Does pain make the sleep worse or does poor quality sleep make the pain feel worse? It’s actually both. The subjected intensity of pain decreases when a person is well rested. It is estimated that 50-80% of chronic pain patients report sleep disturbances. The worst is when pain and sleep form a downward spiral, leading to quality of life going down as well. Pain makes it hard to sleep, and poor sleep makes the pain subjectively worse.
During a normal night’s sleep, we cycle from light sleep to deep sleep to REM (rapid eye movement) sleep up to five times. When you feel tired in the morning, it’s normally because you didn’t get enough deep sleep and REM sleep.
Sudden severe pain can wake you up from a deep sleep, but milder pain can negatively impact sleep quality as well. Milder pain can cause microarousals. Microarousals are periods of time when you are shifted back into light sleep. Though you’re not likely to be aware of these microarousals happening or remember them the next day, you will probably wake up feeling like you didn’t sleep much at all.
Poor sleep can cause migraines. Getting enough sleep helps protect against migraine attacks.
Poor sleep can make you vulnerable to infections. Sleep helps heal and repair the body, especially your heart and blood vessels. If you don’t give your body time to heal and repair, your immunity system can lower, making you susceptible to other infections.
Poor sleep can make you sick in the long run. Sleep disturbance is associated with a wide array of distress and symptoms spanning from obesity, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and cardiovascular disease risk.
Poor sleep can negatively affect various aspects of brain function. This can include cognition, concentration, productivity, and performance. Getting good sleep then, can actually help improve problem-solving skills and enhance memory performance.
Poor sleep can wreck your mood. 40% of psychiatric mood disorders are preceded by insomnia, and insomnia sets in at the same time as another 20% of mood disorders.
Lifestyle changes that can help improve sleep
- Don’t watch TV in the bedroom.
- Don’t eat a big meal before bed, as digestion can disrupt sleep patterns.
- Put away your cell phone, tablet, or laptop, and anything else that has a lit screen at least an hour before bedtime.
- Don’t consume caffeine in the evening.
- Try relaxation techniques such as meditation or yoga to reduce stress.
- Keep your room dark, cool, and quiet.
Finding a nightly routine can help with getting better sleep. Find what works for you, whether it’s reading before bed, or preparing for the next day. Better sleep is not always going to happen instantaneously, but with practice and consistency, sleep can improve over time.
How Does Pain Affect Sleep? (2017). Retrieved from https://www.tuck.com/pain-and-sleep/
Leech, J. (2018). 10 Reasons Why Good Sleep Is Important. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/10-reasons-why-good-sleep-is-important#section3
Chronic Pain and Sleep. Retrieved from https://creakyjoints.org/support/pain-management/sleep/