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The Link Between Pain & Sleep Deprivation

Do you wake up multiple times in the night because of pain you suffer?  Do you feel the pain you deal with is worse when you don’t get enough sleep?  There may be a relationship between the two.  Those of us who suffer from chronic pain can relate to this phenomenon and rarely know which came first, the sleep deprivation, or the chronic pain.  Dr Charles Bae, neurologist at the Cleveland Clinic said it well, “Pain can be the main reason that someone wakes up multiple times a night, and this results in a decrease in sleep quantity and quality, and on the flip side, sleep deprivation can lower your pain threshold and pain tolerance and make existing pain feel worse.”

According to many health professionals, the main issue is to find out exactly which issue did come first and treat it.  The hope is that by treating the condition that started the pain/sleep predicament, the other condition will benefit. For example, if you have arthritis, and it becomes harder to sleep based on shifting in the bed waking you up, treating the arthritis may make it easier for you to sleep.

Also keep in mind that if there is an existing sleep disorder, such as obstructive sleep apnea, treating the sleep disorder may make it easier to notice you are not feeling so much pain in your waking hours.  Put simply by Dr. Michael Breus, PhD, director of the Glendale, Arizona Arrowhead Health, “People in pain don’t sleep, and people who sleep have less pain.”

If there is a chance you are having a hard time distinguishing between what came first, the sleep problem or the pain problem, a great idea is to see your doctor and have a sleep test performed.  More and more sleep tests are covered by insurance and can be done in the comfort of your own home.  This way, you can get a picture of your sleep habits and start putting together the puzzle to better health.

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