Sleep Debt: The Impact of Pain on Sleep

Offered By Walnut Grove Clinic

The impacts of pain-related sleep loss on millions of Britons are far-reaching. The problem is a notable one given the number who suffer from chronic pain.

The silent epidemic - chronic pain in the UK. The British Pain Society has instigated research that has revealed truly astonishing results. Chronic pain affects more than two fifths of the UK population, meaning that around 28 million adults are living with pain that has lasted for three months or longer.

How does pain affect sleep?

Pain joins two related concerns – stress and poor health – as key correlates of shorter sleep durations and worse sleep quality. But there are paths to resolving the problem: The sleep gap narrows sharply among those who make sleep a priority.

Pain is a key factor in the gap between the amount of sleep people say they need and the amount they’re getting – an average 42 minute sleep debt for those with chronic pain and 14 minutes for those who’ve suffered from acute pain in the past week.

By contrast, there’s no overall sleep debt for those without pain – but significant numbers even in this group do have sleep problems. About one in three of those with no pain don’t always or often get a good night’s sleep or the sleep they need to feel their best, or have had trouble falling or staying asleep in the past week. Those problems rise even higher among individuals who do have chronic or acute pain.

Beyond sleep debt, self-reported sleep quality and stress levels underscore the effects of pain on sleep.

Sixty-five percent of those with no pain reported good or very good sleep quality, while only 45 percent of those with acute pain and 37 percent of those with chronic pain did the same. Additionally, 23 percent of those with chronic pain reported higher stress levels, compared with 7 percent of those without pain.

Those with acute or chronic pain are more likely to have sleep problems impact their daily lives. Among people who’ve had sleep difficulties in the past week, more than half of those with chronic pain say those difficulties interfered with their work. That drops to 23 percent of those without pain. People with pain are also far more apt than others to report that lack of sleep interferes with their mood, activities, relationships and enjoyment of life overall.

People with pain also feel less control over their sleep, worry more about lack of sleep affecting their health and exhibit greater sleep sensitivity. They’re more likely than others to say environmental factors make it more difficult for them to get a good night’s sleep. These factors include noise, light, temperature and their mattresses alike, suggesting that taking greater care of the bedroom environment may be particularly helpful to pain sufferers.

While both chronic and acute pain relate to lost sleep, the survey indicates that chronic pain is an especially powerful problem. Indeed, nearly one in four people with chronic pain, 23 percent, say they’ve been diagnosed with a sleep disorder by a doctor, compared with just 6 percent of all others.

woman asleep in bed

Pain and sleep: a preventable cycle

When pain is first experienced, most people do not experience sleeplessness. However, when pain becomes a problem, it can be a vicious cycle. If someone experiences poor sleep due to pain one night, he or she is likely to experience more problems the next night and so on. It gets worse and worse every night.

Also we know that pain triggers poor sleep. For instance, someone experiencing lower back pain may experience several intense microarousals (a change in the sleep state to a lighter stage of sleep) per each hour of sleep, which lead to awakenings. However, microarousals are innocuous for a person not experiencing chronic pain. Pain is a serious intrusion to sleep. Pain is frequently associated with insomnia and these coexisting problems can be difficult to treat. One problem can exacerbate the other.

What can people do at home?

Practicing good sleep hygiene is key to achieving a good night's sleep. Some tips for people with chronic pain are:

  • Stop or limit caffeine consumption.
  • Limit alcohol intake, particularly in the evening.
  • Use of pain killers and/or sleeping pills can be effective, but should be used under the supervision of your GP but drug induced sleep doesn’t give you the best quality sleep.
  • Practice relaxation techniques, such as deep abdominal breathing, or mindfulness – there are many apps you can use to help you – talk to us at Walnut Grove Clinic, we can help get you started.
  • Deal with some of the issues at work or home that are bothering you if possible so that they don’t enter in to your head at night.
  • Get help with your pain – see your GP or practitioner at Walnut Grove starting to control the pain along with better sleep can then jump your recovery forward

17 Proven Tips to Sleep Better at Night

A good night's sleep is just as important as regular exercise and a healthy diet.  Research shows that poor sleep has immediate negative effects on your hormones, exercise performance and brain function   It can also cause weight gain and increase disease risk in both adults and children.

In contrast, good sleep can help you eat less, exercise better and be healthier.  Over the past few decades, both sleep quality and quantity has declined. In fact, many people regularly get poor sleep.

If you want to optimize your health or lose weight, then getting a good night's sleep is one of the most important things you can do.

Here are 17 evidence-based tips to sleep better at night:

1. Increase Bright Light Exposure During The Day

Daily sunlight or artificial bright light can improve sleep quality and duration, especially if you have severe sleep issues or insomnia.

2. Reduce Blue Light Exposure in the Evening

Blue light tricks your body into thinking it's daytime. There are several ways you can reduce blue light exposure in the evening.

