What Is the Connection Between Sleep, Pain, and Mental Health? Update 07/2024

Getting a good night’s sleep can be a real challenge for people who have chronic pain. According to the National Sleep Foundation’s 2015 Sleep in America survey, one out of every five Americans suffers from chronic pain. According to a recent study, one in four chronic pain sufferers also have a sleep disorder.

It seems that sleep and pain have a mutually reinforcing effect. Even a good night’s sleep can help alleviate some people’s apprehensions and concerns. People suffering from chronic pain may benefit greatly from making sleep a top priority as part of their recovery.

What Is Pain?

In order to feel pain, nerves transmit a signal to our brain that something is wrong. It is important to distinguish between acute and chronic pain.

An example of acute discomfort is a broken bone that takes time to heal. Chronic pain is defined as recurrent or long-term pain, such as that caused by fibromyalgia, arthritis, or cancer.

The brain’s perception of pain is influenced by a variety of elements, including one’s physical condition, mental state, and the source of the pain. If you experience pain at night, it may keep you awake. Long-term sleep deprivation may be a problem for people who suffer from chronic pain.

Common Sleep Disturbances in Those With Chronic Pain

There are various factors to consider when analyzing how chronic pain impacts one’s ability to sleep. Particular health conditions’ symptoms can be worse when people sleep in certain positions. Some patients may experience midnight anguish that never goes away. As a last note, a hospital or long-term care facility may have additional issues, such as a noisy atmosphere or an uncomfortable bed.

Chronic pain can lead to fewer hours of sleep per night and more frequent nighttime awakenings. Among chronic pain patients, sleeplessness is the most prevalent sleep problem.

During the night, we go through three stages of sleep: light, slow-wave, and REM. In order to wake up feeling rested, we need a variety of sleep stages, including slow-wave and REM. Breaking this pattern results in a less restful night’s sleep and weariness the following day.

In some cases, people with chronic pain also suffer from sleep disorders, such as obstructive sleep apnea and restless legs syndrome. For those who suffer from chronic illness, the side effects of medication could make it difficult to get to sleep at night. Stress, worry, and depression can all be linked to pain in a significant way. Many conditions might cause sleep problems on their own as part of a larger health plan.

How Does Pain Affect Sleeping Positions?

Depending on the type of discomfort you’re suffering, your sleeping posture may be dictated. Shoulder, hip, and knee rheumatoid arthritis sufferers should not sleep on their sides because this can exacerbate their symptoms.

For people who are sensitive to the development of pressure in the lower back, sleeping on one’s stomach or back could be risky. The natural curvature of the spine can be supported with a mattress and pillow designed to decrease pressure points and alleviate pain for those who need it.

As an example of a widespread pain, multiple sclerosis can occur. To avoid tingling and numbness produced by these disorders, it may be necessary for people to alter their sleeping positions on a regular basis. Memory foam mattresses may be more suited for these individuals, as they are more responsive to movement on top of them. Assist yourself if you are unable to change your position on your own and need assistance.

How Does Sleep Affect Pain?

Evidence suggests that sleep affects pain more than pain affects sleep quality or quality of sleep.

Due to poor sleep quality, fragmentation, and short sleep duration, persons with chronic conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis report an increased sensitivity to pain on the following day. People who have trouble sleeping are more likely to get fibromyalgia or migraines. Quality sleep has been linked to a reduction in chronic pain, according to a slew of research.

The circuits and neurotransmitters involved in sleep and pain appear to be linked. The hormone melatonin has long been known to help us sleep, but researchers are now looking into whether it might also alter our perception of pain. Immune system inflammation can also be brought on by a lack of sleep, which impairs our body’s ability to heal. Dopamine and vitamin D have been linked to poor sleep and apnea.

Mixed results have been found in studies on how sleep loss affects our pain threshold and the brain’s ability to control pain. It’s likely that sleep has a variable effect on pain depending on the disease and the sort of sleep deprivation.

