The hidden link between pain and sleep


By Dan Skulavik - Contributing columnist



By Dan Skulavik

Contributing columnist

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As the summer starts to come to an end, I get many questions about how to have a healthier lifestyle since the past few months were taken vacationing and enjoying the beautiful weather. For most individuals, this involves exercising and healthy eating, but sleep is equally (if not more) important. One of the best things you can do for yourself this year is to try and get enough sleep. In fact, did you know that there is a correlation between sleep and pain? Some people sleep longer because they are in pain, while others cannot sleep at all. Pain affects the way a person sleeps and a lack of sleep can intensify pain. Individuals who suffer from chronic pain may experience sleep disorders. In fact, pain is one of the causes of insomnia.

Sleep disorder symptoms include difficulty falling asleep, waking up in the middle of the night, waking up early in the morning, restless sleep, and overall dissatisfaction with the quality of sleep. The consistent interruption of sleep triggers a vicious cycle of sleep deprivation and increased pain. The less sleep a person gets, the more intense the pain can become. If pain (or any other reason) is affecting the quality of your sleep, start by identifying the cause of the problem. The first step is an assessment of the sleeping environment and lifestyle habits. Here are some questions to answer:

Is the bedroom a quiet place and are all lights switched off? Is there a television or laptop (and associated glare) in the bedroom?

What are you sleeping on? How old is the mattress? Does your pillow provide enough support for your neck and head?

What are you eating and drinking before you go to sleep? Are you consuming caffeinated beverages late in the day? Are you eating big meals close to bedtime?

Are you sleeping at the same time every day? Are you avoiding stressful conversations or situations before going to bed?

By facilitating an environment that is quiet and comfortable, you will set the stage for sound sleep. If pain is affecting your sleep patterns, physical therapy can play a role in the recovery process. The combination of pain and lack of sleep creates a vicious cycle that can get progressively worse, if left untreated.

Fortunately, a physical therapist can identify the underlying cause of pain and create a plan for lasting pain relief. Using a combination of hands-on techniques (including joint mobilizations and massage), the therapist will help reduce muscle tension, which at most times resides in the neck and shoulder region. This coupled with a progressive exercise program will help you sleep better. A therapist will help you design a stretching and strengthening program to restore muscle balance and reduce pain; restoring normal sleep patterns.

If you have pain and are losing sleep over it, reach out to us, your physical therapy providers. We’ll help you reduce pain and sleep better. We don’t want you to lose any more sleep over this and it is time for you to start living a pain-free life.

Dr. Daniel Skulavik, PT, DPT, OCS, is with Advanced Physical Therapy located in the Food Lion Shopping Center, Clinton.

Dr. Daniel Skulavik, PT, DPT, OCS, is with Advanced Physical Therapy located in the Food Lion Shopping Center, Clinton.

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