Dr Neil Stanley Independent Sleep Expert
© Dr. Neil Stanley 2013-2021
Pain and sleep I have been lecturing on the link between sleep and pain since 2004 but while it seems obvious that pain can cause sleep disturbance, the role of sleep in pain is perhaps less well known. Many British adults are affected by chronic pain and many of these suffer poor sleep as a result. Lack of sleep can impact all aspects of our physical, mental and emotional life. Pain is one of the most common causes of disturbed sleep and can lead to levels of sleep disturbance similar to those seen in insomnia. However poor sleep may strongly affect pain. Pain, sleep and mood disturbances are all linked in the brain and so if you have a problem with one you are very likely to have a problem with the other two. Thus, chronic pain can disturb sleep and this can trigger further disruption of normal sleep patterns which in turn leads to increased pain perception. This means there is a vicious circle between pain and sleep; the pain causes poor sleep and poor sleep causes more pain. So, it is important to take steps to reduce pain to aid good sleep and to get good sleep to reduce your perception of pain and strengthen your coping mechanisms which allow you to deal with your pain. Many medications used in the treatment of pain actually have a negative effect on sleep so it is worth checking with your G.P. that your pain is being optimally treated. It is incorrect that people with lower back pain, probably the most common type of chronic pain, need to sleep on a firm or hard bed, this will actually make your sleep, and thus your pain worse, such people need to sleep on a softer mattress that helps cosset the back when laying down.