Sleep is often not taken as seriously as it should be. While it may not be disastrous to lose sleep every once and a while over a tight deadline or fun night out, constant sleep deprivation can cause a series of health problems that should be addressed with a physician. Insomnia, one of the most common and troubling sleep disorders, can make a good night’s rest hard to come by and ensure your days are less productive and fulfilling than they would otherwise be.
Sleep deprivation is the worst symptom of insomnia, but chronic pain comes at a close second. If you are experiencing insomnia and chronic pain simultaneously, talk to your doctor about the links between these issues and what you can do to stop them.
Is pain causing my insomnia, or is insomnia causing pain?
Studies show that nearly 50% of chronic pain patients experience some form of sleep dysregulation, with most experiencing ongoing insomnia. Because the body is overstimulated due to the pain response, the brain remains active and has trouble falling asleep. Patients often feel restless, and unable to distract themselves from the pain. This can lead to endless nights of struggling to get a good night’s rest and increased fatigue during the day.
Not only does the pain itself cause sleep disturbances, but common pain medications such as codeine and morphine can also disrupt circadian rhythm and make insomnia more likely. Sleep apnea and breathing issues caused by these medications make waking up in the middle of the night more likely.
In some cases, those experiencing insomnia can develop chronic pain issues as they toss and turn at night or stay up without giving their bodies a rest. While pain is not a common symptom of insomnia, it may indicate that the problem has become severe and requires medical treatment.
Complications of Co-Occurring Pain and Insomnia
Chronic patients who experience insomnia, as opposed to those who don’t, experience more severe pain, longer duration of pain, worse flare-ups, and greater levels of mental and emotional dysregulation. Anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders are common with chronic pain and insomnia diagnoses. This only worsens the problem, snowballing into a state where the patient feels as if they cannot function at any point in the day.
Pain and sleeping medications can temporarily alleviate the burden, but the best cure is to treat the underlying condition of your chronic pain. If you are experiencing chronic pain due to an injury illness, or have not received a diagnosis yet, talk to your local PPOA clinic for more information.