Chronic Pain and Insomnia


June 11, 2021

If you have chronic pain, then it is possible that you often find problems sleeping. Research details that approximately 50% to 80% of patients with chronic pain experience ongoing sleep difficulties, with most of them exhibiting symptoms of insomnia.  Also, the National Sleep Foundation suggests that two out of three people with chronic pain have trouble sleeping. 

That being said, insomnia is not an independent problem. This means that it mainly occurs due to an underlying problem. Back pain, for example, accounts for the most common type of chronic pain that has significant interference with sleep. Therefore, understanding the underlying cause of your pain is the first step towards pain relief and treating insomnia.

Here is a brief elucidation of the connection between chronic pain and insomnia.

Understanding Insomnia

Insomnia refers to all types of sleeping problems. Sleeping problems are not necessarily denoted by difficulty falling asleep; instead, they further include difficulty staying asleep and also waking up earlier than you expected. 

Pain and Insomnia- The Connection

There is a connection between pain and insomnia. Pain typically occurs when your nerves are stimulated to an intense degree. As a result, your brain is activated, and you are bound to remain awake.

In other words, pain triggers your brain to remain awake, therefore contributing to sleeping problems.

How Does Chronic Pain Cause Insomnia?

Chronic pain causes insomnia in the following ways:

Pain Medications Interrupt Sleep

For pain management and pain relief, pain medications are often administered to patients. Although they are beneficial, pain medications such as codeine and morphine have been found to cause sleep problems. In fact, they are associated with symptoms such as apnea and breathing problems during sleep-which causes insomnia. 

Therefore, people with chronic pain -those who take pain medication-are at risk of developing sleeping problems.

Pain may disrupt the cycles of sleep.

For a good night’s sleep, you need to have appropriately undergone each stage of sleep. Such stages include light sleep, deep sleep, and rapid eye movement sleep. However, this is not often the case if you are experiencing chronic pain. 

Chronic pain disrupts the sleep cycle by making you spend too much time in the light sleep stage. Therefore, the other sleep stages are shortened. As a result, you end up experimenting with highly sensitive pain.

Pain Impacts Your Sleep Position

Your comfort at night is what makes up a good night’s sleep. However, this is not often the case, especially if you are experiencing chronic pain. According to experts, problems staying asleep-distinct from falling asleep-generally arise due to joint and muscle pain, affecting your sleep position.

Trouble Falling Asleep heightens pain sensitivity.

One of the common ways that people with chronic pain use to eliminate pain is through distractions. Therefore, during the day, most people don’t experience pain. 

However, at night, when there are no distractions, the body is at rest, and the perception of pain actually increases. As a result, the longer you stay awake, the more you become sensitive to pain. 

Also, research suggests that certain chemicals -known as cytokines -are produced due to sleep deprivation. Such chemicals are to the effect that they increase the production of inflammatory chemicals, which cause additional pain.

Which type of pain causes insomnia?

As noted earlier, insomnia often arises due to conditions that cause pain. Such conditions include:

How can you manage pain that causes insomnia?

The first step to counter insomnia is to reduce the pain. This means treating the underlying condition that causes pain. Therefore, your physician can manage this pain in the following ways:

Also, to improve your sleep patterns, you need to exercise regularly. Exercising improves pain and sleep problems. As such, you can achieve this through undertaking swimming, yoga, or you can even go for a walk.

What Next?

Chronic pain is often a debilitating condition that is an overall hindrance. Therefore, you should seek measures to counter the underlying cause of your pain. Based on the connection between pain and insomnia, you can counter your sleeping problems through pain management and pain relief. Contact SEPSC to help you with this.