For people living with pain, sleep can seem like a luxury. These tips from the National Sleep Foundation may help you get a more restful night’s sleep for a more productive and healthy day, and possibly a less painful life.

If you’re living with pain, you already know how hard it can be to fall asleep and stay asleep. But did you also know that last night’s tossing and turning could be making today’s aching and throbbing feel worse?

The relationship between pain and sleep is well documented—and well understood by anyone living with pain, whether chronic or acute. Pain makes it harder to fall asleep, stay asleep and experience quality sleep. This generally makes you feel lousy the next day, so it’s no surprise that poor sleep has been associated with everything from diminished performance at work to increased stress and anxiety to a weaker immune system. Over time, sleep deprivation can also put you at risk for other health problems, including depression, heart disease and high blood pressure.¹

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than a third of U.S. adults don’t get enough sleep on a regular basis, and about 21 percent of U.S. adults are living with chronic pain. The connection between sleep and pain was clearly illustrated in a 2015 poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation that found:

  • More Americans (57 percent) experience pain than don’t (43 percent).
  • Of those without pain, considerably more than half (65 percent) reported having good or very good sleep quality.
  • Only 46 percent of people with acute pain reported quality sleep, and even less (36 percent) with chronic pain reported quality sleep.

It should not be surprising, however, that people who sleep well also say they get a lot done during the day. A 2019 Sleep in America poll revealed that nearly 90 percent of U.S. adults who sleep well report productive days, compared to only 46 percent who report poor sleep. In the same study, we learned that only 10 percent of U.S. adults make sleep a priority over other activities such as exercise, work and socializing.

Make Sleep a Priority.

People who make sleep a priority tend to get better sleep—even those living with pain.

These five tips from the National Sleep Foundation can help you get started:

  1. Limit or eliminate caffeine, alcohol and naps.
  2. Consult your physician before relying on pain killers or sleeping pills.
  3. Go to bed at the same time each night and follow an established routine.
  4. Avoid screen time (TV, computer, phone) 30 minutes before bedtime.
  5. Write down persistent thoughts to keep your mind from wondering all night.

It’s also important to note that individuals living with pain are often more sensitive than others to environmental factors, such as the temperature, light or noise in a room. If that sounds like you, be extra mindful of your triggers. You may want to invest in darkening shades or talk to your sleep partner about a split mattress, for example.

If you are living with pain, a good night’s sleep can seem like a luxury. It may not have to be. By changing your sleep habits, you may actually get a better night’s sleep, experience less pain and enjoy a better overall quality of life.

Talk to your healthcare practitioner about ways to better understand and manage your pain.