Sleep? What’s that then?

Everyone at some point experiences sleepless nights. Whether it be stress from work, crying babies at 3am, or that cough/cold that just won’t let up. This is all part and parcel of being a grown up, is it not? However; true insomnia is a different ‘kettle of fish’. Depending on which stats you believe, anything from 50% – 90% of people suffering with chronic pain say they suffer with sleep problems. Often waking up feeling like they haven’t even slept at all. This is certainly something I have experienced personally.

Fragmented and disturbed sleep interferes with your normal sleep cycle. During a normal nights sleep you go through light sleep, deep sleep and REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. It is this deep sleep and REM sleep that makes you feel rested and refreshed in the morning. This cycle is repeated 3-5 times a night. So it stands to reason that the more of cycles that are disturbed, or the less cycles you complete, the more tired you will feel.

I think it would be fair to say that chronic pain sufferers experience this more than your average person. The obvious factors for this such as acute pain flares, chronic pain and discomfort, muscle spasms, neuropathy / nerve pain all make it near impossible to to drop off to sleep at times and increases the likelihood the the suffer may wake up once asleep. Other factors such as medications and associated health problems only compound this problem more. Of course tiredness can have the obvious effects on mood, concentration and motor abilities. Prolonged sleeplessness however, can also make pain worse. Adding to the daily challenges of chronic pain sufferers. People who have chronic pain usually suffer with chronic fatigue. In the case of Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS) its the repetitive inflammatory processes that happen that contribute to this. A lack of restful sleep only increases the level of fatigue in which chronic pain sufferers experience. Yet another one of the vicious cycles which seem to be prevalent in AS and all arthritic conditions.

There are many documented management strategy’s for insomnia. Just ‘google’ it and you will soon see. But I’d like to here from you. What are your experiences? How do you manage it? Medication? Exercise? Or do you have some secret technique you’d be willing to share? For those of us that experience this we know the negative side of insomnia. So I’m inviting you to share any positive experiences you may have had, and any advice you may have for people that may be experiencing this for the first time.

Comments / feeback can be left by clicking the bubble in the top right of this post. Feel free to share resources and links. Looking forward to hearing your experiences and wisdom.

One Reply to “Sleep? What’s that then?”

  1. Tiffany

    First let me say that I have AS, AND Hypersomnia. The problem is that with the hypersomnia comes the insomnia.

    I have few tricks in my arsenal for getting to sleep, and getting rest from my sleep.

    Rule 1) Ear Plugs. My husband is a world class champion chainsaw sounding snorer, so if I don’t wear earplugs then he will disturb my sleep. I have found that I sleep better even alone when I wear earplugs. I am able to sleep right through things like the garbage man that might otherwise wake me up.

    Rule 2) Sleep Mask. I like to have it very dark when I sleep, so once the sun comes up if I am not wearing the mask I am awake doesn’t matter if I have slept 2 hours or 10.

    Rule 3) Pillow. I am a side sleper by nature, but it was hurting my neck, and my back. I purchased a really good tempurpedic pillow made for back and side sleepers. I love it, and it was $30 well spent.

    Rule 4) Bed Wedges. I cannot lay flat on my back, but sleeping on my back is better for me. The wedges allow me to sleep on my back, but not flat. I use a back wedge, as well as a knee wedge.

    Rule 5) Regular schedule. I work days and nights, so I try to get up around the same time everyday and go to bed at the same time. I also do not allow myself to nap after 2pm unless there is somthing abnormal going on such as outside illness, new medication, or major flare.

    Rule 6) Melatonin. I take melatonin every night about half an hour before bed. it eases me off to sleep, and I have no grogginess the next morning. I buy 1mg tabs, I can take up to 3, or if I wake up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep, I can cut one in half, or even in quarters just to push me back over the edge.

    I also make sure to exercise within my limits daily, and I try to go as hard as I can all day both to keep me awake, but also to help me sleep better at night. There is a fine line I walk between going hard, and overdoining it. I am a restaurant manager, so i am on my feet from 8-12 hours a day, and I own a home and 2 dogs, so there is always somthing that needs to be done. I get to about half of what needs done at home so I can give my all at work.

    Hope you find some good restful sleep.


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