3. Don't Consume Caffeine Late in the Day

Caffeine can significantly worsen sleep quality, especially if you drink large amounts in the late afternoon or evening.

4. Reduce Irregular or Long Daytime Naps

Long daytime naps may impair sleep quality. If you have trouble sleeping at night, stop napping or shorten your naps – naps of 30mins that are regular in your day can be good for you.

5. Try to Sleep and Wake at Consistent Times

Try to get into a regular sleep/wake cycle — especially on the weekends. If possible, try to wake up naturally at a similar time every day.

6. Take a Melatonin Supplement

A melatonin supplement is an easy way to improve sleep quality and fall asleep faster. Speak to your GP.

7. Consider These Other Supplements

Several supplements, including lavender and magnesium, can help with relaxation and sleep quality when combined with other strategies.

Several supplements can induce relaxation and help you sleep, including:

Make sure to only try these supplements one at a time and seek advice from your GP before commencing any of these. While they are no magic bullet for sleep issues, they can be useful when combined with other natural sleeping strategies.

8. Don't Drink Alcohol

Avoid alcohol before bed, as it can reduce night time melatonin production and lead to disrupted sleep patterns.

9. Optimize Your Bedroom Environment

Optimize your bedroom environment by eliminating external light and noise to get better sleep.

10. Set Your Bedroom Temperature

Test different temperatures to find out which is most comfortable for you. Around 17-20 degrees C is best for most people.

11. Don't Eat Late in the Evening

Consuming a large meal before bed can lead to poor sleep and hormone disruption. However, certain meals and snacks a few hours before bed may help.

12. Relax and Clear Your Mind in the Evening

Relaxation techniques before bed, including hot baths and meditation, may help you fall asleep.

13. Take a Relaxing Bath or Shower

A warm bath, shower or foot bath before bed can help you relax and improve your sleep quality.

14. Rule Out a Sleep Disorder

There are many common conditions that can cause poor sleep, including sleep apnea. See a doctor if poor sleep is a consistent problem in your life.

15. Get a Comfortable Bed, Mattress and Pillow

Your bed, mattress and pillow can greatly impact sleep quality and joint or back pain. Try to buy a high-quality mattress and bedding every 5–8 years.

16. Exercise Regularly — But Not Before Bed

Regular exercise during daylight hours is one of the best ways to ensure a good night's sleep.

17. Don't Drink Any Liquids Before Bed

Reduce fluid intake in the late evening and try to use the bathroom right before bed.

The Bottom Line

Sleep plays a key role in your health.  One large review linked insufficient sleep to an increased obesity risk of 89% in children and 55% in adults.  Other studies conclude that less than 7–8 hours per night increases your risk of developing heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

 

Want to keep learning?  Find more articles from Walnut Grove Clinic:


Mental Health and Wellbeing

Finished reading? Now find your perfect clinic.

Search our industry-leading directory for over 20,000 healthcare providers and clinics.

Search now

People also read

May 12, 2020
Training During Lockdown: How Much and What Kind?
Training During Lockdown: How Much and What Kind?

As lockdown continues, and we face another few months of life without access to our traditional gym settings, I have been inundated with questions regarding training strategies that can be implemented at home.

November 26, 2020
How Setting Personal Boundaries Can Help You Re-Establish Healthier Relationships
How Setting Personal Boundaries Can Help You Re-Establish Healthier Relationships

Imagine playing a complex board game where everyone is playing by their own rules, except you don’t know what the rules are or how to invent your own. That’s what life can feel like when we haven’t learnt the skill of healthy personal boundaries.

July 23, 2021
UK Governing Bodies & Health Regulators Explained
UK Governing Bodies & Health Regulators Explained

At HealthHubble we understand just how important it is finding the right clinician, therapist or professional for your individual needs.

Featured Clinics

Venturi Cardiology | Expert in Angina, ECG & More | HealthHubble
Venturi Cardiology

Venturi Cardiology is an independent cardiology clinic based in the North West of England with over 30 years of combined expertise in preventative cardiology, cardiac imaging and invasive cardiology.

ExploreYourDestiny | NLP, CBT & RTT Therapies | HealthHubble
ExploreYourDestiny

ExploreYourDestiny provides life-changing therapeutic services that go deep into the roots of issues, helping people relieve stress, improve confidence and energy, and eventually regain control of their mental health.

Uniquely Created U | Clinical Expert Nutritionist | HealthHubble
Uniquely Created U | London's Specialist Nutritionist

Restore and revitalise your health and wellbeing choices at all stages of life with Uniquely Created Nutrition and Health – health and nutrition as unique as you are.

True Freedom | Bristol and Online Therapy & Counselling | HealthHubble
True Freedom | Bristol and Online Therapy & Counselling

I sincerely believe that everyone should have the opportunity of leading happy and fulfilled lives, feeling confident and secure to enjoy their life to the full.