Is Pain Stopping You From Getting a Good Night’s Sleep?

A recent poll by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) found that pain is a significant factor in the gap between the amount of sleep Americans say they need and the amount they’re actually getting. The numbers are startling with an average 42-minute sleep debt for those with chronic pain and 14 minutes for those who’ve suffered from acute pain in the past week.

Those without pain have no overall sleep debt, but many in this group still have sleep issues. According to the poll, about one in three of those with no pain don’t get the sleep they need to feel their best or have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. However, those numbers are much higher for those who suffer from chronic or acute pain.

The Poll found that pain joins two related concerns – stress and poor health – as key correlates of poor sleep quality and shorter sleep durations. But there are ways to fix the problem. The sleep gap narrows sharply among people who make sleep a priority by setting a routine bedtime and creating a supportive sleep environment – even among those with pain. Sleep is a marker of good health and having good sleep habits are crucial for improving the quality of life for those living with chronic and acute pain.

The national, random-sample survey established the broad impacts of pain-related sleep loss on millions of Americans. The study found that 21 percent of Americans experience chronic pain and 36 percent have had acute pain in the past week. If you combine those numbers, we’re talking about more than half of the US adult population suffering from pain.

Sixty-five percent of those with no pain reported good to very good sleep quality, while only 46 percent of those with acute pain and 36 percent of those with chronic pain reported the same. Additionally, 23 percent of those with chronic pain reported higher stress levels, compared with 7 percent of those without pain.

Those with acute or chronic pain are more likely to have sleep problems impact their daily lives. Among people who’ve had sleep difficulties in the past week, more than four in 10 of those with chronic pain say those difficulties interfered with their work. That drops to 17 percent of those without pain. People with pain are also far more likely than others to report that lack of sleep interferes with their mood, activities, relationships and enjoyment overall life.

People with pain also feel less control over their sleep, worry more about lack of sleep affecting their health and exhibit greater sleep sensitivity. They’re more likely than others to say environmental factors make it more difficult for them to get a good night’s sleep. These factors include noise, light, temperature and even their mattresses, suggesting that bedroom environment may be of particular importance to those suffering from pain.

While both chronic and acute pain relate to lost sleep, the survey indicates that chronic pain is an especially powerful problem. Clinicians and those that suffer from chronic pain know that pain and sleep problems usually go together and aggravate each other. This latest poll confirms the relationship between pain and sleep. Fortunately, it also shows that simple steps to improving sleep can make a big difference.

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