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.

See Chronic Pain As a Disease: Why Does It Still Hurt?

woman with medication trying to sleep
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:

See Using Medication to Manage Pain and Reduce Sleep Problems

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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.

See Practicing Good Sleep Hygiene

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.

See Psychological Techniques, Sleep Environment, and Better Sleep

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.

See Should I See a Doctor for Back Pain?

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.

See Chronic Pain and Insomnia: Breaking the Cycle

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.

See Addressing Pain and Medical Problems Disrupting Sleep

Sleep-medication options

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).

See Sleep Medications by Prescription

Common over-the-counter medications include:

  • Sleep-Eze
  • Sominex
  • Nytol
  • Unisom

See Over-the-Counter (OTC) Medications as Short-Term Sleep Aids

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.

Learn more:

Antidepressants as Sleep Aids

Psychological Approaches for Insomnia