Sleeping Well Despite Chronic Pain

Sleeping Well Despite Chronic Pain

By Kimberly Hayes.

Does pain make it difficult for you to fall asleep, wake you up in the middle of the night, or leave you groggy and achy in the morning? Chronic pain can have a big impact on the quantity and quality of your sleep. And when you’re not sleeping well, your pain is more likely to flare up and cause problems throughout the day. It’s a vicious cycle, but you can achieve quality sleep despite chronic pain. Use these tips to improve your sleep so you can finally rest easy.

1. Invest in a better bed

If you sleep the recommended eight hours per night, that’s one third of your life spent on your bed. If your bed isn’t comfortable, it can put a serious damper on the quality of sleep you get, which is a major detriment to your quality of life. Unfortunately, many people suffer sleepless nights on uncomfortable mattresses because they think a new bed is out of their budget. But the truth is, you don’t have to spend thousands to buy the latest and greatest in sleep technology. The best mattress for you is whichever one feels most comfortable for your body.

Back and joint pain sufferers do best with medium-firm to firm mattresses, about a 5.5-7.5 out of 10 on the firmness scale. The mattress should conform to your body to relieve pressure points and keep your spine in alignment. Memory foam mattresses are a great option for joint and back pain sufferers, but don’t take that as gospel. The best way to find a mattress that’s comfortable for you is to read reviews online then test mattresses in person. You can visit mattress stores to test different models or shop online from manufacturers that offer trial periods and easy returns.

2. Replace your pillow

Your pillow is a critical component of your sleep system. The wrong pillow can throw your spine out of alignment and lead to morning stiffness and pain. The best pillow for you depends on how you sleep; side sleepers should use a thick, firm pillow, back sleepers a thin, medium-firm pillow, and stomach sleepers a thin, soft pillow or no pillow at all. No matter your sleep position, the goal is to keep your neck and head in a neutral position. Your pillow’s fill material also affects how well it holds its shape throughout the night. For more advice about shopping for a pillow, read Consumer Reports’ pillow guide.

3. Improve your sleep environment

Do you lie awake at night unable to get the buzzing of electronics out of your head or wake up sweaty and uncomfortable halfway through the night? It’s important to eliminate distraction and discomfort from your bedroom so you can fall and stay asleep at night. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the ideal bedroom is kept between 60 and 67 degrees, dark, and quiet. In addition to keeping electronics out of the bedroom and using curtains to block out light, avoid using your bedroom for anything other than sex and sleep. This includes leaving the bedroom if you wake up during the night and can’t fall back to sleep. Your bedroom should be associated with rest, not your favorite TV shows, your to-do list, or your anxious ruminations.

4. Get more exercise

Daily exercise doesn’t just help you feel tired at night. It also reduces the symptoms of chronic pain and improves your mental health so you’re less likely to lay awake at night in a state of hyperarousal. However, don’t expect a single workout to offer immediate benefits. It can take up to four months of regular exercise to improve the duration and restfulness of your sleep.

Poor sleep complicates life in a number of ways. In addition to worsening chronic pain, insomnia contributes to weight gain, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and depression. It makes you more stressed and less capable in everyday life, which affects your job, relationships, and overall quality of life. However, living with chronic pain doesn’t mean you have to accept poor quality sleep. Adopt these sleep tips and talk to your doctor if you’re still struggling to fall and stay asleep at night.

Featured image via Unsplash

Kimberly Hayes is an author and runs a wellness website

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Authored by: Kimberly Hayes

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Wi-Fi is the biggest and most stealth evil cause of melatonin disruption and loss of sleep and the least likely to be advised about. People are taking pills and doing things that will never help them as long as they have Wi-Fi or any RF EMR in house or close by, especially if they have a smart meter in their meter boxes.


As my pain doc always remi ds me: ‘what works for one doesn’t necessarily work for another”.

