“We are living in an age when sleep is more comfortable than ever, and yet more elusive.”
-David K. Randall
We all know the difference a good night's sleep has on our mind and body; we are eager to start the day, we feel alert and awake, and things that usually stress us out seem to be less of a big deal. Even though someone who is asleep appears to be inactive, that quiet lump under the covers is surprisingly filled with trillions of cells working to restore, rejuvenate, detox, and heal the body. Sleep also aids the mind in storing and processing memories, helping us make sense of newly learned information, and helping with focus, creativity and decision making skills when awake. It’s no wonder then that humans, and every single other animal, needs restful sleep.
In his book Dreamland, David K. Randall tells us how our quantity and quality of sleep underlies all of the decisions we make throughout the day. Sleep also significantly impacts our emotional intelligence. Meaning that if we are sleep deprived we are less able to control our emotions and make reasonable decisions. Adults need anywhere from 7.5-9 hours of restful quality sleep. Randall emphasizes that if we don’t get enough sleep, our body will keep score of the debt, and feel emotionally and physically fatigued until we get proper rest we need.“Humans need roughly one hour of sleep for every two hours they are awake, and the body innately knows when this ratio becomes out of whack. Each hour of missed sleep one night will result in deeper sleep the next, until the body’s sleep debt is wiped clean.” Sleep is necessary for our well being, especially when we are suffering from chronic pain. It could be extremely exhausting and aggravating to find yourself awake at night, tossing and turning, looking at your clock, and which a sigh, hoping to fall back asleep.
Sleep is mandatory for our well being, especially when we are suffering from chronic pain -- unfortunately, pain is also one of the leading causes of insomnia. Studies have shown that two-thirds of the people who suffer from back pain have insomnia; studies have additionally shown that disrupted sleep also worsened back pain. Insomnia and pain clearly influence each other-- creating a vicious cycle where more pain leads to less sleep and less sleep leads to more pain.
Another finding from the NSF 1996 survey, showed that people who experience pain AND sleep problems scored significantly lower in general mood, physical health, ability to handle stress, ability to get up and go, and their ability to concentrate compared to people who didn’t experience pain and sleep problems. The good news is that we have some control over our sleep habits, but first we need to learn which habits promote sleep and which ones obstruct it. If you can learn to sleep better, you can reduce the impact of sleep deprivation on pain.
So pay attention!--
Here is a list of bad habits that you may need to get rid in order to get a better night's rest:
- cold, cough and decongestants
- painkillers (like Tylenol#3 for example)
Create soothing bedtime rituals to ease your mind and body at the end of every day. Here are some rituals and activities you can experiment with before you go to sleep:
Whatever you decide to do for your last bedtime activity, try to keep in mind that it should promote calmness. Invest your time in figuring out what activities your body responds well too— and stick to those habits, your body will thank you!
Remember, sleep impacts pain and pain impacts sleep. By taking control of one side of the cycle you can prevent your (lack of) sleep from making your pain worse.
Krista Jordan, Ph.D., ABPP