There have been numerous studies that have explored the possible causative effects of both pain that disrupts sleeping patterns and disruptive sleeping patterns that may trigger or exacerbate chronic pain. There are several abstracts of some studies here , here , and here that purport interesting association. One important factor to consider with those who experience chronic low to moderate levels of pain, especially those who exercise, is that many times the chronic pain is seemingly associated with the specific exercise itself. And that may make sense. But if we delve into the specific idea that part of exercise includes a natural disruption to multiple systems including neuromuscular/skeletal muscular, and the fact that the sufficient recovery of these systems is dependent on consistent quality/quantity of sleep, we need to take a better look at how we can improve sleep itself instead of looking for the remedies (i.e. pharmaceuticals) that may only mask the pain instead. That may not be the safest or long term healthful way to go so…
Here is a list of things to consider that may have a significant impact on your sleep and that you can certainly take control of. This list is not at all exhaustive but let’s start here:
- Eating less than 2 hours before bed can effect sleep especially if harder to digest foods like steak are part of that meal.
- keto-genic/low carbohydrate diet- If you have insomnia, and particularly if you’re on a low-carb diet, adding some carbs at dinner could be an easy and effective way to improve your sleep. Studies have shown that eating a carb-rich meal a few hours before bed can shorten sleep onset, and higher-glycemic carbs in particular seem to have the greatest effect. (13, 14, 15) .
- alcohol consumption before bed/alcohol consumption at all (doses can vary significantly between individuals)
- caffein consumption before bed/caffein consumption at all (doses can vary significantly between individuals)
- Exposure to computers, smart phones, and TVs, and ambient indoor lighting. The light provided from all of these sources—particularly blue light—has been shown to disrupt the production of melatonin, which is the primary hormone involved in sleep regulation
- Bedroom temperature may be the most impactful to improve one’s sleep. Chris Winter, MD, president of Charlottesville Neurology and Sleep Medicine in Virginia, thinks 65 degrees is ideal. “That doesn’t mean 66 or 67 is terrible, he says, but a cooler environment usually lends itself to a better quality of sleep” *Note from author (me) This advice may induce some conflict between partners. But there is a simple solution before you even go there. Case in point…Kathy loves a snuggly warm sleep setting. Me, not so much. (I love the snuggly part ; ) but anything above 67 degrees and I am not sleeping. So the fix (compromise) for us was…I set the thermostat to 67 in early evening. And Kathy gets some extra blanket on her side of the bed. Simple…conflict resolved.
It would be remiss of me to not bring this up. But for people who go to the gym or do any type of training with purpose in making improvement in any area from exercise/training/working out…most any level of pain can mitigate or down-regulate the many physiological processes/pathways necessary to allow these adaptations to actually occur.