10 SLEEPING TIPS FOR PATIENTS DEALING WITH CHRONIC PAIN

Woman trying to sleep

Dealing with back and neck pain will often have trouble sleeping. Various studies detail how chronic pain can make it difficult to sleep and how sleeping problems can exacerbate one’s symptoms.

We’ve compiled and reviewed several sleep tricks that seem to help many:

1. Only go to bed when you are tired

Do not allow yourself to toss and turn in bed. This only makes things worse, and usually you’ll end up stressing about everything you have to do the next day.

If you are not sleeping within 20 or 30 minutes, get out of bed and engage in something that makes you tired. One person suggested the iPhone app, “Words with Friends.”

Once you figure out your optimum bed time, do your best to keep a regular sleep schedule.

2. Cool the room

Simply cracking the window in cold weather or cranking the air conditioner a little more in hot weather is a great way to make the room temperature colder and to have deeper and more restorative sleep.

3. Drink herbal tea

Make a conscious decision to avoid coffee after dinner and expand this to exclude/limit pop and even other stimulants like alcohol and nicotine.

Chamomile tea is an excellent choice to help you relax.

4. Work up a sweat

While many chronic back pain and neck pain sufferers worry that exercising will only exacerbate their pain, the opposite is actually true: remaining inactive is often worse for pain.

Engaging in regular exercise, stretching, and strengthening programs can promote the body’s natural healing process and make you feel better both physically and mentally. And, as a bonus, it will make it easier to fall asleep at night.

5. Write down your worries

Why is it that when your head hits the pillow, all your worries become so intense? Try “forced worrying.” Before you go to bed, take 15 minutes or so to write down your worries on a blank sheet of paper.

Remind yourself that you will have plenty of time to address these concerns the following day. If you find yourself in bed worrying about other things, keep a notebook and pen nearby and write these down as well.

6. Visualize something peaceful

With your mind free of worry, gently close your eyes and think of something tranquil and relaxing.

Consider incorporating a sound relaxation machine or even aromatherapy.

7. Practice Mindfulness

If you have a hard time turning your attention away from pain while lying in bed,  remind yourself that a thought is just an idea; you don’t have to believe in it or act on it. Instead, try this simple, pain-reducing exercise:

  • Set a timer for 5 minutes.
  • Find a comfortable position to lie down.
  • Focus on your lungs expanding and contracting as your breathe in and out for a few moments.
  • Put yourself in neutral frame of mind. It may help to imagine cares and worries from the day sailing or floating away.
  • Observe your thoughts without labeling them “good” or “bad.”
  • If a negative thought (“This pain will never end” or “The pain is too awful, I can’t bear it”) pops up, acknowledge it, then turn your attention back to your breathing.

We know that the brain and body are connected, and stress, depression and anxiety play a part in how we perceive pain. Try allowing yourself to experience these thoughts without embracing them to prime your body for healing, restorative sleep.

8. Relieve Muscle Tension

Carve out time in your schedule for pain-management techniques that work for you, such as a hot bath, an ice or heating pack or a few minutes of slow, even breathing. Regular relaxation rituals, such as calming music or aromatherapy (try lavender to aid sleep), relax aching muscles to break the cycle of pain and help you drift off to sleep more easily.

9. Consider Supplements

Sleep-promoting supplements, such as melatonin, may help you get much-needed shut eye without a prescription. Gather information about how tiredness impacts your pain and daily activities and consult a healthcare provider to see if an over-the-counter product could help.

10. Check your bed equipment

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Does my mattress provide me with enough lumbar support?
  • How does my pillow support my neck? Is it too high or too firm?
  • What position is most comfortable when sleeping? Am I relaxed on my back, side, or am I curled up? How do I feel when I wake up in the morning after having slept in these positions?

Certain sleeping positions are recommended for different types of pain.

For example, patients with pain from osteoarthritis are advised to sleep in the fetal position (on their sides, with knees curled up), while patients with degenerative disc disease may prefer to sleep on their stomach. Those with hip pain may achieve relief by placing a pillow between the knees.

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