As adults, we all face plenty of things that can keep us awake at night. Stress and illness are two obvious contributors, and having poor sleep hygiene – doing things like reading our phones late at night or keeping irregular hours – can make things even worse. With so many challenges to getting the rest that we need, it’s important that you don’t let back pain add on to the struggle.
If you suffer from back pain, you know that it can impact almost every element in your life. It makes you short-tempered and exhausted. It keeps you from performing at your best and doing the things you love. You spend much of your time afraid to move for fear that your pain will get worse, or that your movement will trigger a new episode. All of these things are exacerbated when your pain keeps you from getting the sleep that you need.
Lack of sleep and back pain are a brutal combination. Many back pain sufferers spend the entire day looking forward to getting into bed and closing their eyes: they hope that sleep will bring an escape, then are disappointed to find that they can’t find a position in which they are comfortable. Worse, they sometimes begin to fall asleep and then are woken by a new pain sensation.
If this is happening to you, you’re not alone. Studies have shown that 59% of people who suffer from chronic back pain are also suffering from insomnia. For some it’s the inability to fall asleep. For others it is waking up in the middle of the night in pain, and for many others it is a function of microarousals that they’re not even fully aware of – their pain causes their body to shift from deep sleep to a lighter sleep stage, and this means that they aren’t getting the truly restful sleep that they need.
Lack of sleep is more than just frustrating. It is bad for your health. People who don’t get 7 to 9 hours of sleep are at risk for a host of health problems, including cardiovascular disease, obesity, cancer, and diabetes. Lack of sleep makes you short-tempered, makes the pain experience feel worse, and puts you at risk for drowsy driving accidents that could hurt you, the people you love, and other drivers on the road.
If your back pain is affecting your sleep quality and quantity, you need to take action. Start by making an appointment with one of our specialists to seek relief, then after that look at these other factors that are within your control:
- Sleep position: the best position for lumbar back pain is to lie on your back with your head and knees slightly elevated by a pillow, or on your side with a pillow between your knees.
- Mattress: Check the age, condition and firmness of your mattress. A mattress that is older than 10 years old needs to be replaced. Look for medium-firm support.
- Exercise: Make sure that you are moving every day. Sedentary lifestyles contribute to back pain. Exercise also has the added benefit of helping you get to sleep at night.