Improving Sleep When You Have Chronic Pain

Overview

If you have chronic pain, such as with fibromyalgia, lower back pain, or complex regional pain syndrome, you may have a hard time sleeping or you may wake up feeling tired and unrefreshed. Some experts believe poor sleep can make pain worse.

Improving your sleep can still be possible even with chronic pain. Here are some things to try:

  • Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine for 4 to 6 hours or longer before bedtime. These can lead to poor sleep.
  • Try to go to bed and get up at the same time every day.
  • Do not read, eat, work, or watch television in bed. Use your bed only for sleeping and sex.
  • Keep your bedroom at a comfortable temperature.
  • Make sure your mattress provides good support. Use a neck support pillow to stabilize your head and neck during sleep.
  • Eliminate or block out all sound and light that may disturb your sleep. Try using a sleep mask and earplugs to help you sleep.
  • If you lie awake in bed for longer than 20 minutes, get up, leave the bedroom, and do something quiet (read or listen to music) until you are sleepy again.
  • Take a warm bath or shower 1 to 2 hours before bed and gently massage problem areas. This can help reduce muscle tension and discomfort that get in the way of sleeping. 
  • Getting regular exercise can make it easier to fall asleep and help you sleep deeper during the night. Aquatic therapy can be a good option if you have chronic pain.   
  • Improve how you cope with chronic pain during the day.
  • You may be more comfortable at night if you use pillows for support: 
    • If you sleep on your side, put a pillow between your knees to reduce pressure on your back. 
    • If you sleep on your back, support your neck on a pillow and put a pillow under your arm or knees.
    • If you sleep on your stomach, use a thin pillow under your stomach and bend one leg to the side. 

Credits

Adaptation Date: 5/16/2022

Adapted By: OSUWMC

Adaptation Reviewed By: Patient Education