Pain and Sleep: A Disastrous Cycle

Pain and Sleep: A Disastrous Cycle


By Dr. Gautam Das , Pain Management

You pulled a muscle from an intense workout, or you strained your back by moving furniture all afternoon, and the next thing you know is aching pain keeping you awake at three in the morning. If you find yourself in such a situation, you probably have chronic pain.

Many people who suffer from sleeplessness complain of chronic pain. Usually, you are stuck in a vicious cycle, where the pain keeps you awake at nights and the inadequate rest you get increases the pain in return.

A normal night of sleep has three cycles:

1. Light sleep

2. Deep sleep

3. Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep (occurring at periodic intervals at night and marked by a faster breathing rate and more bodily movements)

The entire sleep cycle is repeated 3-5 times in a single night. Pain can disrupt any one of these cycles. Severe pain will wake you up suddenly, but mild pain causes microarousals. There are times when you are sleeping, that the pain wakes you up, but you don’t realise it, and you fall asleep again these fragments in your sleep cycle are called microarousals. The breaks in your sleep make you feel even more tired the next day.

Some causes of disrupted sleep are:

  1. Headaches
  2. Back pain
  3. Temporomandibular joint pain (pain in the joints of the jaws and the ambient muscles)
  4. Arthritis
  5. Fibromyalgia (Widespread muscle tenderness and pain)
  6. Nerve pain
  7. Premenstrual cramping

Your doctor might prescribe you medications such as painkillers and benzodiazepine to cure your problems. Besides medication, you can benefit by making some changes in your lifestyle, such as:

  1. Limit, or completely avoid caffeine consumption
  2. Avoid napping during daytime
  3. Exercise before evening falls
  4. Avoid alcohol in the evening
  5. Don’t eat too much in the evening (eat less than what you’ve had for your lunch)
  6. Do something relaxing before you go to bed