If you’re trying to sleep with acute pain, you know how difficult it can be to fall asleep and stay asleep. Unfortunately, this can lead to problems beyond just feeling tired during the day. For one, your immune system relies on sleep to help you stay healthy. Studies have shown that people who don’t get enough sleep or who don’t get quality sleep are not only at a higher risk for getting sick, they’re also more likely to stay sick longer when they do catch something.
Sleep also helps you maintain a healthy balance of the hormones that make you feel hungry or full. It also affects how your body reacts to insulin – the hormone that controls your blood glucose levels. Combined, this can lead to increased appetite and make people more likely to develop issues like obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.
To add insult to injury, not getting enough sleep has also been shown to reduce your tolerance to pain even more, for a few reasons. First, lack of sleep can cause your somatosensory cortex (the part of the brain that processes pain) to become hyperactive, leading to increased pain sensitivity. It also reduces the amount of dopamine (the chemical responsible for feelings of pleasure, and a natural analgesic) your brain can release.
If you are having difficulty getting to sleep and staying asleep due to pain, here are a few tips that may help you get a better night’s rest:
- Try foods that promote sleep
There are certain foods you can eat (especially for your evening meal) that can increase the level of proteins like Tryptophan your body needs to produce the sleep-regulating hormone, serotonin. Increased tryptophan levels have been shown to reduce the time it takes to fall asleep, promote better sleep, and improve alertness in the morning.
Examples of sleep-promoting foods include:
- Certain fruits, such as bananas, cherries and kiwis.
- Whole foods, such as milk, pulses (beans, legumes, lentils, etc.), fatty fish, and shellfish.
It’s just as important to avoid foods and drinks that can adversely affect sleep, such as coffee, tea, and chocolates. These foods contain caffeine and theobromine that may disrupt your sleep cycle.
- Yoga and deep-breathing techniques can relax the body and mind
Yoga utilizes holistic mind-body techniques that include physical stretches, rhythmic breathing, and meditation that can all help alleviate pain and improve sleep.
In addition, slow, rhythmic breathing has calming effects that may also help alleviate pain and stress, promoting sleep. Deep breathing has also been shown to help by synchronizing your heart rate and breathing pattern, which helps many people sleep better.
- Try taking a short walk in the evening
For many people who work in an office and get minimal exercise, it can be difficult to fall asleep at night, but a short walk in the evenings may help relieve your pain and promote better sleep.
That’s because when you walk, you increase your core body temperature. When it then begins to drop due thanks to the body’s heat dissipation mechanisms like increased blood flow to the skin, the reduction in body temperature often triggers the sleep cycle to kick in. Walking can also help by reducing anxiety, which promotes better sleep.
Moderate exercise like walking is also a beneficial addition to your daily routine because it helps reduce chronic pain by strengthening your core muscles and increases flexibility in your lower back, legs and more.
- Consider trying a natural sleep aid
There are a number of natural sleep-promoting supplements that are available over the counter to aid sleep. Some are offered as tea bags for brewing, while others come in the form of tablets or capsules to be taken orally. These supplements help many people improve the onset, duration, and quality of their sleep.
A few popular ones include:
- Herbal supplements, like Valerian capsules and chamomile or peppermint tea
- Fruit extracts and powders, like ground tart cherry and tart cherry extract
- Micronutrient supplements, including things like zinc or magnesium
- Synthetic supplements, such as Melatonin capsules or tablets
It may be worth trying one or more of these options to help you get more sleep, and it may take some trial and error to determine which option(s) works best for you. It’s also important to remember that more sleep isn’t always better, and the optimal amount of sleep for most adults is seven to eight hours each night. For adults, sleeping more than this can lead to poor quality sleep, as well additional difficulty falling or staying asleep.
Quantum Pain & Sports Medicine can help
If you can’t sleep due to pain and want to learn more, the acute pain specialists at Quantum Pain and Sports Medicine can help. We are more than just experts at diagnosing and treating pain, we are your source for holistic treatment – and that includes tips and tricks to get better, more restorative sleep.
Call 469.913.6136 or contact us to learn more today.