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Does Pain Keep You Awake At Night?

By Paul Rothbart

Few things are as frustrating as going to bed feeling exhausted and then being unable to fall asleep. There are a number of things that can prevent a good night's sleep. One of the most common is chronic pain. The National Institutes of Health conducted a study in 2012 that found people with arthritis were much more likely to suffer with insomnia. In fact, 23 percent of arthritis sufferers have trouble sleeping. It's even worse for those with osteoarthritis, with 34 percent unable to sleep. Pain seems to get worse at night. Why is that and what can you do about it?

Why It Hurts More at Night

There are several reasons why the intensity of pain seems worse when trying to sleep. Lying in one position for lengthy periods can cause stiffness in the joints, which tends to increase pain. Also, the pain produces cortisol, an anti-inflammatory hormone. Cortisol eases pain but it is possible its levels drop at night. Another factor is the lack of stimuli that are present during the day. When the other senses are engaged, it tends to distract the mind from pain. It's there, but we don't notice it as much.

The Vicious Cycle

When pain does not allow a good night's sleep, it begins a cycle. Lacking proper sleep causes fatigue during the day. The brain is tired and lacks the ability to reduce pain by dampening pain receptors. A day of pain leads to more pain at night and the inability to sleep and the cycle starts again. Another effect of not sleeping well is that we are less likely to exercise when tired. Exercise is very helpful in relieving the symptoms of arthritis. 

Ways to Aid Sleep

There are things that can be done to reduce the pain and encourage sleep. Taking a warm bath or using a heating pad on sore joints can soothe them, reduce pain, and relax the body. Try icing joints that are swollen. Your mattress should be soft enough to cradle the body. Extra pillows can be placed to support the limbs and ease joint pain. Consider trying cognitive behavioral therapy. This is a method of training the brain in its response to pain which can lessen the perception. Meditation before bed can also be very helpful in relaxing the body and easing the mind. 

Getting a good night's sleep can be quite a challenge. Even more so for those who suffer from chronic pain, such as arthritis. By understanding the causes of insomnia and applying some fixes, the sensation of pain can be controlled and a soothing and restful sleep can occur.

To learn more about your health, wellness and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Pasadena, Tex.

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