Approximately 70% of adults with chronic pain have insomnia or a diagnosed sleep disorder. So in this article, we’ll be exploring the link between chronic pain and sleep, and ways to break the continuous cycle of pain and sleeplessness.

Is There a Link Between Sleep, Chronic Pain, And Mental Health?

Yes!

Studies suggest that people with chronic pain may experience an endless cycle of pain, insomnia, and depression, or anxiety. For instance, a person with chronic pain may experience anxiety if he or she is unable to fall or stay asleep. 

Once this person finally falls asleep and awakens the next morning, he or she may feel groggy, depressed, moody, extremely tired – and even itchier than before. If this individual is unable to get proper rest the next night, he or she will experience a repeat cycle of chronic pain, poor sleep, and mental health issues.

Can Lying in a Certain Position Worsen Chronic Pain and Disturb Sleep?

Absolutely. 

Your sleeping position can influence how much sound sleep you get each night, especially when grappling with chronic pain. For instance, if you have an arthritic condition like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, you may find some relief by lying on your back. Why? Because this takes most of the pressure off of your joints.

When you lie on your side, the strain on those joints is increased, increasing your chances of discomfort and suffering – and preventing you from obtaining a good night’s sleep. If you have lower back pain, on the other hand, you should avoid sleeping on your back or stomach since this can put a strain on your back muscles, nerves, and spine, causing or exacerbating your discomfort.

If you have lower back pain, you may want to explore sleeping on your side. You might also want to consider purchasing pillows or a mattress that will reduce strain on your joints while also supporting your spine.

Can Chronic Pain & Insomnia Be Treated with Psychotherapy?

Yes, it can! 

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is common psychotherapy used to treat chronic pain and cognitive-behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) is common psychotherapy used to treat insomnia. These two forms of CBT are often used simultaneously to help people with chronic pain get a good night’s sleep.

CBT can help change how you perceive (thought processes) and cope with (behavior) your chronic pain. While CBT-I can help change any thoughts and behaviors that may be disrupting your sleep. Most practitioners prefer the CBT/CBT-I combination over prescription painkillers and sleep aids because CBT/CBT-I does not have side effects and can offer a long-term remedy to chronic pain and insomnia.     

The goal of this CBT/CBT-I combination is to help you prevent, reduce, or manage any distressing or negative thoughts or sensations (chronic pain) that may be preventing you from falling and staying asleep. CBT/CBT-I aims to help you identify and understand how your thoughts are affecting your sleep. The hope is that once you understand what is prompting these thoughts, they will lose their power over you, easing your pain so you can fall into a peaceful sleep. 

How Can I Naturally Fall Asleep or Back to Sleep When I Have Chronic Pain?

Participate in a Sleep Therapy Program 

If you have a hard time drifting off to sleep – worry no more because help is on the way. Sleep therapy programs like Somnus Therapy can help you get the zzz you desperately need to be your best “self” every day. Somnus Therapy is a guided CBT-I sleep program for people who have a hard time falling and staying asleep at night. 

Engage in a Little Nighttime Reading 

If you struggle with chronic pain and have a hard time falling asleep at night – read. Reading a juicy or interesting book can distract you so you’re not constantly thinking about your pain. Once distracted, your body will relax and you’ll eventually get sleepy and “clonk out.”  

Practice Deep Breathing Exercises 

Chronic pain can take your breath away at times; but, deep breathing exercises can help you get it back. If you experience pain once you lie down in bed, practice deep breathing exercises. Slow and steady rhythmical breathing can have a calming effect on your mind and body, easing your stress and reducing your pain so you can rest – all night long. Research indicates that taking slow, deep breaths shortly before bed can help you fall asleep and get back to sleep quickly should you awaken in the middle of the night.