(ARA) – What do sleep deprivation and pain have in common? Much more than most people realize. First, many people suffer from both conditions. More than 150 million Americans say they are not getting enough sleep, according to the National Sleep Foundation. And back pain affects more than 80 percent of Americans at some point in their lives; as we grow older, more than 50 percent of us will have chronic pain of some sort, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Second, and more importantly, each condition deeply affects the other. Sleep expert Pete Bils, who is a member of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the vice president sleep innovation and clinical research at Sleep Number, says pain and sleeplessness can become an unhealthy cycle that negatively impacts quality of life.
“Pain disturbs sleep, taking away from its restful and restorative properties. And poor sleep actually lowers our threshold for pain, perpetuating the problem cycle,” says Bils. “The reduction of pain, both during the day and at night, will promote better sleep, and better sleep could induce an overall lessening in pain.”
Lack of sleep can lead to more than just irritability, lethargy and health concerns. In fact, research shows that sleep deprivation is a contributing factor to a wide array of health issues, including weight gain, stress, illness and chronic pain.
So, what is a sleep-deprived person in pain to do? Bils, who’s work involves researching, investigating and helping develop new technologies to promote better sleep, offers the following six tips to help pain sufferers get a good night’s sleep:
1. Watch your medication. Most pain medications significantly alter sleep patterns and may contribute to enhanced pain perception during the day. Discuss alternatives with your doctor if you’re having problems sleeping.
2. Stretch. Many pain conditions have proven therapies to naturally reduce pain levels. These include low-impact exercises, relaxation techniques or changes in lifestyle, such as diet and exercise.
3. Get enough quality sleep. Research shows that poor sleep is a risk factor for developing chronic pain later in life. Poor sleep can also make you feel more pain. Making sleep a top priority is essential to manage pain.
4. Re-evaluate your mattress. It’s a myth that “firmer is better” for people with back pain. Recent clinical studies conclude that an overly firm mattress can actually contribute to pain. The best mattress is one that supports your unique and ever-changing body. A bed that allows you to adjust the firmness on each side, like the Sleep Number bed is ideal because it helps keep your head, neck and shoulders in alignment. In fact, in clinical tests performed by Sleep Number at Abbott Northwestern Hospital and Marsh Health Center facilities, participants reported feeling relief from back pain after sleeping on a Sleep Number bed for 28 days.
5. Watch your posture. Your spine is dynamic. Pay attention to your body mechanics both during the waking hours and at night, working to keep a lengthened, straight spine. Your office chair and your sleep surface should support your body in a way that doesn’t put stress on your spine.
6. Avoid poor sleep habits. Certain habits can contribute to poor sleep, such as caffeine and alcohol consumption, vigorous exercise in the evening, and computer and television use in the bedroom. Focus on establishing a nightly sleep routine to help your body relax. Consider adding relaxation techniques, such as deep abdominal breathing, to your routine to help you fall asleep.
“Millions of Americans endure it, and billions of dollars are spent treating it. Back pain sufferers are searching for relief,” says Bils. “Realizing that sleep can affect pain and vice versa is half the battle. If pain sufferers commit to getting consistent, restful sleep, they can help manage their pain and truly improve their quality of life.”
For more helpful sleep tips visit www.sleepnumber.com or your local Sleep Number store.