When chronic pain is the enemy of sleep



According to statistics from the 2015 Sleep in America™ Poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation: 

Clearly, pain is the enemy.

What pain does to disturb sleep

Chronic insomnia occurs when someone has long-term trouble falling asleep, staying sleep, or getting enough sleep over the course of the night (for instance, they may wake up too early, or they may never get deep sleep).

For people with chronic pain, the majority will experience insomnia as a result. Aside from the actual discomfort that they experience, they may also lose sleep due to: 


Chronic pain at bedtime creates a stress response in individuals who are trying to relax but can't because of the constant painful sensations they experience.

Aching, throbbing, stabbing, burning pain may be something they can distract themselves from during the day. However, trying to ignore leg pain at night, or chronic back pain, for instance, is almost impossible and may even be perceived as being even worse if they're sleep deprived

When pain awakens them, it's often because of something called a "micro-arousal," in which the brain quickly shifts out of deeper stages of sleep in response to changes in the body caused by systemic inflammation. 

Lack of sleep due to pain has staggering consequences beyond a bad night's sleep. These include the development of mood disorders, relationship instability, reduced quality of life, and an inability or indifference to participating in the normal activities of daily living.

Kinds of pain


There are specific kinds of pain that can affect sleep quality:


Why lack of sleep amplifies pain


If chronic pain, day and night, isn't punishment enough, nearly two thirds of those who suffer from it (around 15 percent of the general population and as much as half of the elderly population) suffer from sleep that is disrupted and nonrestorative, according to data published by Spine-Health.

What's more, disrupted sleep has been shown to exacerbate pain issues. 

According to a study published in SLEEP 2012, researchers found that a person’s sleep quality predicted the next day's pain levels and that those who slept poorly had more pain the day after.

Insomnia may, in fact, trigger inflammatory pathways that exacerbate pain. It may also make your chronic pain more noticeable.

University of Washington professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, Michael V. Vitiello PhD, told the Arthritis Foundation in a recent article, "It’s not that the disturbed sleep makes you achy per se, but the disturbed sleep changes your perception of pain.” 

How does the person with chronic pain escape this vicious cycle of poor sleep and amplified pain? They can do one or more of the following:


Arthritis Foundation
Institute for Chronic Pain
National Sleep Foundation
Sleep and Pain. Lavigne, Sessle, Choinière & Soja; ©2015, Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. 
Sleep Disorders and Sleep Deprivation: An Unmet Public Health Problem. Committee on Sleep Medicine and Research, Board on Health Sciences Policy, Institute of Medicine; ©2006, National Academies Press.

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