Stress, Pain and Sleep
If you are struggling to get to sleep or stay asleep and feel refreshed upon waking, due to pain related issues, you are far from being alone. It is estimated that 11% of adults in the UK struggle with severe pain.
People with chronic pain tend to be most likely to experience sleep problems, which in turn affect their daily lives. In many cases people who are experiencing chronic pain also are experiencing high levels of stress, too.
Unfortunately, stress and pain tend to go hand in hand and ultimately they can dramatically affect sleep. It can be a vicious cycle and an important one to break. As many of us know, lack of sleep affects a variety of aspects in regards to quality of life.
Poor/Lack of Sleep Affects:
-Brain fog (concentration, memory)
Stress and Sleep
Pain is actually connected to stress levels as well as poor health. Getting your stress levels down is definitely a priority.
If you are able to make getting your stress levels into check, then you also create the opportunity for getting a better night’s rest - which in turn helps to reduce pain.
Knowing that no matter how much you stress about an issue is not going to make the issue any better – and in fact, if anything, only increases pain and decreases sleep even more, is important to take into consideration.
And when you are unrested, exhausted, in pain AND stressed out it ultimately means that you are not going to be thinking clearly or handling situations to the best of your ability.
Having good coping strategies for stress is important. Here are a few great techniques to try:
Believe it or not, many of us don’t know how to breathe properly! Breathing is the foundation to de-stressing and healing.
Our normal shallow breathing starves the body and brain of oxygen, which affects the immune and cardiopulmonary systems. Develop the practice of taking several deep diaphragmatic breaths in a tense moment; it really does clears the mind, body, and soul. Not only is it simple – but it is free! And important to do! You just need to get into the habit of doing it.
2. Practice Mindfulness
Quietening the mind, body and soul is a great way to put your stress into check. Believe it or not, by focusing on a 1-5 word phrase that is a positive affirmation, such as ‘I am good enough’ and repeat it over and over whilst taking deep breaths into your diaphragm actually gets your healing hormones jumping into action and relaxes your body and helps de-stress and heal. Pick a phrase or a word that you find resonates with you and put it to the test! Here’s a great mindfulness book called Living Well with Pain and Illness, if you are interested in learning more about calming your mind and body.
Sleep is a Great Healer
As we know, sleep is huge when it comes to healing the body. When you have a bad cold or flu, as the saying goes, ‘rest is the best medicine’. And it is no different when it comes to pain and pain control. Getting a good and refreshed sleep is a priority!
However, sleep can be elusive and what seems like ‘second nature’ to others (and is indeed second nature!), when you are in pain and discomfort, sleep can be hard to come by, let alone achieve an unbroken sleep through the night – every night.
Throw stress into the mix on top of pain – and you have a recipe for getting a poor quality of sleep, simply because your mind is not in a restful place to relax and ultimately drift off to sleep.
On top of healing the body, sleep also gives our minds an opportunity to rest and have a break from the what’s going on in our world not to mention pain and discomfort. Therefore, it is so important to achieve a good quality of sleep
Everybody is different when it comes to finding the ‘right thing’ that does the trick to help them get (and stay) asleep.
One thing that has certainly helped me is finding some great meditations and sleep music on YouTube. I found that watching movies always helped me to drift off and that it was the on going sound that did the trick.
Relax Before Bed
It’s really important to prepare for bed and get as relaxed as possible. When you are stressed, your muscles are tight…and when your muscles are tight, guess what? Your pain levels also increase. So, relaxing before hitting the sack is really important!
There’s no doubt about it. Insomnia and lack of a restful sleep goes hand in hand with chronic pain. And chronic pain and stress also goes hand in hand, too.
As mentioned above, when you are stressed, your muscles are tense, which only increases pain! It’s a nasty cycle – one that can be broken, too.
Therefore, by reducing stressors and stress levels you not only can reduce pain but get into the ‘zone’ and get a better sleep. If you are still struggling to sleep and feel you have your stress levels in check, definitely consider speaking with your doctor and reviewing any meds that might potentially be the culprit – as there definitely are some that are used for pain that can also cause insomnia.
Alyssa is our chronic pain warrior and volunteer blogger. With fibromyalgia and severe chronic pain due to neck injuries, she understands how important sleep is – and knows how difficult it can be to achieve quality sleep with chronic pain. Alyssa came up with the idea for creating an app to assist people with chronic pain which is personalised and tracks everything from pain to medications called FibroMapp, (which has gone on to win several awards). Due to her neck issues, her bed is the only place that is comfortable. Good job it is an N:rem!