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Managing Insomnia for Those With Chronic Pain

Insomnia is one of the worst experiences to have. When you are suffering from chronic pain, all you want to do is get to sleep and escape the pain for a few hours. Unfortunately, chronic pain from conditions like fibromyalgia and cancer is one of the reasons why you cannot sleep. It is estimated that up to two out of three patients with chronic pain also suffer from insomnia.  A Vicious Cycle  Not getting enough sleep can actually make your pain worse. Since the pain is the reason you cannot sleep in the first place, insomnia begins a downward spiral that only seems to worsen over time. To break the cycle, chronic pain patients must find a way to get their pain to subside for long enough to rest. Often, concurrent disorders like sleep apnea, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder can make the situation worse. When treating insomnia, doctors must first rule out other disorders that may also be causing insomnia.  Pain Killers Are Not Enough  Dulling pain through medication may make you feel more comfortable, but opioid medications can actually disrupt sleep. Even with a single dose, opioid pain medication can ruin your quality of sleep and worsen sleep-relating breathing problems. Once pain medication and caffeine use is stopped, it will help to restart a natural sleep pattern. Behavioral therapy, hypnosis and establishing a routine will also help.  Improving the Quality of Sleep  Cognitive behavioral therapy is an effective treatment for insomnia. It helps to change the way your thoughts and behaviors may be interfering with the quality of your sleep. This type of therapy works to change your perception of pain. Often, pain seems more intense when you lack distractions. Since falling asleep is ideally a distraction-free environment, your pain may be worse right before bedtime. Therapy and relaxation training can help to change this situation.  Self-Hypnosis, Relaxation and Routine  Relaxation training like self-hypnosis and meditation can make it easier to sleep. Hypnosis has been shown to reduce the intensity and perception of pain in chronic pain conditions. In addition, these tools can help you to learn techniques like progressive muscle relaxation and guided imagery.  You should also work on practicing a routine that ensures the best sleep. The bedroom should only be used for sleep, and you should avoid taking naps during the daytime. If you cannot sleep in the first 20 minutes, go to another room and return when you feel sleepy. Even if you cannot sleep at night, wake up at a normal time to get your body into the routine. Avoid caffeine, alcohol and exercise within the last few hours before bedtime. By using therapy, relaxation techniques and a good routine, you have a 70 to 80 percent chance of reducing or eliminating your insomnia.

The content on this page is for informational and educational purposes only and does not constitute professional medical advice. Patients should not use the information presented on this page for diagnosing a health-related issue or disease. Before taking any medication or supplements, patients should always consult a physician or qualified healthcare professional for medical advice or information about whether a drug is safe, appropriate or effective.