Zzzzzz…


Sleep

Persistent pain can sometimes get in the way of a good night’s sleep. Pain, muscle tension, anxiety and other factors can interfere with your ability to get to sleep, stay asleep or the quality of your sleep. Not getting enough good quality sleep can affect your pain levels, your muscle tension and your anxiety levels. This can become a vicious cycle. But there are many things you can do to break this cycle and get back to having a good night’s sleep.

Sleep tips

  • Try not to put too much pressure on yourself to go to sleep. This leads to anxiety and stress if you don’t fall asleep quickly. Feeling anxious or stressed will affect your ability to sleep. Get out of bed. Don’t lie in bed tossing and turning. Have a warm drink (e.g. milk, no caffeine), do some gentle stretches or breathing exercises and go back to bed when you feel more comfortable.
  • Develop a sleep routine. Try to go to bed and get up at the same time each day.
  • Try some relaxation techniques. Consider mindfulness, visualisation, deep breathing or a warm bath before bed. These techniques will help you become more relaxed and may help you manage your pain better so that you go to sleep, and sleep well.
  • Write it down. Thoughts, worries and anxiety can prevent good sleep. Don’t take them to bed. Write them down and then put them away. You can deal with them tomorrow. Be active during the day. As well as the many other benefits of regular exercise, it will help you fall asleep and stay asleep longer. Keep a sleep journal. This will help you and your doctor work out what may be causing your sleep problems because it tracks the things that may affect your sleep.
  • Keep a water bottle by your bedside.
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol for several hours before going to bed.
  • Don’t look at the clock. Constantly checking the time can make you anxious and anxiety makes it hard to sleep. Try removing your clock from the bedside, or cover it up at night.
  • Avoid using technology in bed. The blue light from laptops and tablets suppresses the hormone – melatonin – that makes us sleepy at night, so be sure to stop screen use at least one hour before bed.
  • Light. Is your room dark enough to allow you to sleep well? If not, look at solutions such as window coverings or a dim switch on your alarm clock. You might also try using an eye mask.
  • Noise. If you have no control over the noise in your environment (e.g. a barking dog, loud party, your partner’s snoring), ear plugs may be an option. Or playing soothing, gentle music softly in the background can also be helpful at cancelling out other noises.
  • Seek help. If pain is constantly keeping you awake at night, discuss it with your doctor for information and advice.

More to explore

Read our more detailed page on sleep.

Personal perspectives

When I have problems sleeping, I do some visualisation exercises. I also add a small dab of lavender oil to my temples – which is really soothing. – Sarah.

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Musculoskeletal Australia (or MSK) is the consumer organisation working with, and advocating on behalf of, people with arthritis, osteoporosis, back pain, gout and over 150 other musculoskeletal conditions.

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