The brain is able to store new information and rid itself of toxic waste. The body is able to repair cells, restore energy, and release molecules like hormones and proteins. And our nerve cells can reorganize, supporting a healthy brain function.
But for many, the process of falling asleep can feel like a nightmare - especially for those suffering from any kind of pain. Two out of three people with chronic pain have trouble sleeping.
If you’re feeling the strain from the never-ending cycle, we’ve outlined some handy tips for sleeping better while dealing with ongoing pain.
The Vicious Cycle of Sleep and Pain
When you feel bouts of pain, your nerves will be stimulated to an intense level. Due to this, the brain remains activated - leaving you unable to fall to sleep.
With sleeping patterns being affected, this diminishes the body’s natural abilities and processes to heal the affected areas because it needs that vital time to recover.
And when laying there at night, when everyone else is sleeping soundly, the perception of pain can be felt more.
Lack of sleep can be felt the next day too, with feelings of irritability and distress likely heightened, which then leads to further issues with pain and mood.
It’s a hugely negative cycle that affects many chronic pain sufferers worldwide.
The Importance of Sleep for Pain Management
Sleep is needed to allow our brain and body time to repair itself and carry out vital functions.
Muscle repair, protein synthesis, tissue growth, and hormone release are all ticking over when we’re getting some shut-eye. It’s the time for cells to repair and regrow, which is much needed for those dealing with a health condition or pain - it’s how recovery is able to begin!
If an average of 7 hours per night isn’t achieved, this can bring on sleep deficiency, which is linked to chronic health problems affecting the heart, kidneys, blood, brain, and mental health.
If you’re in the process of focusing on your sleeping pattern or simply want to speed up cell repair, the following are beneficial ways to boost cell progress…
- Eat a clean diet
- Stop smoking
- Reduce alcohol
- Exercise as often as you’re able
- Incorporate red light therapy into your pain management routine
Red light therapy works by stimulating blood flow and energy production (the mighty ATP) in the cells of the targeted area. It reduces pain and inflammation whilst triggering the healing process to help damaged tissues repair themselves.
It’s a non-invasive form of therapy, with the MOVE+ Pro by Kineon being an accessible tool to utilize the powers of light.
The technology of the MOVE+ Pro has been based on many successful clinical trials to ensure only the most effective wavelengths, dosage, and components are used. It can help with pain for a whole load of conditions and injuries (like osteoarthritis, sciatica, tendonitis, and much more), and our customers report an 80% reduction in pain within 1-4 weeks.
Tips for Better Sleep with Pain
Achieving restful sleep while managing pain can be challenging. To increase the likelihood of improving this, there are some small changes you can make to your day.
Establish a Sleep Routine
An hour before sleeping, you should conduct a ‘winding down’ routine to tell your brain that it’s time to get ready for bed.
Setting a regular bedtime can help as it’ll become part of your natural sleep-wake cycle. Once you have this time, 30 minutes to an hour before you can follow the below routine…
- Begin by putting away all electronics and turn off the television
- Make a bedtime tea to calm the mind, or opt for a piece of fruit or yogurt if you need a light snack
- Take a warm bath, as scientists say mimicking a nighttime drop in body temperature via a bath can trigger a similarly sleepy response
- Put on some calming music or ambient white noise
- Stretch, breathe, and relax
Other activities could include meditation, reading, or writing in a journal.
Create a Sleep-Conducive Environment
Creating a sleep-conducive and relaxing environment can help to improve sleep quality, spanning all the elements like temperature, noise, light, mattress, and scent.
Naturally, when we sleep, our bodies drop in temperature as this relates to being sleepy and not on alert. Many experts suggest the ideal bedroom temperature for sleeping is 65 degrees Fahrenheight (18.3 degrees Celsius).
If that’s too chilly for you, a range of 60 to 71.6 degrees Fahrenheight should be suitable for most people. If this is still too cold, sleep with an extra layer or two on your bedding.
As expected, a quieter bedroom is best. If you’re sleeping in a loud environment, implement a soothing white noise machine - or even a fan - to mask these disruptive noises.
In a study evaluating the link between white noise and sleep, 38% of people were found to have fallen asleep faster listening to white noise than otherwise.
When our eyes see sunlight, they send signals to the brain to produce cortisol, which is a hormone that helps us stay alert and energized.
When the night creeps in, the brain then produces melatonin, which induces feelings of sleepiness and relaxation.
An hour or two before going to sleep, lower the lights and avoid using screen devices (including TV!) where possible. The blue light that is emitted from our mobile phones can be detrimental to sleep.
Mattress and Bedding
Everyone has their own preferences for what feels most comfortable to sleep on but carefully think about this when buying new sheets or pillows. Decide on your liking for firmness, thickness, and durability - it’s all in the details!
