Pain keeping you up? Five strategies for a better night’s sleep

Our Jacksonville, FL care team shares top tips for bedtime relief and how to overcome pain for a better night’s sleep

Whether you’re desperately counting sheep or hopelessly counting down the hours until your alarm clock begins to blare, lack of consistent, quality sleep can be devastating. Unfortunately, while a majority of adults report the occasional night of insomnia, those battling chronic pain often face an even more uphill battle.


According to a 2008 study by the Center for Disease Control, 70 percent of adults in the U.S. report that they obtain insufficient sleep at least one night a month, and 11 percent report inadequate sleep every night. Furthermore, it is estimated that sleep-related problems affect 50 to 70 million Americans of all ages and socioeconomic classes. 


Researchers estimate approximately 50 to 80 percent of those with chronic pain have ongoing sleep difficulties. Those with chronic pain often report trouble falling asleep, as well as frequent nighttime wakings as the most common reasons for a poor night’s rest. Of all medical conditions, pain is the number one cause of insomnia. 


There’s no doubt – pain is a significant deterrent to getting a restful night of sleep. So, in honor of #SleepAwarenessWeek (March 14-20, 2022), our Jacksonville health and wellness team has picked the top ways those experiencing chronic pain can improve their sleep patterns and feel better. 


Keep reading and sign up for our monthly newsletter below for even more expert-delivered health tips. 


Tips To Soothe Pain For A Sound Night of Sleep

Before taking action to improve your sleep habits, it’s important to remember to remain patient. Feeling refreshed is not always an instant or overnight (no pun intended) process. Individuals working to overcome long-term insomnia in tandem with chronic pain should strive for minor, consistent improvements, like resting increasingly extended periods or drifting off more quickly after waking. Identifying the strategies that address your individual needs, celebrating incremental successes and diligently prioritizing sleep are the best ways to redevelop a healthy connection with sleep, even while in pain.


Create an environment conducive to sleep  

While obvious, studies have consistently shown that one’s environment directly affects sleep quality. Factors like noise, temperature, lighting, scent and many other influences may aid us in getting a good night’s rest. 


Generally, quiet, cool, dark environments work best for most individuals. So, take a look around your bedroom or sleeping area – does it check these boxes? If not, consider upgrades, like a white noise machine, fan, sleep mask or blackout curtains. 


Further, many specialized products, tools, and gadgets are specifically designed to facilitate restful sleep. For example: 


  • Essential oils, which are scented oils naturally derived from plants, can be used for at-home aromatherapy, which calms the body’s nervous system. For example, when placed in an aroma diffuser or lightly applied to bedding, scents like lavender, bergamot, chamomile and cedarwood are proven to help our bodies relax. 


  • Another trendy sleep-promoting product – weighted blankets has exploded in popularity for its ability to reduce anxiety and restfulness. With many options available on Amazon or other retailers, finding the right size, material and weight is an easy and quick way to feel better in bed. 


Consider a sleep aid

Over-the-counter sleep aids have soared in popularity in recent years and are widely available. While they may not be suitable for everyone, all-natural options like melatonin or valerian can be great alternatives for those who are averse to taking medication. 


Common choices include products with active ingredients, including: 


  • Diphenhydramine (Benadryl, Aleve PM, others): Diphenhydramine is a sedating antihistamine. Side effects might include daytime drowsiness, dry mouth, blurred vision, constipation and urinary retention.


  • Doxylamine succinate (Unisom SleepTabs): Doxylamine is also a sedating antihistamine. Side effects are similar to those of diphenhydramine.


  • Melatonin: The hormone melatonin helps control your natural sleep-wake cycle. Some research suggests that melatonin supplements might help treat jet lag or reduce the time it takes to fall asleep — although the effect is typically mild. Side effects can include headaches and daytime sleepiness.


  • Valerian: Supplements made from this plant are sometimes taken as sleep aids. Although a few studies indicate some therapeutic benefits, other studies have failed to identify a meaningful connection. However, valerian generally doesn’t appear to cause side effects.


It is always recommended patients consider their individual health and consult their primary caregiver or pharmacist before taking any new medication. 


Use deep breathing to unwind 

Deep breathing, guided meditation or other mindfulness techniques have been touted as inexpensive and effective methods for unwinding during bedtime hours. These activities may feel odd at first but have shown promise for providing a wellness boost to both body and mind while keeping negative thoughts at bay. 


Mindfulness habits can allow the body to reconceptualize pain, making it easier to deal with. In addition, it helps arouse the central nervous system, which remains one of the principal ways in which pain affects sleep. Mobile apps like Calm or Headspace are helpful tools for getting started. 


Try a military-tested trick to fall asleep faster

A technique that promises to help individuals fall asleep in two minutes flat recently went viral on Tik Tok. While some may be skeptical, the sheer amount of positive feedback about the method has given the strategy merit. Inspired by the harsh sleeping conditions U.S. Army members regularly experience, this sleep training method focuses on relaxing individual muscle groups, deep breathing and clearing the mind to eliminate stress and trigger sleep.  


In an article in Men’s Health, fitness instructor Justin Augustin, who first popularized the method, described the process as: 


“First, you need to calm your body and systematically relax and shut down each part of your body from head to toe.”


“Start by relaxing the muscles in your forehead. Next, relax your eyes, cheeks, and jaws and focus on your breathing. Now, go down to your neck and your shoulders,” he added. “Make sure your shoulders are not tensed up. Instead, drop them as low as possible and keep your arms loose to your sides, including your hands and fingers.”


Then you should get into a warm tingly sensation, imagining it from the top of your head to your fingertips. Begin taking deep breaths, “relaxing your chest, your stomach, down to your thighs, knees, legs and feet,” he said. Reimagine that warm sensation, but this time going from your heart all the way down to your toes.


“Now, while you’re doing this, it’s essential to clear your mind of any stresses,” added Agustino, encouraging you to think of two scenarios: laying in a canoe surrounded by only clear lake water or laying in a black velvet hammock in a pitch-black room.


When you find yourself getting distracted, he wants you to repeat these words for 10 seconds: “Don’t think. Don’t think. Don’t think.”


According to Agustino, if you practice this every night for six weeks, you should be able to fall asleep within two minutes of closing your eyes.


Pain management therapies and physician support

While tips and tools can be helpful, sometimes professional help is necessary. Suppose you’ve tried everything and are still not seeing improvements or have worsening pain; seek medical assistance. Omega Health & Wellness provides a variety of pain management therapies and plans to help patients manage pain and feel better and live more normal lives. 


If you’re tired of tossing and turning at night and waking up groggy because of pain, we want to help you. Contact our Jacksonville, FL health and wellness team today. We’re standing by to provide you with the very best health advice, products and services to help you feel your best. Call us at 904-724-5767 or request an appointment to get started today. 


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