All suggestions about comfy bed, good covers and pillows, getting all the exercise you can tolerate, darkness and quiet, no technology/tv… etc., are good suggestions, and *can* contribute to better or longer sleep for the rigjt person. Problem is, when you have extensive (or any) RSD, those things alone will rarely induce the necessary rrestorative sleep, or keep you asleep, to help reduce the acute chronic pain yhat is your constant companion.

Rather than shooting down.these ideas, why not just say thanks for the ideas and add what has worked for you?

For example, 60-67 degrees all night in Tucson, where it is daily >105 degrees for about 4 months each year will not happen unless you forego food or rent because the A/C bill would bankrupt you… so, add fans.

Living with RSD is all about continually adjusting to your new normal, which.keeps evolving as the disease.progresses and the relentless pain just keeps on coming.

Do your best each day, then start the next day… When people offer help, accept it in the spirit it is offered. Many people really do want to help, even.if their ideas seem half-baked or ludicrous based on all you have already been through and rejected.

Best wishes to all for some peaceful, restorative sleep.


The Doctor is SO CORRECT! Right now depending on where you live and who your Doctor is can drastically affect you access to the meds you need. But care must be taken when adding sleep meds to you medication cocktail. I also agree that if you can get relief enough to get some good sleep you may see your pain levels drop. CRPS is a nasty beasty, pain is not only generated from the injury site but also from your brain so if a Doctor is only treating one pain origin, it’s going to be ineffective. For me, 20+ years in with Stage 2 CRPS a coctail of ectended release Morphine, Lyric, & Baclafen ( muscle relaxer) does the job quite well. For a few years Xanax in small amounts was added, but it has been off my list for quite a while. Pain causes Anxiety which causes muscles to tighten which increases Pain which increases anxiety. A visious circle that is very very hard to break. A column on this would be a good idea.

Dr. Mark W. Helfand

The article is excellent. This is a counterpoint to one of Alex’s statements. I don’t want everyone that isn’t getting the “normal” amount of sleep to think they aren’t being treated properly. I am a dentist with CRPS and have seen many specialists in my 20 year ordeal. I have tried most sleep medications along with sleep specialists and relaxation therapies. Since my condition effects parts of the brain that deal with sleep, I am lucky if I get more than 2 hours of continuous sleep at a time. Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you suffer. Even with the extremely large dose of opiate medication, I still have pain and it doesn’t put me to sleep. If I increased the dose large enough to put me to sleep, I wouldn’t wake up. So please be careful using sleep inducing medications with pain medications. That is a very dangerous combination and must be done by doctors trained to combine these. Unfortunately, not everyone can have all their symptoms relieved.

The late Dr Joel Hochman used to sneak a sleep question into his examination of pain patients. He told me in an interview that one of the endpoints he sought, when titrating people with opioid pain drugs, was at what dose level were the people able to get in a full 6-8 hours of sleep. If people got enough sleep, their overall health improved. If they went sleepless from too much pain, they got sicker. Frequently in his practice, once people actually had normal sleep for a month or two, their pain level actually dropped and they felt too sleepy if they stayed on the high doses of pain medicine.

What this means, is that our policy on pain medicine is completely backwards.

Instead of worrying about giving people too much medicine, the real worry should be giving them too little medicine. Once the pain is properly controlled, most people end up using less medicine, because uncontrolled pain makes people sicker.


I would like to ask Rachel where she bought a silk duvet. Waking up sweating is a problem for me. Also is it silk on the outside but stuffed with what?

Alex is sure right not being able to go out and spend hundreds and hundreds on a new mattress. Many times a pain doctor WILL write a script for anything you ask for but very few insurance companies or medicare will work with it.

