Hi, My name is Kristen and I am a chronic pain patient with some sleeping tips to share with you. I can relate to the Chronic Pain community, since I battled chronic pain for 11 years after a freak accident caused a severe back injury, requiring two spine surgeries. A fun fact about me: I played softball in College at Biola University in Southern California. I was also a pitcher for the USA Junior World Cup team many years ago. Although I do frequent my old stomping grounds in SoCal, I enjoy the serenity of Arizona’s quiet desert. I was looking into a few topics to write about and decided on sleeping tips. I don’t know about you, but chronic pain sometimes gets in the way of getting to sleep.
Top 10 Sleeping Tips from a Fellow Chronic Pain Patient
My heart goes out to other pain patients because I can totally relate to the vicious cycle that lack of sleep creates. It impacts not just your physical condition by further aggravating your pain, but it can slow your healing process, and it also gives you more emotional distress via anxiety and frustration. If you lay awake in pain, you’re probably also worrying about how you’re going to get through the next day, and when that time comes, you’re in more pain and you lack the necessary fuel to cope. In hopes of helping you find your way to the happy land of zzz’s, here are my top 10 sleeping tips for simply getting comfortable enough to be able to sleep with chronic pain.
1. Get the right mattress
This one thing alone can make or break your night’s sleep. I prefer a really firm mattress, because firmer is better for back pain, as it keeps your spine aligned and supported. Sealy has proven to be the best, longest lasting brand for me, but if money is not an issue, then check out a Sleep Number Bed, which allows you to adjust the firmness with a remote control. Either way, investing in a solid mattress is a MUST do and you won’t regret it.
2. Get the right pillows
Making sure your pillow is the right height so that your shoulders and neck are aligned and firmly supported is crucial. A lot of chiropractors recommend a pillow with a cervical contour, like this one, which you can find at Bed Bath & Beyond, Walgreens, Walmart, etc.
3. Try body support pillows
If you sleep on your side, something like this can help you get comfortable. If you have back and shoulder pain, wrapping your knees around a body pillow will take the pressure off your lower back, and wrapping your arms around it will relieve pressure off your shoulders. If you sleep on your back, try propping your knees and legs up on a pillow like this one. You can find specific wedge pillows at Walgreens, the Relax the Back Store and online, or you can just create a makeshift one yourself!
4. Ask your doctor about topical creams, pain patches or pain-relief devices that may help
I prefer Lidocaine ointment, Sombra gel or an anti-inflammatory pain patch. If you have tight muscles, Thermacare heat packs are a great help, and you can find them at your local pharmacy. These are easy to apply before you go to bed or if you wake up in the middle of the night due to pain. Also, ask your doctor about a TENS unit, which is a small, remote-controlled portable device that relieves pain.
5. Take a hot bath, shower or hot tub dip before going to bed
This will not only relax your muscles and ease tension, but make you more tired as well. If you take a bath, try infusing it with aromatherapy and epsom salt, which reduces inflammation, swelling and relieves stress. You can get epsom salt at your local pharmacy as well.
6. Try Aromatherapy Lotions, With or Without a Massage
Never underestimate the power of this simple therapy. I found that a lot of natural lotions and oils can have a profound effect on both body and brain by soothing your pain and calming your mind. My favorites are eucalyptus oil (it’s a natural pain reliever with a calming scent) and the Earth Therapeutics Anti-Stress lotion.
As soon as you apply it you will find yourself sighing with relief, thanks to its minty lavender, chamomile scent that totally relaxes the body. You can find the Anti-Stress lotion at Ulta for $10 bucks, and sometimes Marshalls or Ross carry it for less than half that price. Ask a massage therapist or caregiver to rub these into your pain points and you’ll get double the benefit of working out the knots and tight muscles.
7. Ask your Doctor about Natural Supplements like 5-HTP that you can get at your Local Vitamin Store
5-HTP contains tryptophan, the same ingredient found in turkey that makes you drowsy on Thanksgiving.
Try to avoid prescription sleep aids that have risks and side effects. Definitely avoid natural stimulants like soda, or anything with caffeine or chocolate, at least a few hours before bedtime.
8. Try Relaxing Music or a Book on CD
If you have a smart phone and / or internet connection, the Spa Pandora station is a great one to fall asleep to; playing spa music will be sure to slow your mind and relax your body, as it reminds you of being in a spa!
Try nature sound CDs or other relaxation stations, too. If you can’t find music you like, try listening to a book on tape, CD or podcast.
9. Make Sure your Environment is Cool, Dark and Quiet
If it means you have to sleep with an eye mask and cotton balls in your ears, do it!
This will prevent distractions that disrupt your sleep cycle.
10. Get Your Body in a Routine
Sleep experts say it’s beneficial to program your body to wake up and go to bed at the same time every day. Even if you went to bed too late the night before, make yourself get up at a decent time the next day. That way, you’ll be more tired at night and not discourage a healthy sleeping pattern. Part of your daily routine should incorporate some kind of exercise. A few hours before bedtime, try to get some light cardio. Take a walk outside or on the treadmill at the gym. Sometimes just getting out and getting fresh air will relax your mind, release endorphins and loosen up your body. Whatever you do, try not to lay around all day even if you’re in pain. Just get moving even if it’s around your house. By the end of the day, laying down will feel more refreshing.
I hope you found these sleeping tips helpful. Do you have any sleeping tips of your own? Let us know in the comments below!