When it comes to dealing with sleep disturbance and discomfort, sociodemographic factors may play a role. Insomnia-induced pain is more sensitive to women than to men, and young people are more tolerant of pain than the elderly.

Daytime fatigue is not uncommon among those with chronic pain. A lack of regular exercise or a well-balanced diet may be preventing them from getting enough sleep at night. If you and your spouse share a bed, chronic pain can affect your partner’s sleep as well, which can have a detrimental impact on both their health and quality of sleep.

Chronically ill children and adults both complain of sleep disturbances, and those who have sleep disturbances also have more acute pain and a greater degree of disability… This link is thought to be attributable in part to psychological factors, despite the fact that sleep has a significant influence on its own.

What Is the Connection Between Sleep, Pain, and Mental Health?

Chronic pain sufferers are more likely to suffer from insomnia, melancholy, and/or anxiety. A person who is in pain and unable to sleep is likely to become agitated. They may have difficulty sleeping or wake up happy due to their increased sensitivity to pain. As a result, they have trouble sleeping the following night, and the cycle continues. This poisonous mixture, if left untreated, could worsen preexisting conditions and increase a person’s level of handicap.

It appears that one of the most important psychological factors is the tendency to see things negatively. Catastrophizing is associated to poor sleep quality and a more active central nervous system, which suggests that catastrophizing enhances pain, according to an osteoarthritis study.

According to study, one-third of chronic pain sufferers also meet the criteria for clinical depression. Depressed chronic pain patients have higher pain levels, poorer sleep hygiene, and a harder time turning off their brains at night, according to a study published in the journal Pain.

Cognitive behavioral treatment for insomnia (CBT-I) and cognitive behavioral therapy for pain (CBT-P) can help patients with persistent pain (CBT-P). Chronic pain sufferers who also have an anxiety or mood disorder may benefit from CBT-I, but the data isn’t there yet. Chronic pain is less likely to occur in trauma survivors who pay close attention to sleep quality and catastrophizing.

A wide range of circumstances influence a person’s experience of pain. Several things can affect the intensity of our discomfort, including our own psychological state. There is no way to know for sure if the pain isn’t real, but a multifaceted approach may be necessary to account for the many and varied psychological factors at play.

Tips and Coping Strategies to Get Sleep When Dealing With Pain

Prioritizing sleep because chronic pain makes it harder to fall asleep is essential because of this. Deprived sleep can lead to a bad connection with sleeping for chronic pain sufferers. The hours leading up to bedtime can be a stressful time for those who have trouble getting to sleep. Retraining your brain to think and act in a healthy way is the first step in learning how to sleep when you’re in pain.

Deep breathing, mindfulness, and guided imagery can all help you cope with the discomfort more effectively. Pain stimulates the central nervous system, making it harder to sleep. You must be able to detach from the pain in order for these techniques to be effective.

Getting your body ready for sleep can be as simple as following a few simple sleep hygiene rules. To have a decent night’s sleep, make sure you get plenty of sunlight, work out early in the day, and eat a healthy diet. Don’t use electronic devices or consume alcohol in your bedroom late at night. The quality of your sleep can be improved by meditating.

If you want to interrupt the pattern of negative thinking, avoid bringing the stressors of the day into the bedroom. Having sex in the bedroom is supposed to be a relaxing experience. Always go to bed at the same time each day, with the lights off and your bedroom door shut. When it comes to getting some shut-eye, you may want to take a bath, clean your teeth, read a light book and then turn off the lights.

Avoiding bed rest is the best solution for people who have trouble falling asleep due to overthinking or physical discomfort. Get up and walk around the room for a few minutes to take your mind off of things. Get up and try again later if you’re having difficulties sleeping.

See a doctor or other mental health specialist if you’re having difficulties sleeping or dealing with pain. Consult your physician if you’re experiencing difficulty winding down at night. They may be able to prescribe medication or make suggestions for alternative therapies.
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