I sleep too much and that’s a problem probably caused by my oxy and the fact I wake up several times a night too hot or too cold. The sweating only started in the last couple of years. My cancer surgery was in 2014 so that might have something to do with it. Botched nerve damage. Very hard to get up in the morning. I am retired so it is not as critical as if I had responsibilities I had to meet but still…


I have done it all. NOTHING helps debilitating Chronic Pain, without the medicine created to treat it. Narcotics are saving the pain and suffering of Millions. God help us…

I agree with Jasmin. Stop telling us how to sleep and what kind of mattress and pillow to purchase, etc. I’ve been at my mom’s for 2 months helping her and believe me you I’ve got to exercise to where I can’t exercise anymore. My feet feel like bricks and the rest of my body is beyond belief. The only comfortable bed I find is the couch.When you’re at someone elses home you can’t tell them to turn their television off, perfect the air conditioning and play some jazz. So cut the bull and get to the source!! Those of us that are in chronic pain and have been treated the way we are and have been are beyond tired of tips for this and tips for that… Some of you make it sound like we’re nothing but idiots and it’s getting very old.


God! I have failed back and I get two or three hours of sleep every two or 3 days I think because I roll around abut 8 hours because the pain drives me mad when I try to rest!Getting Valum like 5 mgs work wonderful and a good sleep.Problem is pain clinic won’t give them out and I say it’s better the morphine!!!


That’s all well & good, but I have a new very good mattress, new pillows too….I keep my bedroom cool, dark, and quiet… electronics anywhere near me & I still can’t get more than 5-6 hours of frequently interrupted sleep. The reason I can’t sleep well has nothing to do with my current environment, and everything to do with chronic pain. I don’t need a better environment, I need a new body. Guess I’m SOL.


Most folks, or perhaps I should say many folks who suffer chronic pain are on one form of disability or another. In many cases buying new beds are financially impossible. So how could they possibly follow yours and many others good sleep recipes?
One way is to have a heart to heart with your pain care provider and explain the whole situation. Then ask them if they will write you a prescription for the specific mattress you need or pillow etc. Even workers comp will usually pay for things of this nature.
Secondly if you are being treated for chronic pain and you aren’t getting the vital sleep you need one of two things is happening.
Either your pain care provider is not adequately treating your pain or you are seeing the wrong person. Any qualified pain management professional knows that lack of good sleep exaserbates your pain and can make pain management impossible. On my first visit to my pain doc one of his first questions was ” are you sleeping”, I was not. He immediatley prescribed a sleep aid along with my pain meds and told me to come back in two weeks after I had gotten some rest so we could complete a real assesment of my pain. With all the folks I talk to regularly on social media who have stage 2 CRPS we all agree with my doc’s approach. And these friends are all over the world.
Truely….GET SOME SLEEP and get some help to be able to do it. You will thank yourself - and your Doctor.


Please, we need to stop having conversations about how and why and what is happening with chronic pain! We just need to hurry up and start giving back our people their pain medications so they can go back to living their normal lives. And not keep torturing us!!!!! Let’s really have conversations about all the suicides that are happening because they cannot live with their horrible pain. Get on the ball with this!!!


Good post. According to Prof Matthew Walker, a sleep neuroscientist at Stanford, poor sleep increases pain sensitivity by 42%! So sleep should be the first line treatment for any pain patient. His book “Why We Sleep” is in paperback avail from Amazon etc. It has loads of sleep tips and explains just how crucial sleep is. I had delayed circadian sleep disorder as a side effect of using Topiramate as a pain has taken me over a year to get back on track. I prefer a softer bed. I use blackout blinds and a silk duvet which is well worth the cost as it regulates body temperature better than any other material and I don’t wake sweating any more. I also have a Phillips Somneo sleep light which can be set to slowly reduce light in your bedroom and encourage the sleep inducing hormone melatonin, you can add its relaxation nature sounds to this, or the radio that comes with it, and /or their deep breathing programme which relaxes you. Likewise in the morning it wakes you gently by gradually increasing daylight light. I also take melatonin at night. My pain consultant had me on 10mg that is safe. I did get a consult form a sleep clinic but their advice made me very ill my sensitive CNS could not cope with moving sleep times by 2 hours every 2 days.