What Can You Do to Improve Your Sleep?

Before sitting down to write this I did quite a bit of research to find the best recommendations to improves ones sleep. Things that we all haven’t heard multiple times The best recommdations I found came from Spark People. I will provide the link to the article at the end of this post.  So here we go…. One step closer to better sleep.

When you live with chronic pain, headaches, an autoimmune disease or an old nagging injury from the past it makes it hard to get solid rest.  Which then throws you into the, what seems like, the never-ending cycle of escalating pain and sleeplessness. Due to the fact that when you hurt most of the time you just can’t sleep. 

Pain doesn’t just cause you problems falling asleep and staying asleep. It makes an impact on the KIND of sleep you get when you are able to sleep.  However, sleep has so many benefits for your health, more than just staving off pain.  Sleep has a huge impact on your brain and how it learns, and how it remembers things.  Sleep helps to bolster the immune system, keeps moods stable, and helps to reduce stress. It has been said that sleep can even reduce the intensity and duration of pain. So lets dive into the tips for sleeping better.

– Adjsut your pillow. 

Okay this one may seen silly and obvious, but if you have pain in your neck or back, sleeping on your stomach can actually make the pain worse. Due to the fact that it causes your spine to arch and your neck to twist. Always check with your physician before making any big adjustments to your sleep position.  So how can we change this? Body pillows can help reinforce the changes in position you are making.  One Suggestion is that if you have back pain, sleeping on your back with a pillow under your knees can help the back pain as well as preventing those bony prominences and help keep your hips in alignment.  If you have more neck pain than back pain you might want to consider looking into a an orthopedic or contoured pillow could provide support. It is also important about to think about other places you might sleep. So make sure you have a travel pillow if you fly a lot or are in the car for long periods. 

– Practice Mindfulness 

Do you have a hard time turning your attention away from the pain while you are lying in bed at night? Here are some examples of simple, pain-reducing techniques.

  • Set a timer for about 5 minutes
  • Find a comfortable position and lie down
  • Focus on your breathing. Take notice of your lungs expanding and contracting as you breath in and out for a few moments. 
  • Try to put yourself in a natural frame of mind (I know easier said than done). For some it might help to imagine cares and worries sailing or floating away.
  • Think about your thoughts but do not label them “good” or “bad.”
  • If a negative thought pops up like (I’m never going to sleep because this pain is just so terrible) acknowledge the thought and then put it aside and go back to focusing on your breathing.

– Relieve Muscle Tension

Take time to make time in your schedule for pain-management techniques that work for you. These could be things like a hot bath, an ice or heating pad, or a few moments of focused slow and deep breathing. Common relaxation rituals, such as listening to calming music, aromatherapy (lavender works best for sleep), and relaxing aching muscles to break the cycle of pain and may help you drift off to sleep more easily. 

– Only go to bed when you are feeling sleepy 

A person can NOT will themself to sleep.  In fact, the more you focus on falling asleep, oftentimes the harder it will be to fall asleep.  If you have been unable to go to sleep after 20-30 mins of lying down, you should get up.  Get up and go do something soothing, like knitting or reading your favorite book. 

– Adjust the room temperature

There is no one temperature that will work for Everyone, but as a general rule you will sleep better if you are in a cool environment. 

– Get Strategic 

Sleep hygiene and the habits you follow around bedtime can make a big difference in how well you will sleep.  Below are some suggestions to improve your sleep hygiene and give some examples of things you might want to implement into your bedtime ritual. 

  • Limit environmental noise at night (like a snoring spouse) or wear earplugs.
  • Make your bed just that a place to sleep and to be intimate, not a place for work or media viewing. 
  • Go to bed and get up on a schedule. Seven days a week. (Even on the weekends)
  • Try to avoid long naps especially late in the afternoon or evening. 
  • Limit caffeine &/or alcohol intake in the hours before bed.
  • Exercise daily but not within three hours of going to bed.
  • Limit time spent using electronics of any kind before bed.
  • Try to avoid sharing your bed–or your room– with pets, which can disrupt your sleep.

– Rethink your Attitude

When you are constantly thinking and dwelling on your pain it can impact your life negatively. Thus making it harder to sleep. So try to schedule a fun disctraction, even something as simple as reading a book or favoriate magazine.Doing so can take your mind off of the sleep  and pain issues at hand and make it easier for you to fall asleep. 

– Consider Supplements  

Supplements such as Melatonin which is a sleep promoter may help you get the much-needed sleep without needing a prescription for sleep. If you want to take this route, make sure to check with your physician before starting any over the counter medications. 

– Rule Out Other Underlying Conditions

When you pain is not tolerable,  sleep is virtually impossible  If the other options haven’t worked for you, you should talk to your doctor.  And discuss your daily pain levels and how to balance your day to day function with pain relief. Ask directly about the pain that occurs near bed time and ask if there are any medications that you might be able to use for nighttime pain relief, if appropriate. 

A quick conversation with your PCP during a routine visit can help by ruling out conditions that might be causing your inability to sleep (or sleep well).  This conversation could help rule out sleep apnea and ensure  that meds you are already taking are not interfering with your sleep. 

Sleep has such a major impact on your daily life that it is essential that you are able to find a way to get that good restorative sleep. By getting that good sleep there is a good chance that you will also be able to decrease your pain.  And breaks that no sleep, lots of pain cycle
I hope you find some of this information helpful. It is a little different information that we often times will hear form our physicians. May you be able to find “the spot” and start sleeping a little better.

~Amber

Resources

  • http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/wellness_articles.asp?id=1841
  • Http://www.spine-health.com/blog/5-little-known-tips-sleeping-chronic-pain 

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