; but they really should as it can help with pain control,” Marks says. Research has shown that people who get enough rest before surgery require less pain medication afterward.

 

Once the surgery has taken place, narcotic pain medications can make the first few nights of sleep more restful. “Try to time your last dose around the time you go to bed so it will last through the night,” Marks says.

How to Get the Sleep You Need

Calm yourself with meditation and other relaxation techniques.

When done effectively, as little as 10 minutes of daily meditation can help your mind ignore the pain, Marks says. There are many different types of meditation, including guided meditation, tai chi, and yoga. But you can also improvise. “Use deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, or focus on an object or scene,” Marks says.

Gentle massage is also beneficial for both insomnia and chronic pain. In a study published in the InternationalJournal of Neuroscience, participants who had two 30-minute massages a week for five weeks experienced better sleep and less lower back pain.  

Exercise the right way.

Regular exercise can improve both pain and sleep issues, Falco says. However, activity within three hours of bedtime can keep you up, so the earlier in the day you work out, the better. For pain, the best exercise is moderate and low-impact. Try walking, yoga, or swimming.

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