Ever been in so much pain that you can’t fall asleep? In this post, we’re going to talk all about pain-induced insomnia, or painsomnia, and what you can do to overcome it.
This is a term that’s been popping up a lot lately, it’s pretty obvious what it means, but those of us who’ve suffered through it can tell you it’s no joke. Insomnia is bad enough; your brain just won’t shut off and it’s miserable. But for those of us with chronic pain, even if your brain cooperates, your body can still sabotage your sleep efforts. It’s a whole ‘nother level of misery.
In my experience, there’s a feedback loop between bodily pain and mental chatter. It can start with either part. Say I’m lying on my side and my hip starts hurting. Mentally I can try to ignore it as long as possible, but it’s a losing battle. Eventually my brain starts thinking all these desperate thoughts:
“Should I turn over?”
“Should I take a pain pill?”
“Should I get up and distract myself for a while?”
“Can I ignore my brain long enough to fall asleep?”
So what are some ways out of this madness? This is a really tenacious problem with no simple solution. The best we can do is chip away at it and make some incremental progress. None of these tips are guaranteed to work for everyone all of the time, but if the conditions are right they might help you out.
First Approach: Prevention
First, it’s best to be proactive and do all the things you can to prep yourself for a good night’s sleep. The old “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” approach.
Here’s a few ideas for this. Avoid caffeine less than 8 hours before going to bed and alcohol less than four hours before bed. Make sure your sleeping area is comfortable, without too much noise and light getting in. Keep a consistent sleep schedule.
And perhaps most importantly, try to have a positive attitude about sleep. Affirm yourself before bed that you’ll drift off easily and without issue. It’s easy to be traumatized by bad experiences in the past and turn painsomnia into a self-fulfilling prophecy, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Try to psych yourself up that tonight will be different!
Second Approach: Damage Control
Unfortunately, you might do everything right on the prep side, but still fall prey to painsomnia. At a certain point, you need to come to terms with your situation.
Sometimes you reach a point where you just have to give yourself permission to freak out and cry and get upset. Try to remember in that moment that this too shall pass. And don’t be too hard on yourself. Many of us have survived the bad nights and you can too. Blaming yourself is counterproductive and this kind of frustration can keep you awake longer. Sometimes this freak out process is cathartic and is sufficient to make you snap out of it long enough to get to sleep.
Finally, if all of this still isn’t working, consider taking some over-the-counter pain medications. There’s definitely a trade-off here since medications can have different side-effects. But if you’re desperate to fall asleep, sometimes it’s worth it. Don’t beat yourself up about having to do this, especially if it’s 4 in the morning and you have something important to do the next day. I’ve been there plenty of times, trust me.
Here at Fibro Pulse, we’re going to release a micro-course soon about healthy sleep habits for those with chronic pain that’ll go into a lot more detail about painsomnia and other related sleep problems. So stay tuned for that.
Do you suffer from painsomnia? Have any secret tips for overcoming it?
Share your knowledge with the community by responding in the comments below!