Certain scents can help you sleep more than others. Lavender oil works as an anxiolytic (an anxiety reliever) and as a sedative to increase relaxation. If you have a lavender essential oil, you could spray it on your pillow before you rest your head or put a few drops on your temples.
Peppermint is another scent to help you sleep. If oils aren’t your thing, sip on peppermint tea before bed.
Practice Relaxation Techniques
Yoga is used by many to promote relaxation, with some practices recommended just before bed. Slower types, like hatha, yin, or restorative, can help calm your senses and prepare you for the night ahead.
This doesn’t have to be long, with just 10 minutes being beneficial to your mind and body. It’s recommended to practice in a room with dim lighting while wearing an eye mask. Earplugs could be used to block out any external noises.
Another relaxation technique is deep and rhythmic breathing. Again, this has major calming benefits and can alleviate pain and stress. Research indicates that taking slow and deep breaths before bedtime can help you get to sleep faster and fall back asleep if you wake up during the night.
You can find breathing guides on YouTube to get you started. This technique is incredible for synchronizing your heart rate and breathing pattern, which can help you fall into restorative sleep.
Try Sleep Aids
If you’ve tried all of the above and are still struggling to sleep, there are medications and practices that can help with rectifying sleepless nights.
However, these aren’t magic cures and some can leave you feeling groggy and even unwell.
Some may have addictive elements, so you must consult your healthcare professional to determine if they are right for you. These medications are not intended for long-term use either, and you may not be able to drive or attempt other activities if you have taken them.
If you have underlying health conditions or certain health problems, these medications may not be right for you.
Some of the most popular medical sleep aids include…
- Temazepam but be aware that it can cause drowsiness, fatigue, headache, nausea, dizziness, dry mouth, vertigo, anxiety, depression, diarrhea, confusion, and nightmares
- Eszopiclone is a controlled substance with a tendency to lead to misuse and dependency and can cause several side effects
- Ramelteon isn’t a controlled substance, but not everyone can take it. Side effects can include drowsiness, dizziness, allergic reactions, fatigue, and worsening insomnia.
For those looking for more natural sleep aid solutions, chamomile tea and other forms of herbal tea are recommended.
Certain fruit extracts like cherry juice or tart cherry extract are said to do the job too, as are supplements like Zinc or magnesium.
Lifestyle Changes for Better Sleep and Pain Management
Adapting your lifestyle to healthier habits can do a whole world of good for your body, mind, and sleep.
It’s said that adults need a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity and two days of muscle-strengthening activity per week.
In the U.S., only 46.9% of adults aged over 18 met the Physical Activity Guidelines for aerobic physical activity. And only 24.2% of adults met the guidelines for both aerobic and muscle-strengthening activity.
While the recommended amount of time sounds overwhelming, breaking it down into smaller sections is achievable in even the busiest of schedules.
Some of the more enjoyable ways to exercise include…
- Walking your dog once or twice a day (you can even volunteer to walk rescue pups at your local center if you don’t have a furry friend of your own)
- Go swimming; this will keep you fit, improve your flexibility and balance, and enhance endurance
- Cycle to work or find a scenic route to kick off your weekend
- Join a team sport - a great way to connect with others in your local area too
- Suggest a walking meeting. For those with multiple meetings per day, go on a leisurely stroll with your attendee instead - they’ll appreciate the fresh air!
Eat a Healthy Diet
To be in line with medical guidelines, you should be eating at least five portions of fruit and vegetables every day.
These provide a good source of vitamins, minerals, and fiber - whether you have them fresh, frozen, canned, dried, or juiced.
If you’re unsure where to start with ‘health-ifying’ your dishes, begin by evaluating how many of the main food groups you’re eating on a daily basis.
Fruit should make up just over a third of the food you eat every day, as should starchy foods.
When it comes to beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat, and other proteins, opt for lean cuts of meat and skinless poultry where possible. You should aim to eat at least two portions of fish a week, including one portion of oily fish.
Stress can impact your body more than you may think. Going beyond your thoughts and feelings, it can infiltrate into your health too - potentially leading to problems like high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and more.
It’s easier said than done to counteract this and just ‘stop stressing,’ but there are some simple changes you can implement to prevent long-term stress.
If you have 10 minutes or so available throughout your day, do a guided meditation. There are copious amounts of content online (YouTube is amazing for this!) that run you through the motions - helping you to find a few minutes of centered relaxation. Deep breathing is an alternative if you’re looking to save time.
Social media can be a sneaky burden on our stress levels, so monitor how much time you spend on the addicting apps. Here are some other ways to manage your stress…
- Connect with like-minded people and/or communicate with loved ones regularly
- Plan for some ‘me time’ where you can do exactly what you want without distractions
- Prioritize key tasks that’ll make a real difference and leave the least important things to last
- Accept that you don’t have time to do everything - especially at work
- Pick up a good book to read before bed instead of scrolling on social media
- Reach out for help if things become too overwhelming, whether at work or with personal tasks
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