Pain, headaches and sleep problems | PostIndependent.com

Pain, headaches and sleep problems

Nina SchnipperSpecial to the Post Independent

Of the many American adults suffering from bodily pain, 42 million of them report that pain disrupts their sleep.Of the 45 million Americans suffering from headaches, the majority of them describe sleep problems that directly relate to their pain.Recent studies by the National Headache Foundation (NHF), and the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), have shown that pain is directly related to sleep problems. In efforts to better understand the connections between pain and sleep, the National Sleep Foundation conducted a survey in 2003 called “Sleep in America.” Experiencing bodily pain was one of the most common complaints associated with poor sleep.”Just as sleep patterns differ by individual, so too does the impact that sleep has on one’s headache condition,” said Suzanne Simons, executive director of the NHF, in a press statement. “Because sleep has such a varying effect, the NHF suggests that headache sufferers discuss with their health care provider whether any adjustments should be made to the sufferer’s sleep schedule or if any lifestyle changes should be made.”Some types of pain associated with sleep problems include back pain, and joint pain from arthritis. Furthermore, some of the medications prescribed for pain can affect sleep patterns.Pain and sleep are interrelated states. For those in pain, good quality sleep is shown to positively affect their condition. When pain sufferers experience poor-quality sleep or other sleep disturbances, their pain levels are often heightened.Lack of quality sleep and living with pain make it difficult for sufferers to live normal lives. Pain affects one’s energy levels, mood, work productivity, and social life. It is essential that pain sufferers pursue quality sleep every night.Headaches are the second most common type of pain, according to the NSF. Blood pressure fluctuations in the brain are believed to trigger headaches, such as the tension experienced with cluster headaches. Like other pain sufferers, headache sufferers report insomnia. Also like other pain sufferers, sleep deprivation contributes to their pain.However, sleep problems associated with headaches differ from those described by other pain sufferers. For example, headache sufferers often report that excess sleep can trigger headaches.Unlike others who experience sleep problems as a result of being in pain, people with headaches are likely to report sleep problems as the cause of their pain.Of the 45 million headache sufferers, the NHF indicated that 79 percent of survey respondents state they wake with a headache after sleeping for eight hours or more.Lifestyle patterns give strong clues as to the connection between headaches and sleep problems. According to the NHF survey, 68 percent of headache sufferers reported erratic patterns in their sleep cycles, such as waking at different times every day, sleeping in on weekends, and changes while on vacation.When lifestyle changes were attempted to improve sleep, those who noted improvements related them to avoiding caffeine, going to bed earlier, and exercise.According to the NSF, some of the following lifestyle habits may improve sleep:• Establish a relaxing bedtime routine. Avoid stimulation and alerting activities before bedtime.• Go to sleep at the same time every night and awaken at the same time each morning.• Watch food intake late in the day. Avoid heavy meals late in the evening.• Also, avoid caffeinated foods and beverages in the afternoon and evening.• Avoid alcohol late in the evening. Alcohol may encourage falling asleep, but it has been shown to inhibit restful sleep and encourage nighttime wakening. Nicotine has similar effects.• If you are on medications for pain or depression, ask your doctor about alternatives. Some medications have been shown to negatively impact sleep.• If you experience sleep problems related to pain or headaches, there are many natural methods which offer relief.


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