Can You Sleep If You Are in Pain?

Medically Reviewed on 8/4/2021
can you sleep if you are in pain
If you suffer from pain, it can be tough to sleep at night. Here are 8 tips for coping with pain and sleep problems

If you are in pain, you know how difficult it can be to get a good night’s sleep. What’s worse is that chemical changes in a sleep-deprived brain can intensify and prolong the agony of sickness and injury, making sleep loss and pain go hand in hand, contributing to a continuous vicious cycle.

Lack of sleep can affect pain-sensing regions in the brain, meaning it can make you more sensitive to pain during the day. And intense pain can prevent you from falling or staying asleep. If left untreated, pain-related insomnia can worsen over time and lead to serious health problems.

Most experts suggest determining which came first, pain or sleep deprivation. That way you can target the underlying cause.

8 tips for coping with pain and sleep

  1. Talk to your doctor. If you have chronic pain, consult your doctor so they can identify any underlying conditions and find the best treatment options for you.
  2. Take pain relievers. For mild pain, over-the-counter medications may provide some short-term relief.
  3. Find the right sleeping position. For some people, sleep can be uncomfortable because of conditions such as lower back pain or acid reflux. Lower back pain may be reduced by elevating your knees, and acid reflux symptoms may be reduced by elevating your upper body. Use wedge pillows, towels, or an adjustable bed to achieve a position that works for you.
  4. Stretch your muscles. Some types of pain may be eased by stretching the tight muscles or strengthening weak ones.
  5. Invest in a good mattress. If you wake up with back pain or achy joints, your mattress may be the culprit, especially if it’s over 8 years old. Find a comfortable mattress that supports your spine’s natural alignment while also cushioning pressure points.
  6. Eat healthy. Since diet plays a huge role in getting quality rest, eat a variety of fresh vegetables, fruits, complex carbs, lean proteins, and other foods that contain essential vitamins and minerals.
  7. Try herbal supplements. Supplements such as chamomile tea may help relax you and help you get better sleep. However, you should only take supplements after consulting your doctor.
  8. Practice relaxation techniques. Deep breathing and mindfulness exercises may help you reconceptualize pain in a way that’s easier to deal with. One of the principal ways in which pain affects sleep is by keeping the central nervous system aroused. So find strategies to help you focus on relaxing and taking your mind off pain. 


Why do we sleep? See Answer

What are the best sleep positions for pain?

Sleeping with pain can be a nightmare, but changing up your position can help. 

Sleeping with neck pain

  • Keep the neck in a neutral position and avoid sleeping on your stomach.
  • Experts recommend keeping a pillow above your shoulders or using a rolled hand towel to support the base of your neck.

Sleeping with back pain

  • Lay on your back with a pillow under your knees and a rolled towel under the small of your back. This can help maintain your body’s natural curve.
  • If you need to sleep on your side, put a pillow between your knees (also good for hip and knee issues).
  • If you end up sleeping on your stomach, put a pillow under your pelvis and lower abdomen to help reduce strain on your back.

Sleeping with shoulder pain

  • Avoid sleeping on the side that hurts and instead try sleeping on your back.
  • If you can’t sleep on your back, sleep on your good side and hug a large pillow to your chest.

Sleeping with heel pain

  • Keep your feet and ankles in a relaxed position.
  • Avoid tucking in your sheets too tightly.

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Medically Reviewed on 8/4/2021
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