Chronic pain can make getting to sleep—and staying asleep—a challenge. If you have “painsomnia”—trouble sleeping due to pain—try following these 6 tips to take control of your pain.
- Experiment with medication timing. Shifting the timing of your medication may help you get a better night’s sleep. Many people find taking medication close to bedtime is ideal, but see what works best for you. If you fall asleep only to wake up later from the pain, ask your doctor if there is a longer-acting medication that might be a good option.
- Consider a TENS device. Some transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) devices can be used during the night, providing an extra level of pain relief. These devices are widely sold in drugstores and online, and many of the more expensive devices come with a money-back guarantee if they don't help.
- Ease into bedtime. Develop a relaxing routine leading up to bedtime every night. This allows your body to gradually wind down from the day's stresses. Reading can be relaxing, but skip the computer, phone, or tablet as bedtime draws near. The glow from electronic devices can trick your mind into thinking it's daytime—thwarting your efforts to shift yourself into sleep mode.1 Checking work emails soon before bed is another no-no.
- Try relaxation options. Learning some basic meditation techniques, such as deep-breathing exercises, can be helpful in prepping for sleep. An array of cell phone apps offering relaxing sounds or soothing bedtime stories for adults may also come in handy.
- Add physical activity to your day. If you've got chronic pain, exercise may seem impossible, but keep in mind that any activity is good. Start gently, and add a little more movement each day. Walk, bike, or swim if you can. If you can't, consider using stretchy exercise bands and doing chair exercises. Physical activity that increases your heart rate and triggers the release of endorphins, the body's natural pain-relieving hormones.
- Take a break. When you're still tossing and turning after trying to sleep, get up and try reading or doing something else that relaxes you for a while before returning to bed.
If sleep problems persist, call the doctor or bring up the topic at your next appointment. Sometimes another sleep-related problem, such as sleep apnea or restless legs syndrome, is making the situation worse. Sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, and other sleep-related problems can usually be corrected.
- Grandner MA, Gallagher RA, Gooneratne NS. The use of technology at night: impact on sleep and health. J Clin Sleep Med. 2013;9(12):1301-2.