Sleeplessness is Painful

We've all heard the commercial.  "Depression hurts." But did you know that lack of sleep also hurts?  Dr. Tracey Marks explores the connection between lack of zzzzs and increased owwwws.....


Have you ever pulled an all-nighter and noticed the next day you feel achy all over or have a low grade headache? It doesn’t happen to everyone, but it’s not uncommon to wake feeling rundown.  Unfortunately, real pain is a daily reality for many people that keeps them up at night despite their best efforts to sleep.

What’s worse is many studies have shown that sleep deprivation increases pain sensitivity.  In other words, if you don’t sleep well, you will experience more intense pain.  This also affects you ability to recover from pain after surgery.

We are still not sure exactly why this happens, but we have seen the increased pain effect with many pain syndromes such as fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis and chronic back pain among other conditions.  Pain keeps you awake, and being awake makes your pain worse.  It’s a vicious cycle.  What’s a person to do?

Knowing that sleep has such an important effect on your pain condition, should signal you to consult your doctor to determine if a prescription sleep aid would be appropriate.  Since sleeping pills typically don’t remain effective indefinitely, you should also look for non-medical solutions to help you sleep. 

There are many non-medical options to treat your pain such as ice, massage, TENS units, etc.  Two interventions have direct effects on both your sleep and your pain.  Mindfulness meditation can have a tremendous impact on sleep, relaxation and pain.  Music has also been shown to have therapeutic effects on pain and sleep.  I usually recommend that patients spend the last thirty minutes before bedtime listening to peaceful music.  If you don’t have a favorite soothing CD, try classical or jazz music that has a tempo of 60 to 80 beats per minute like that found here at Bedtime Network.  Music with this frequency has been shown to help people fall asleep and stay asleep. 

Sleep is a key component of pain management.  If you don’t get it, your pain is worse.  Yet pain can also steal your sleep.  Don’t ignore your lost sleep.  Instead aim to reclaim your sleep as a way to improve your pain.