Sleep is really, really important if you’re dealing with pain. A lack of sleep can increase sensitivity to pain, and that in turn can create more difficulty in getting to sleep, and before you know it, you’re in a vicious circle where sleep can become almost impossible. And when you throw in decreased movement and activity, possibly more comfort eating, maybe some more alcohol and low mood (because no one is cheerful when they’re hurting!) then sleep can seem like just an impossible dream.
But there are things you can do to break the cycle and get a good night’s sleep when you’re living with chronic pain, muscular pain or other issues.
Firstly, keep an eye on your caffeine levels. We all love a good cup of coffee first thing in the morning, but it’s easy to have one at lunch, one mid-afternoon to perk you up a bit and some caffeinated fizzy drink with dinner or as an alcohol mixer. A good rule of thumb is to stop the caffeine by around 2PM, to give it plenty of time to work it’s way through your system. Remember that drinking other fluids here will help too!
Secondly, watch out for sugars. A big energy hit before bed won’t help you sleep, and even foods which would normally be seen as healthy, like fruit, can have a lot of sugar in. Again, don’t have any of this too late on in the day; in fact, be careful of any heavy meal before bed, as if your digestive system is furiously working away, you may find it’s harder to sleep.
Thirdly, try and get outside into the sunlight if you can. The reason for this is because you want to boost your serotonin levels in order to get a better night’s sleep. Serotonin is one of the hormones most people have heard of; it’s commonly linked to being in a positive mood. It’s actually a neurotransmitter, and your body uses serotonin to help create another chemical called melatonin. Not quite as well known as serotonin, melotonin helps the body relax and wind-down so that you can get a restful night’s sleep. More serotonin = more melatonin. Certain types of
You can also increase your melatonin by using our fourth suggestion about how to get a good night’s sleep…
Fourth – turn off the lights and electronics at bedtime. We’re all guilty of checking social media, emails or text messages on our phones before going to bed, or watching TV in bed last night at night…in fact some people say that they watch TV to help them fall asleep. However, the “blue light” emitted by most phones, and the bright light from TVs, tablets or laptop computers, can decrease your body’s supplies of melatonin. Keeping your bedroom dark, or using a sleep mask, can really help too.
Fifth – try meditation or mindfulness. It can be hard to wind down if you’re filled with stress and worry, and sometimes knowing that there is nothing you can do to fix a problem until the next morning can leave you looking at the ceiling unable to sleep. Companies like Headspace and Calm make mobile phone apps that have simple mindfulness or guided meditation techniques that can really help (you use them without looking at the phone, so there’s no issues with the light from the screen) – there’s other apps out there but these are two of our favourites.
Finally – come and see us! Our RAPID clients often report that they sleep wonderfully well after coming to see us, and even if you opt to have a simple massage, this can promote a sense of wellbeing and reduce anxiety in many people. Just make sure you schedule your appointment for late on in the day so you’re not tempted to have coffee to wake up!