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  • Writer's pictureTracy Harrison

Sleep and Acute / Chronic Pain

Updated: Jan 15

Sleep difficulties are extremely common in individuals with pain of all types. These difficulties can have consequences such as diminished physical function, poor quality of life, impaired cognitive function.

Insomnia is a very treatable condition and cognitive-behavioral therapy is recommended by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine as first-line treatment in adults, although also effective for the adolescent population.

Check out this article linked below for up-to-date information from experts in chronic pain.

Here are some strategies (*) that you can be used tonight for improved sleep:

* stick to a fixed wake-up time and bed time (do not change this by more than one hour)

* disconnect from electronics / television for at least one hour prior to bedtime

* complete your homework / intellectual work earlier in the evening

* avoid use of habit-forming sleep aides; take any medications only as directed by your physician

* prepare what you need the night before to leave in the morning without rushing

- choose your clothing

- pack your lunch

- pack your bag / locate your keys

* have an evening ritual which includes mental 'wind down' to de-stress and prepare for sleep

- take a relaxing bath to de=stress

- (read a relaxing book--> No murder mysteries!)

- practice diaphragmatic breathing / progressive muscle relaxation

* don't lie awake in bed and toss and turn; consider getting out of bed and reading (no bright lights) until you feel sleepy and return to bed

* avoid looking at your phone / avoid bright alarm clock during the night. This gives conflicting information to your pineal gland that is associated with good sleep and your circadian rhythm

* don't hit the snooze button; if you are prone to this, put your phone or alarm clock across the room so you are forced out of bed to silence

--> head to the bathroom right away to brush your teeth, etc but do not go back to

bed. You've just had a great start to the day!!

* get some exercise everyday. You might like to plan on 10,000 steps per day or lifting some weights. Those who exercise consistently (but not right before bed) tend to sleep better.

* And I almost forgot... no naps! These will derail your plan quickly so just avoid them. If you are feeling a little sleepy, get outside for a brisk walk or hop in the shower. So many of us don't sleep well at night because we've 'rested' during the day with naps or lying in our beds or on the couch watching Netflix.

Be patient with yourself. Sleep difficulties that are chronic take time to improve. Feel confident that you are on your way to more restful sleep.

What are some of your recommendations for improved sleep habits? which of the tips above did you like the most? Which ones are the most difficult to implement? Share with our community or pose a question.

Here is a resource for you for further exploration.

Badawy SM, Law EF, Palermo TM. The interrelationship between sleep and chronic pain in adolescents. Current Opinion in Physiology. 2019, 11:25-8.

(*)N.B. The strategies listed above are my addition and not reflected in the article above. Recommendations come from years of experience in helping to treat individuals with acute and chronic pain (and working with expert sleep specialists).

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