When the conversation turns to joint pain, many stop at the physical symptoms, like the aches and pains. Many forget to talk about the 80% of people living with chronic joint pain who aren’t able to sleep at night — so we’re going to.
Here, our team at CurePain, led by pain management specialist Dr. David Wu, walks you through a few helpful tips to unlock the joint pain-relieving power of sleep.
The pain-sleep connection
The connection between sleep and pain is complicated and circular.
Pain impacts your quality of sleep. Conditions like joint pain can flare up or be provoked by certain sleeping positions, cause persistent discomfort that doesn’t dissipate at night or cause frequent nighttime wakings. Medications you take to manage your symptoms may trigger sleep-disturbing side effects. Pain is also usually accompanied by anxiety, stress, and/or depression, which can negatively impact sleep.
Furthermore, chronic pain patients are also at an increased risk for other sleep disorders, including obstructive sleep apnea and restless legs syndrome.
On the other hand, a lack of sleep can also affect your pain. In fact, some argue that the effect of sleep on pain may be stronger than the effect of pain on sleep.
Without sleep, your body is more sensitive to pain because sleep and pain share many chemical and electrical processes. For instance, melatonin, the hormone responsible for regulating sleep, also contributes to your perception of pain.
The good news
Sleep and pain are deeply connected, which can be as helpful as harmful. The good news is that getting a restful night of sleep can significantly improve your perception of pain, reduce inflammation, and ultimately help you manage your symptoms for the long haul.
But what are you to do when you’re stuck in a vicious cycle of restless nights and painful days? Here are some sleep hacks to try.
Avoid stimulants before bed
You’d probably never brew a cup of coffee or down an energy drink before bed, but have you considered that your favorite soda or tea may have caffeine hidden inside? Make sure caffeine isn’t the primary ingredient for your late-night beverages, or you’ll risk ruining your chances at a restful night of sleep.
Don’t go to bed in pain
If you go to bed in pain, you can almost guarantee you’ll have trouble sleeping. Try to arrange your medication schedule to provide peak relief right around when you typically go to bed. It’s also a good idea to steer clear of activities that cause flare-ups and swap them for relaxing ones. You may, for example, try taking a hot shower or bath before bedtime to soothe your achy joints.
Find time for exercise
Your struggle with joint pain may have knocked exercise down to the bottom of your to-do list, but being active during the day can help you find relief from pain and feel more tired when it’s time to hit the hay.
Manage your stress
Life is stressful on its own. Throw in chronic joint pain, and you may be at your breaking point daily. The result? Exacerbated pain and fitful nights. Do your best to manage and cope with stress and avoid stressful situations before bedtime.
Create an oasis
Your bedroom should be a sanctuary for sleep. That means ditching your TV, banning electronics, and filling the space with only the most comfortable sleeping surfaces available. You may also try room-darkening curtains and/or sound machines that block out lights and noises that can distract you from sleep.
Don’t hang out in bed
When pain-induced insomnia strikes, you may find yourself tossing and turning in bed. However, that can actually cause more harm than good. Instead, get out of bed and do something that’s not too stimulating. This helps your brain associate your bed with sleeping, not tossing and turning.
Resist the urge to rely on sleeping pills
In a pinch, sleeping pills are a great option to catch up on sleep. But when you’re battling chronic joint pain and sleeplessness, the last thing you want to do is get stuck relying on pills that offer temporary relief at best. Instead, focus on the healthy habits we outline above to find a lasting solution to your lack of sleep.
Want more information about managing your joint pain? Don’t hesitate to request an appointment online or over the phone at our Torrance, California, office today.