Sleep is essential to everyone’s health. Sleep deprivation can lead to many serious health–related conditions, such as heart disease, kidney disease, hypertension, diabetes, and stroke. Chronic pain could lead to sleep disturbances which could affect both the quality and the quantity of your sleep. Pain could make sleep worse due to sleep disturbances, and lack of sleep could make pain symptoms feel worse due to insufficient sleep and recovery. Sleep is important for healing and supports healthy growth and development. Some medications, such as opioids, could have negative effects on sleep quality and make sleep problems worse.
Patients who experience chronic pain may find it difficult to fall asleep, frequently wake at night, or wake early in the morning and feel tired. In order to get adequate sleep, the nervous system must calm down rather than staying active. A calm nervous system will allow the body to get adequate deep sleep quicker. There are some things you can incorporate in your daily life to establish a healthy sleep habit and routine. This will allow your body to be in a relaxed state and heal. Some of the tips or strategies you can incorporate include:
- Consume foods that help promote sleep
- Take a short walk in the evening
- Slow deep breaths before sleeping
- Go to bed around the same time daily
- Try relaxation techniques, such as yoga
- Reduce light, noise, and temperature in your room
Additionally, there are sleeping positions and techniques you may incorporate and benefit from depending on where you are experiencing chronic pain.
- On your back (supine) with knee support- Good for patients dealing with back pain
- On your side (lateral recumbent) with a pillow between the knees– Allows your hips, pelvis, and spine to be aligned which will relieve stress on your body
- Fetal position (lateral recumbent)- Good for patients suffering from herniated discs. Make sure your back is straight when sleeping.
- On your stomach (prone) with a pillow under your abdomen- Also good for patients suffering from herniated discs or back issues. Placing a pillow under the pelvis and lower abdomen will reduce pressure off the spine.
- Reclined position (supine) on your back– Good for patients dealing with neck, shoulder, or back pain. A semi-upright position can provide relief by improving blood flow and reducing pressure on the spine
Promote sleep with nutrition
Getting adequate sleep may be a struggle for many patients due to a variety of reasons, both physical and psychological. Consuming the right vitamins or minerals obtained from healthy foods can help promote sleep and allow you to get sufficient sleep. Some of the sleep-inducing nutrients you can get from a variety of healthy foods include:
- Vitamin D
- B vitamins
- Vitamin E
- Calcium and potassium
Foods that are rich in vitamins and minerals mentioned above include:
- Red meat
- Seafood- oily fish
- Cruciferous vegetables (kale, spinach, etc.)
- Dried fruit
- Nuts- almonds, sunflower seeds, pumpkins
- Whole grains