Painsomnia – What the Heck Is That?!

What the heck is that? You’re going to see many of our insomnia community advocates refer to painsomnia. While it’s not an actual medical diagnosis, it’s used widely among the chronic illness community.

It is very relatable for people who have struggled with sleep most of their life due to chronic pain from medical conditions.

What is painsomnia?

My definition of painsomnia is the inability to sleep due to pain, mostly chronic pain. Much of a painsomniac’s work is done between the hours of 12 AM to 4 AM. when I’ve noticed it and can say so on behalf of myself.

With painsomnia, there is no “getting comfortable” – it’s just getting as comfortable as possible for the few seconds comfort lasts and praying it lasts more than a few minutes.

Painsomnia is exhausting

The exhausting part of having painsomnia is the need to toss and turn because your bones are grinding together, your muscles are contracting, your arms begin to hurt, and everything becomes uncomfortable quickly. There are many “rounds” of tossing and turning because of pain and usually, it’s not something that goes away until you are actually asleep. Then, you wake up and deal with another ache or pain.

How painsomnia affects me

Is it depression? Is it lack of REM sleep? Is it exhaustion of muscles and brain?

I was recently having a conversation after a very little sleep night. I asked my boyfriend if he ever hurt so badly that his skin hurt if you touched it. He looked at me very strangely and said, “Umm, no.” That’s when I realized just how exactly I’ve struggled with how my nights of sleep affect my body as a whole.

I am in pain from literally just touching the skin on my body – it IS an organ, it does have pain receptors. With little to no sleep, my pain receptors are engaged like crazy and I feel every tug, pull, and touch of my skin. I get startled when someone else touches me when I’ve been affected by painsomnia from the previous night(s).

Light stretches relieve some tension

I make sure to do a series of light stretches before I go to bed to lessen the tension in my legs, as I often get leg cramps in my sleep due to low potassium. Next, I cross my legs and stretch my arms as far as I can in front of me while arching my back in between. I’ve found that arching my back and paying close attention to the tension in my back and chest wall muscles has significantly improved my pain in that area.

My pain obviously hasn’t disappeared fully, but it helps me relax before bed and I need all the relaxation I can get when I am in a bout of insomnia (I guess.. all the time?).

Breathe in, breathe out

Lastly, I focus on my breathing – because sometimes I feel that's all I have control of. In through my nose, pause, breathe out from my mouth. If I'm feeling extremely pained, I blow the air out a little harder when I have the lung capacity.

Have you ever heard of painsomnia and if you have, how has it affected you? How do you manage your sleep with chronic or acute pain? Share in the comments below.

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