Does sleep seem to be illusive for you as you struggle with pain? Can’t find a comfortable position? The chronic ache won’t let you relax? The throbbing stab yells at you for all your attention? You toss and turn in vain to find a position where you are out of pain?
I know it all. I spend too much time awake when I should be sleeping. There are a lot of us out there, insomniacs for one reason or another. This article hopes to address some suggestions for how to sleep in pain.
Sleep, What is It?
Sleep? Have you ever thought about what it is? According to Merriam-Webster dictionary it is “the natural, easily reversible periodic state of many living things that is marked by the absence of wakefulness and by the loss of consciousness of one’s surroundings, is accompanied by a typical body posture (such as lying down with the eyes closed), the occurrence of dreaming, and changes in brain activity and physiological functioning, is made up of cycles of non-REM sleep and REM sleep, and is usually considered essential to the restoration and recovery of vital bodily and mental functions”. Note the emphasis on being essential to restoration and recovery of the mind and body. Which tells me that if you aren’t getting the required sleep you need, that you are not functioning at your best.
There are many external factors that affect our sleep, such as work (including shift work which is a challenge in itself), food and environment. But there are internal ones as well, including stress levels and pain. I am presenting this post mostly for those of us who are in pain, because that pain can impact our sleep. And lack of good sleep impacts our pain. It can be a vicious cycle. If you want a more detailed discussion of external factors affecting sleep, see this Harvard Education link. But read on even if you aren’t in pain. Hopefully this post will lead you to better sleep.
Here’s a statistic reported by The National Sleep Foundation. “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.” I’ve seen a report that states one in four people have chronic pain. So there are many of us that don’t sleep well.
Check out this video I found on YouTube about how Sleep is Your Superpower. Funny start! But be sure to come back here to finish reading this post.
Very informative isn’t it? Sleep is so essential.
How to Relax
An article from Sleep.org talks about practicing sleep hygiene. There are some great suggestions here. Some of these I have mentioned in other posts, but I recommend you read that link because you might find a helpful hint. They have suggestions for the creating a welcoming room, to making healthy choices and lifestyle changes. I find a warm bath with relaxing lavendar is helpful. Plus it relaxes the painful muscles and joints. In fact, in my waking up, I like to remind myself that I can look forward to a nice warm soak. It is a reward I give myself for a productive day (productive = working on my website).
Another way to relax is through some relaxing breathing. I have to do more research on this topic. But there are several apps available to help you with that practice. One I have is called Stop, Breathe and Think. It’s free for the basic use, and has 22 sessions for “Sleep Well” as they call it. When you practice some relaxation breathing it helps to focus your mind off your pain.
In addition to those, I like to create a cozy place when I settle in by having my books nearby. I change them out depending on my mood. This activity also helps to make me sleepy and to take my mind off my pain. Have the lights dimmed. No electronics! (They stimulate the brain with the artificial light and keep you awake.) Find a comfortable position. For those of us in pain, this is the biggest challenge. See the next paragraph.
This link from Pulse.com provides information about positions to sleep that might help you be more comfortable. It suggests trying any of the following: Sleep on your stomach with a pillow under your abdomen, sleep on your back with a pillow under your knees, or sleep on your side with a pillow between your knees. See the link for more information. Try each one. Sometimes I need the side one, sometimes the stomach. We are each unique and our body adjusts differently. Try different pillows too. I’ve used a throw pillow, and two different sizes of pillows for sleeping.
Maybe you should try a wedge pillow. My Mom used this in the last years of her life due to constant pain in her hips and back. She had two hip replacements and a knee replacement, and the wedge pillow gave her some relief. You can get one at Amazon which is rated 4 stars. It’s called Brentwood Home Zuma Therapeutic Foam Bed Wedge Pillow.
Another thought about getting comfortable, may be that you actually need to get up and move a bit. I know, it probably hurts to move. This is a factor I struggle with everyday. Getting out of bed brings immediate pain. But it also means I can do some stretches and movements that will bring some relief. See my articles about Yoga and Stretches to find out what I do. Maybe a few minutes of stretching would loosen up the nerve.
There are lots of choices out there for a mattress. If yours is more than 7 years old, it is probably time for a new one. But spend some time investigating. Consumer Reports has a great article here. Although they don’t recommend a certain brand, they do cover types and guidelines of what to look for when purchasing. The most important factor, I believe, is testing out by lying on it. Another site from Very Well Health recommends eight different mattresses for back pain, with variables like overall best, cost, and types of mattresses. See that review here.
I was motivated to purchase a new mattress because of my chronic pain. I could not get comfortable no matter how I positioned myself. So when I went mattress shopping, I told the salesman what my needs were. It just so happened he was the owner and had his mattresses made specifically for him. He was very attentive and helpful. I highly recommend you find someone like that. (If you are in east LA county I recommend his business, Cost+ Mattress in La Verne.)
Is there a best mattress for lower back pain? Apparently research is limited. But when in doubt medium to firm seems best for those in pain. This link from WebMD has some good suggestions. One idea I never thought of is testing out mattresses for an extended period. Apparently most reputable companies will give you a 30 day money back guarantee, which gives you the opportunity to fully experience the mattress. They even suggest that the next time you stay in a nice hotel and have a good sleep to check out what mattress it is. Perhaps that mattress is available for personal purchases.
If you do plan to go ahead and purchase online however, I am providing some links to affiliates that I have a marketing relationship with. I obtain a percentage of the sales in this case. Click here to view options from Serta Mattress Blue Max 5000 Elite Luxury Firm.
What works for you? Do you have other factors that may help you to sleep. Ones that could add to this post? And help someone else? Would you please share it here? Wouldn’t you like it if you helped someone else? I would very much love if you left a comment. I’m always looking for new information to pass on in this website. Thanks in advance!
Now you must take some action. If you want to sleep better and feel better, you will have to do something. Stretch? Soak in the bath? Move the pillows around? Get a new mattress? Get a new pillow? You have to try something new to get new results.
Leave a comment with your ideas or questions please.