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.
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.
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.
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.
Practicing good sleep hygiene is key to achieving a good night's sleep. Some tips for people with chronic pain are:
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:
Daily sunlight or artificial bright light can improve sleep quality and duration, especially if you have severe sleep issues or insomnia.
Blue light tricks your body into thinking it's daytime. There are several ways you can reduce blue light exposure in the evening.
Caffeine can significantly worsen sleep quality, especially if you drink large amounts in the late afternoon or evening.
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.
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.
A melatonin supplement is an easy way to improve sleep quality and fall asleep faster. Speak to your GP.
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.
Avoid alcohol before bed, as it can reduce night time melatonin production and lead to disrupted sleep patterns.
Optimize your bedroom environment by eliminating external light and noise to get better sleep.
Test different temperatures to find out which is most comfortable for you. Around 17-20 degrees C is best for most people.
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.
Relaxation techniques before bed, including hot baths and meditation, may help you fall asleep.
A warm bath, shower or foot bath before bed can help you relax and improve your sleep quality.
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.
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.
Regular exercise during daylight hours is one of the best ways to ensure a good night's sleep.
Reduce fluid intake in the late evening and try to use the bathroom right before bed.
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.
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