How Pain Impacts Sleep

How are you sleeping? This is one question I can almost guarantee that I will be asked at each one of my doctor appointments. No matter what specialist I am seeing.

I can also guarantee that I will be on the receiving end of “THE LOOK.” As well as the speech on how important sleep is when I give them an honest answer on how little I usually sleep. But I understand their concern due to the fact that sleep is a very important part of life for those of us living with chronic health conditions. Especially chronic conditions that cause pain.

The links between pain and sleep

A National Sleep Foundation poll found that 57 percent of Americans deal with some kind of pain. 21 percent of those polled stated that they deal with chronic pain.1 Which we all know is linked to trouble sleeping. Pain, combined with stress and poor health in general, equals poor sleep, shorter duration of time spent sleeping, and poor sleep quality.

Why am I telling you this? Simply because pain is one of the biggest causes of insomnia. Those who suffer from any kind of pain are more likely to have sleep problems that will impact their daily lives. More than half of those polled who also deal with chronic pain say that their difficulties sleeping have or will interfere with their work. That number drops significantly, to under 25 percent, for those who have no pain.1

People living with chronic pain say that lack of sleep plays a big part in their emotional well-being and any activities they take part in. As well as their relationships, overall mood, and how they enjoy life.

Seeing the statistics makes it more real. They show that nearly 23 percent of those polled who have chronic pain said that over the years, they have seen a doctor and been diagnosed with some kind of sleep disorder. As compared to only 6 percent of those who report no pain issues.1

The vicious cycle of pain and sleep

Research has shown that poor sleep and chronic pain are part of a vicious cycle. Pain makes it hard to sleep. While a lack of sleep makes the pain worse. Lack of good restorative sleep may also impact the immune system poorly and can cause cognitive issues.2

Thus that vicious cycle develops. Chronic pain, especially back pain, disrupts one's sleep and trouble sleeping makes the pain worse, which in turn makes sleeping more difficult.2

Make sleep a priority

Being proactive and taking time to make sleep a priority by seeing a doctor about your sleep struggles can make a world of difference.  We all feel like we know the cause of our sleep troubles (aka our pain) and have “tried everything!” When in actuality we haven’t and we just blame the issue on our chronic pain. 

Seeing a physician who specializes in sleep can help provide you with options that may be more helpful than you think. Making sleep a priority is linked to better sleep, even among those with pain.

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