I first met Dr. Valerie Crabtree several years ago at the Sleep Meeting in Boston after going to a great talk which she gave. Since then she has been a great help to me as I try to learn more about behavioral sleep medicine. Like Dr. Honaker, she is a psychologist. She is knowledgeable about all aspects of behavioral sleep medicine, but her special expertise in helping children with pain, especially pain related to cancer at St. Jude’s. She also has two school aged kids and is constantly finding ways to extend her own sleep (Me too!) I asked her to provide some guidance for both children and adults regarding our goal this month of finding ways to get 30 more minutes of sleep per night in 2015.
(“09/04 – Worst. Bed. EVAR!” by Erik Ogan on Flickr. Click the photo to go to the original)
People with chronic pain often find it hard to fall asleep. Or, if they fall asleep, they may wake up repeatedly during the night and find it hard to get back to sleep. Research shows that poor sleep actually makes pain worse the next day. In fact, newer research is beginning to show that sleep may affect pain MORE than pain interferes with sleep. Finding ways to protect your sleep can actually make your pain better too! [Bold is mine–CC] Wanting to get better sleep? Try this:
- Get physical activity. If you are in pain during the day, you may want to lie in bed because it is more comfortable. This can actually have the opposite effect, though, causing pain, fatigue, and sleep to get worse. For many people with chronic pain, following a physical activity program (as prescribed by their doctor or physical therapist) can improve pain, function, AND sleep. Here is a great post on seven ways to exercise with chronic pain.
- Rest somewhere other than your bed. If you DO need to rest because of your pain, try to lie on the couch or a reclining chair and reserve your bed just for sleep. This helps your body learn that your bed is only for sleeping, not just for resting.
- Try not to nap. When you are resting, try to stay awake. Napping (especially for a long time) during the day can make it very hard to fall asleep or stay asleep at night.
- Plan the timing of your pain medication. If your pain medication makes you sleepy, take advantage of this at night. Take sedating medications just before sleep and ask your doctor for other medication options during the day–those that don’t make you feel like you need to nap.
- Use non-medicine treatments to improve pain. These techniques can include progressive muscle relaxation, breathing exercises, and guided imagery. What is nice about these strategies is that they can improve both pain and sleep simultaneously.
Here are some links which may be helpful:
Tips for patients with fibromyalgia
Healthshare tips for getting more sleep with chronic pain
Above I highlighted the critical point– bad sleep makes pain worse, just as pain can worsen sleep. Do you struggle with chronic pain? If not, do you have a child or other family member who does? Please share your advice about what has worked and what has not below.