Pain doesn't end when the sun goes down. Studies show a majority of those with chronic pain have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.
Unfortunately, poor sleep can make pain worse—so pain and insomnia can set a damaging cycle into motion that makes it harder and harder to find pain relief or a good night's sleep.
The first step in breaking this cycle is to talk with your doctor and make sure you have a multi-disciplinary approach to treating the pain itself. Even if the physical cause is not treatable or is unknown, there are treatments for the pain available, including medication and cognitive behavioral therapy.
You don't have to focus on pain treatments alone before you treat insomnia though—in fact, they're best tackled together.
We've compiled some sleep tricks that seem to help many of our Spine-health Forum members:
1. Only go to bed when you are tired
Do not allow yourself to toss and turn in bed. This only makes things worse, and usually you'll end up stressing out about the fact that you're not sleeping.
If you can't fall asleep within 20 or 30 minutes, get out of bed and engage in something that makes you tired.
Once you figure out your optimum bed time, do your best to keep a regular sleep schedule.
2. Cool the room
Simply cracking the window in cold weather or turning up the air conditioner a little more is a great way to make the room temperature colder and to have deeper and more restorative sleep.
3. Check your bedroom "equipment"
Ask yourself these questions:
- Does my mattress provide me with enough lumbar support? Check out these mattress guidelines.
- How does my pillow support my neck? Is it too high or too firm? Read these suggestions for pillow support and comfort.
- What position is most comfortable when sleeping? Am I relaxed on my back, side, or am I curled up? How do I feel when I wake up in the morning after having slept in these positions?
Read more Pillow Types to Consider
Certain sleeping positions are recommended for different types of pain.
For example, patients with pain from osteoarthritis are advised to sleep in the fetal position (on their sides, with knees curled up), while patients with degenerative disc disease may prefer to sleep on their stomach. Those with hip pain may achieve relief by placing a pillow between the knees.
4. Drink herbal tea
Chamomile tea is an excellent choice to help you relax.
5. Work up a sweat
While many people with chronic back and neck pain worry that exercising will only exacerbate their pain, the opposite is actually true: Being active often decreases pain.
Engaging in regular exercise, stretching, and strengthening programs can promote the body's natural healing process and make you feel better both physically and mentally. And, as a bonus, it will make it easier to fall asleep at night.
Read more Exercise Walking for Better Back Health
6. Write down your worries
Why is it that when your head hits the pillow, all your worries become so intense? To cope with this phenomenon, try "forced worrying." Before you go to bed, take 15 minutes or so to write down your worries. Then put the list away and tell yourself that your time to worry for the day is over.
If you find yourself in bed worrying about other things, keep a notebook and pen nearby and write these down as well.
7. Visualize something peaceful
With your mind free of worry, gently close your eyes and think of something tranquil and relaxing. Consider incorporating a sound relaxation machine or even aromatherapy.
What helps you get a good night's rest? Find out what our community members think in our Sleep Forums.