The relationship between sleep and pain is complicated. Sore joints can keep you up at night, and lack of sleep can make you more sensitive to pain. In fact, up to 90% of adults with chronic joint pain are unable to sleep well, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
Lack of good quality sleep has directly been linked to a reduction in pain tolerance and an exacerbation of pain symptoms according to NCBI. “A large population-based study of Norwegian women found that women who endorse frequent, “sleep problems,” defined as frequent difficulty falling asleep or having a sleep disorder, were significantly more likely to develop fibromyalgia 10 years later 71. The authors estimated that 2/3 of the incident cases of fibromyalgia in their sample were explained by sleep problems 71. These findings are supported by a separate population-based study that found that insomnia symptoms at baseline significantly increased the risk of developing chronic musculoskeletal pain (both widespread and regional) at 17-year follow-up 74. Quality sleep has also been shown to predict chronic widespread pain symptom resolution over 15 months." Taken from the NCBI website.
You may have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep if your hips, knees, or shoulders ache due to arthritis, osteoporosis, or fibromyalgia.
Even if you do drift off, you may be spending fewer hours in the deep stages of sleep that restore your body and mind. Lack of sleep can also contribute to many other health issues, including obesity, diabetes, and heart conditions.
Fortunately, there are simple behavioral changes that can help you to manage the discomfort and sleep more peacefully. Try these home remedies and work with your doctor to find relief.
Steps to Take at Bedtime:
1. Sleep meditation talk down. My favorite is Jason Stephenson!! If I wasn’t married, I’d marry this man. LOL. Just kidding Matt! Seriously though. YouTube has tons of great talk downs and meditation music that help to calm your mind back to a place where you can drift off to sleep.
2. CBD. CBD helps to regulate cortisol, a stress hormone, which has a significant impact on non-REM sleep cycles. A large case series review found that CBD is beneficial for anxiety-related disorders and an increase in sleep quality. DailyCBD.com has a great article and calculator to help you determine what dosage is right for you.
3. Coffea Cruda. Coffea is the remedy for insomnia from racing thoughts or for waking at the slightest noise. It is helpful for people with an over-stimulated nervous system, who react strongly to noise, touch or any of the senses.
4. Change positions. Try sleeping on your unaffected side with your knees drawn up. Place a small pillow between your knees to take pressure off your hips. If you lie on your back, put a thin pillow under your shoulders.
5. Wear a sling. Protect an aching shoulder by immobilizing it with a sling. Putting a pillow under your armpit can help too.
6. Buy a new mattress. A firm mattress is usually preferable. You need something that will cushion your body and support your contours. Sleep Number mattresses are great for being able to continuously change firmness with your body’s needs. Even better is a memory foam topper for your Sleep Number mattress! Tip: If you have the right bed frame, you can save a ton of money by purchasing just the mattress/bladders.
7. Check your bedroom. Sleep hygiene is especially important if you have joint issues. Darken your bedroom and block out distracting noises. Keep electronic devices out of your bedroom or turn them off at least 2 hours before retiring. Sever studies have shown that keeping your bedroom around 67 degrees is an optimal temperature for sleeping.
8. Maintain a consistent schedule. As much as possible, go to bed and rise at the same time each day. Resist the urge to sleep in, even on weekends and holidays.
9. Get out of bed. If you can't sleep, it may be better to get up and do something boring until you're sleepy again. I like to read and start to doze back off…. Stretching can work well in the middle of the night to calm pain. As a bonus, moving around can reduce joint pain because it decreases swelling and increases lubrication.
Steps to Take Anytime:
1. Contact your doctor. Talk with your doctor if pain lasts more than a few days or recurs frequently. Seek medical care right away if you're experiencing severe and unusual pain or you have additional symptoms like weight loss or fever.
2. Take medication as directed. Your doctor can explain how to take over-the-counter or prescription pain relievers or sleep aids safely. That way you can reduce your risk of side effects or becoming dependent on drugs to sleep.
3. Limit napping. I’d like to preface this by saying, I feel this is the hardest one to follow through on. Taking naps to fight daytime fatigue can backfire if they interfere with your falling asleep at bedtime. Experiment until you find what works for you.
4. Drink responsibly. Alcohol makes you feel drowsy, but actually interferes with sleep. You're more likely to wake up frequently during the night if you drink too much. If you have Fibromyalgia, you are better off to give up the drink completely since it exacerbates symptoms.
5. Be mindful of your nutrition. Carrying around excess pounds creates more stress on your joints. Fill up on vegetables, fruits, and other whole foods that have more nutrients and fewer calories than processed items. It is estimated that at least 60% of Fibromyalgia patients have leaky gut. Therefore, food directly affects your pain levels when you have Fibromyalgia.
6. Exercise more. Physical activity helps in several ways. In addition to helping you burn calories; it may lift your spirits and increase your tolerance for physical discomfort. Don’t go running!! I’m not talking about that kind of exercise. Keep it simple and doable: stretching, Pilates, restorative yoga, qigong, and tai chi are perfect exercises for Fibromyalgia.
7. Try therapy. Many adults have found relief for insomnia through cognitive behavioral training (CBT). Working with a therapist can help you identify thoughts and actions that disrupt your sleep and learn how to adopt healthier substitutes.
Living with aching joints is challenging, but a positive attitude will help you to manage your pain and develop strategies that enhance your sleep. By taking control, you'll enjoy more satisfying sleep and greater comfort around the clock.