Is Pain Getting in the Way of Your Sleep?

When your day is done and you have put your pajamas on, brushed your teeth and begin to relax outstretched in your bed, the last thing you want to be interrupted by is pain. Any type of pain can rob you of a good night’s sleep and sometimes you may not even realize how much sleep you are missing out on by chronic lower back, neck pain or other throbbing pain. Even if you get to sleep, pain will often prevent you from staying asleep or even contribute to sleep insomnia.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, two out of three people with chronic pain will have trouble sleeping at night. If you are experiencing trouble sleeping due to pain, you are definitely not alone.

How does pain keep you awake?

Pain is felt when nerves are stimulated intensely and this sensation will activate your brain, thus making it difficult to stay asleep at night. Normally, an uninterrupted night of sleep will help your body rest and heal, especially with regard to immune response and cognitive function. If you are constantly feeling the sensation of pain, then likely you are not sleeping well. This results in your pain becoming increasingly worse. This then becomes a vicious cycle exacerbating your chronic pain.

When it comes to insomnia…

It does not take much for pain to induce insomnia. When it comes to insomnia, it can relate to falling asleep, staying asleep and waking up earlier than desired. If you are experiencing chronic back pain, you likely are having the most trouble falling asleep. Any type of sleep insomnia, however, will likely cause you to feel as though you are not refreshed or rejuvenated for your new day. This is called non-restorative sleep and can be a big reason for your pain feeling even worse than the day before.

Another vicious cycle

When it comes to back pain, people are often prescribed opioids like morphine and codeine. While they may help ease your chronic back pain, they are linked to increasing your chances of sleep apnea. A brief pause in breathing while sleeping is called sleep apnea and can contribute to sleep problems as well.

Other Factors

Chronic back pain also tends to prevent people from properly exercising. Without appropriate exercising, you are more likely to put on weight. Additional weight and chronic pain is a recipe for disaster when it comes to healing the body and getting a proper amount of sleep. Excess weight can also be a contributing factor to sleep apnea.

Your type of pain

When it comes to pain, certain types are more likely to keep you up at night. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the top types of pain keeping you awake at night are chronic back pain, headaches and temporomandibular joint pain or TMJ for short. Other common types of pain that lead to sleep insomnia include muscoloskeletal pain like arthritis and fibromyalgia. Cancer pain from the disease itself and from treatment can keep you awake too.

If you are unfortunately experiencing any of these types of pain, your length and quality of sleep will likely be affected. Research has shown that these types of pain can also affect your circadian rhythm and also cause your brain to become more active during sleep.

Why you can’t get to sleep

We’ve all learned that in order to fall asleep, you must unwind and rid your room of distractions. A quiet, dark and diversion free room is ideal for anybody trying to catch a few z’s. The problem is that with chronic back pain, a distraction free environment means your focus becomes your pain. You may have found that during the day you distract yourself through hobbies, television or other activities to help relieve yourself of the pain.It has been reported that pain perception can increase during your attempt to sleep as all these distractions have ceased. Then, it becomes increasingly more difficult to fall asleep which adds on more unwanted stress.

How to get sleep back

Your first step to getting a good night’s rest again is to have a conversation with your doctor. Tell your physician about your pain and exactly how it affects your sleep patterns. You will need to find a way to properly manage your pain before you will see improvement in your length and quality of sleep.

There are also things you can do at home to help create a healthy sleeping routine. First, do not go to sleep unless you are sleepy. You can find creative way to become sleepy, for example, listen to relaxing music, meditating, taking a nice warm bath or reading a book. In addition, be sure to stop using any electronics, as this is more distracting to your brain and body. Lastly, if you are not asleep within 30 minutes, get up and walk around. Laying in bed without being sleepy can become stressful and frustrating. Get up and try your routine again.


If pain is keeping you awake at night, you are not alone. It is imperative that you discuss all of you options with your doctor and understand why your pain is preventing you from getting a good rest at night. If you do not feel refreshed when you wake up, then pain could be the problem. Be sure that your bedroom is a distraction free zone and you develop a healthy bedtime routine.

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