Do you have an injury or illness that causes pain? Does that pain keep you from getting enough quality sleep? What can you do to ensure you have the best chance to sleep well when you’re dealing with unrelenting pain? If you can’t sleep, how do you need to adapt the following day? This article from the website Invisible Illness Week shares the story of one woman who frequently has this experience, so maybe you won’t feel quite as alone. Your comments for healthy ways that have helped you cope are invited.
How to Get Some Sleep When the Pain Won’t Go Away!
by Shari Smith
Since my original injury in September 2009, I’ve had ridiculous issues with sleep, or should I say the lack thereof. I’ve tried multiple prescription sleep medications to no avail. Even strong pain medications make me feel absolutely horrible overall but don’t always break through the pain cycle enough to help me to sleep.
I am asked sometimes about the pain level and how I manage to function with it. To give you an idea, look at the McGill Pain Index, which details various types of injuries and the associated pain levels. The pain from CRPS (also known as RSD or causalgia), is rated slightly higher than the amputation of a digit. That’s right, the pain is WORSE than that you’d feel if you cut off a finger or a toe. Needless to say, sleep is elusive more often than not.
Clearly our bodies need sleep to heal and to renew. Lack of sleep hinders that renewal process, causing even greater pain, and a vicious cycle begins. Even worse, pain can awaken you once you have actually fallen asleep, resulting in non-restorative sleep. Altogether, the twin symptoms of lack of sleep and chronic pain can then result in loss of cognitive function.
I wish that I could say that I’ve learned coping mechanisms to help me deal with these problems, but the reality in my case is that “the best defense is a good offense.” How so?
- I don’t schedule early morning appointments if at all possible.
- I warn family and friends that I may at any time find it necessary to cancel plans.
- I keep my NOOK Color loaded with plenty of light reading to try to distract me during times when the pain is at its worst.
- I schedule medications that are most likely to cause drowsiness in the evenings.
- I don’t even attempt to drive when I am sleep deprived (which is pretty much all of the time). Driving while sleepy can be as dangerous as driving under the influence.
- I have surrounded myself with a support network that genuinely attempts to understand and accept the limitations of my injury and disease.
Most importantly, I’ve learned that I myself must accept the cognitive loss that comes with the pain and lack of sleep. As frustrating as it often is, beating myself up over it accomplishes no good. Instead, I strive to be thankful when the good days come and accepting when the day doesn’t go so well.
How do you cope with loss of sleep, especially when it is caused by pain?
About the Author:
Shari is the wife of a career Air Force man and mama to a beautiful teen daughter. After spending twenty years in the corporate world, both in the legal/financial fields as well as more recently in online media specializing in women’s interests, Shari’s professional life took an unexpected turn when an injury paralyzed her left leg, resulting in Complex Regional Pain Syndrome.