Chronic back and neck pain are two of the most common complaints of pain experienced by adults, followed closely by insomnia. Studies have shown that about two-thirds of all people suffering from back pain also have trouble sleeping. In most situations, the sleep deprivation is due to the extreme level of discomfort you experience while falling asleep and staying asleep. If you struggle with sleep due to neck or back pain, you probably assume the discomfort is preventing you from sleeping soundly, but the two actually go hand-in-hand more closely than you think.
The Relationship Between Chronic Pain and Insomnia
When it comes to the relationship between insomnia and chronic pain, research has shown that it isn’t actually as simple as your pain being the cause of your insomnia. The fact is, not sleeping well increases the feelings of pain; it doesn’t create more pain, but it may make you more sensitive to the pain. To make matters worse, it is difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep when your back or neck is hurting. Then, the lack of sleep increases your sensitive feeling to pain, creating a vicious cycle of pain and insomnia.
Get a Good Night’s Sleep
Treatment for insomnia is generally broken down into two different groups: prescription medications and behavioral/lifestyle changes. If you are prescribed medications for your insomnia, it’s generally meant to be used on occasion. Lifestyle/behavioral changes is typically the preferred treatment because it provides a long-term solution and doesn’t have harmful side effects. Some behavioral and lifestyle tips to help you get a better night’s sleep include:
- Adjust the lighting. When preparing to go to sleep, you should have the room as dark as possible. Light in the room, whether it’s from a lamp or the television prevents your brain from releasing melatonin, a natural hormone that promotes sleep.
- Adjust your sleeping position. The way your body is positioned can have a significant effect on how well you sleep as well as reducing or eliminating back and neck pain. If you are a side sleeper, place a pillow between your knees to help give you cervical support, which can reduce lower back pain; back sleepers should consider placing a pillow under your knees to support your spine.
- Update your mattress. Your mattress may be a main contributor to your sleeping difficulties as well as the discomfort you experience in your neck and back. An ideal mattress for providing the support you need to relieve back pain is a medium-firm foam or gel/foam mattress or a well-made innerspring mattress.
- Change your bedtime ritual. How you prepare for bedtime and what you do while falling asleep can have a major impact on how quickly you fall asleep as well as allow you stay asleep. It’s best to turn off the television or music and instead consider using a phone app with soothing sounds such as rain or ocean waves to listen to while falling asleep. Wait until you are feeling sleepy to go to bed and if you are unable to fall asleep within about 15-20 minutes, go into another room until you feel sleepy. Do not take a nap and prepare for bedtime at around the same time each night.
The combination of insomnia and chronic pain can cause both physical and emotional problems. If you continue to struggle with sleeping and pain, it is important to seek help as soon as possible, such as talking with a behavioral therapist or your medical practitioner for recommendations on treatment for the insomnia as well as the pain.
To learn more information about insomnia and chronic pain, contact us at Capital City Neurosurgery.