How Does Pain Affect Sleep?

Posted by Tyler Britton on Jul 2, 2021 1:46:00 PM

How does pain affect sleep - Anchorage Sleep Center

How much are we in pain? 

Pain-related sleep loss is a real problem. The 2015 Sleep in AmericaTM Poll found that 21 percent of Americans experience chronic pain. It also found that 36 percent of people have experienced acute pain in the last week.

The question is why we are in so much pain. A few of the more well-known factors include:

  • Desk jobs (sitting all day)
  • More time spent in front of a screen than being active
  • We have an epidemic of obesity, and weight is a strong contributing factor to chronic pain
  • Stress is a considerable factor in people’s lives and also is a strong contributor to pain
  • Sports and high activity leads to injuries
  • Finally, some of us are unlucky with genetics and inherit weak backs, necks, knees, etc.

Why Pain Matters

When you are in chronic or acute pain, it’s much harder to be happy, stay motivated, manage stress, and stay active. Very importantly, the vicious cycle of being in pain is how it impact sleep. Pain and sleep

It’s a vicious cycle because pain makes you lose sleep, and loss of sleep can deeply impact your well-being in a negative way, particularly happiness, staying active, staying motivated, and managing stress (37 percent of people with chronic pain reported elevated stress level compared to 7 percent of pain-free people who reported the same).

How Does Pain Impact Sleep?

Based on the above linked survey, there are two results for people who live with pain:

  • People with chronic pain had an average nightly sleep debt of 42 minutes (i.e. getting 42 minutes less sleep than they should)
  • People with acute pain in the last week had an average sleep debt of 14 minutes

There is a direct link between pain and sleep loss. These results can be compared to people who aren’t in pain, based on the survey:

  • 65 percent of people with no pain reported good or very good sleep quality
  • 45 percent of people with acute pain in the last week reported good or very good sleep quality
  • 37 percent of people with chronic pain in the last week reported good or very good sleep quality

Not only does pain cause you to sleep less, but it impacts the quality of sleep as well. This seems to be particularly true in the case of chronic pain. As an aside, 23 percent of people with chronic pain reported being diagnosed with a sleep disorder by a doctor, compared to just 6 percent of pain free people. It’s quite a sobering statistic.

What to Do If You Have Chronic Pain

Though you might not be able to take away the pain, there are main steps you can take to help improve your chances of getting a restful night’s sleep. Here are some good examples:

  • Cut alcohol in the hours leading up to bed
  • Limit caffeine consumption as much as possible
  • Don’t drink caffeine after noon
  • Be extremely careful using pain killer or sleeping pills, as they significantly aggravate certain sleeping disorders
  • Practice relaxation techniques before bed, such as yoga, meditation, or breathing exercises
  • Find high-energy exercises that you CAN do with little pain, such as swimming, cycling, running, and Pilates
  • Try and eat a healthy diet

Doing all of these can make a huge difference in your sleep time and quality, especially if you have chronic pain.


If you live in Alaska, have pain, and can’t seem to sleep no matter what you do, please reach out to us by taking this free sleep survey.

Take a Free Online Sleep Test

Topics: Pain and Sleep

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