Health & Wellness Articles

Sleeping Soundly with Chronic Pain

7 Ways to Sleep Better Now


Relieve Muscle Tension
Carve out time in your schedule for pain-management techniques that work for you, such as a hot bath, an ice or heating pack or a few minutes of slow, even breathing. Regular relaxation rituals, such as calming music or aromatherapy (try lavender to aid sleep), relax aching muscles to break the cycle of pain and help you drift off to sleep more easily.

Get Strategic
Simple sleep hygiene, or the habits you follow around bedtime, can make a big difference in how well you sleep. When pain is bothersome, it can be easy to overlook these basics. But the fewer factors you have to contend with in addition to pain, the more likely you'll be able to fall asleep and stay asleep. Remember to:
  • Limit environmental noise or wear earplugs.
  • Make your bed a place for sleep and sex only, not work or screen media.
  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day (even on the weekends).
  • Avoid long naps, especially in the late afternoon and evening
  • Limit alcohol and caffeine intake in the hours before bed.
  • Exercise regularly, but avoid working out within three hours of your bedtime.
  • Limit time spent staring your computer, phone, TV or other screen before bed.
  • Don't share your bed--or your room--with pets, which can disrupt sleep.
Rethink Your Attitude
Thinking about pain frequently and dwelling on its negative effects on your life can make it harder to go to sleep. Scheduling a fun distraction, even something as simple as reading a favorite magazine, can take your mind off worrisome pain and make it easier to fall asleep.

Consider Supplements
Sleep-promoting supplements, such as melatonin, may help you get much-needed shut eye without a prescription. Gather information about how tiredness impacts your pain and daily activities and consult a healthcare provider to see if an over-the-counter product could help.

Rule Out Other Underlying Conditions
When pain is out of control, sleep may be impossible. Talk to your physician about your daily pain levels and how best to balance day-to-day function with pain relief. Ask specifically about pain that spikes around bedtime, and how you might use medications for nighttime pain relief (as compared to your during-the-day regimen) if appropriate.

Even a quick chat with a general practitioner during a routine physical can help by ruling out sleep-limiting conditions such as sleep apnea, and ensure that existing medications you may be taking aren't interfering with your sleep.

Chronic pain can have so many implications for daily life, but chronically poor sleep doesn’t have to be one of them. Some sleep loss may be inevitable on bad days, but practicing good sleep habits on a regular basis will help you break the cycle of poor sleep and increased pain, and keep overall pain levels manageable.
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About The Author

Robin Donovan Robin Donovan
Robin Donovan is a Cincinnati-based freelance writer and magazine journalist with experience covering health, medicine, science, business, technology and design.

Member Comments

    I use a sound machine to go to sleep and stay asleep. The best setting that has been proven for good sleep is the RAIN setting. (Not ocean kept me up all night).
    - 6/16/2014 10:07:20 PM
  • Should be fibromyalgia pain in my last comment. It is also nice to know that what I'm feeling and going through can be explained..I'm off sleep mess after 2.5 years and will definitely try these tips out. Thank you! - 6/4/2013 3:10:05 AM
  • Just laying here not sleeping because the fibrous pain is bsd today and saw this article. I do some of these but could do more - 6/4/2013 3:04:25 AM
  • I had TKR and of course had a difficult time finding a comfortable position w/o pain.
    I wish I had read your article before. I am going to look into your suggestions. - 5/22/2013 12:50:20 PM
  • I normally do not endorse products on sparkpeople but I would wake up every morning with my neck pain exasperated until I bought a "my pillow". I bought it at Bed Bath and Beyond with a 20% off coupon and still thought the price was a little steep. After a month I am so glad I purchased it. I go to sleep with more neck pain then when I wake up. It actually gets better at night. - 5/22/2013 10:30:59 AM

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