Chronic pain can lead to a number of sleep-related problems—such as struggling with falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep, and awakening with a drowsy feeling. If you suffer from sleep disruption, you may also feel fatigued during the day.
If behavior and environment changes prove unsuccessful, over-the-counter or prescription drugs may be used to treat pain and/or improve sleep. See Using Medication to Manage Pain and Reduce Sleep Problems
If you are considering taking medication for any of these sleep-related problems, read on to learn more about when taking sleep medication might be appropriate:
Try non-medication options first
As a general rule, it is best to exhaust your non-medication options before trying medication for your sleep-related problems.
Every person is different, but many people find that they sleep better when they avoid the following:
- Caffeine within 4 hours of bedtime
- Vigorous exercise before bed
- Use of electronics in the bedroom
Additionally, you can also benefit from establishing a relaxing nightly routine—which signals to your body that it is time for sleep. As part of practicing good sleep hygiene, this can include reading a book, taking a warm bath, or listening to music.
Chronic pain and sleep-problems should be treated together
If non-medication options fail to resolve your sleep issues, you can speak with your doctor about over-the-counter and prescription options for (typically) short-term use. It is important to note that you should not take any sleep medications without first consulting with your doctor.
Additionally, chronic pain and sleep-problems need to be treated simultaneously. The reason for this is that chronic pain can lead to a frustrating cycle when it comes to sleep. That is, chronic pain can make it harder to sleep—and in turn a lack of sleep can make your chronic pain worse.
So make sure to let your doctor know that your chronic pain is interfering with your sleep, and together you can come up with a plan to tackle both problems.
Common prescription options for sleep-related problems include:
- Benzodiazepine sleep aids. Long-term use of benzodiazepine sleep aids can lead to dependence, and may also produce a “hangover” feeling the following day.
- Non-Benzodiazepine sleep aids. These medications include Ambien, Sonata, and Lunesta. These medications produce similar results to benzodiazepine sleep aids, but have a lower risk for developing dependence and may not produce the same “hangover” effect.
- Rozerem. This medication targets specific receptors in your brain that are responsible for controlling your body's sleep-wake cycle (melatonin).
Common over-the-counter medications include:
Tolerance to over-the-counter medications can develop quickly, so they may prove less effective over time. You should discontinue the use of over-the-counter sleep aids if you experience dry mouth, constipation, or blurred vision. Also, be careful mixing over the counter sleep aides with other medications—it is always best to check with your doctor.
Armed with the above information, you can better communicate with your doctor about your options for resolving your sleep-related issues.