Pain and Sleep Are Connected

Published Online: Monday, November 1, 2004

Pain affects every aspect of an individual's life, including sleep. Pain is the leading cause of insomnia, according to the National Sleep Foundation. For example, individuals with chronic pain often experience less deep sleep, more arousals, and disruptions with waking, as well as less efficient sleep. In fact, it is estimated that over half of the patients with chronic pain have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. Sleep and pain are a 2-way process because poor sleep and waking pain create a cycle that affects mood, energy, behavior, and safety.

There are several approaches for managing pain and sleep problems, such as medications that address both the pain and sleep problems, exercise, and psychological methods. Experts recommended the following psychological approaches:

  • Relaxation training to have individuals relax their muscles and free their mind of stress
  • Biofeedback to teach individuals how to control specific body functions involved in headaches or other sources of pain such as temperature or muscle tension
  • Cognitive and behavioral therapies to focus on changing the way individuals think about the pain experience or changing the behavior or attitudes related to the pain PT


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