If you ever wondered if your back pain is keeping you from sleeping well, or whether your trouble sleeping is making your back ache, you are probably right.
While there isn’t a lot of solid research data to say that sleep problems and back pain are linked, many experts do believe that people with sleep problems experience more back pain.
In a study of sleep quality and low back pain in the journal Annals of Behavioral Medicine 105 people with low back pain completed a standardized assessment 5 times a day for 14 days to rate their back pain, physical function and their thoughts about pain severity, and prior night’s sleep.
The results showed that poor sleepers reported high pain and negative mood, while good sleepers reported relatively good mornings, but that their pain levels were comparable to the poor sleepers by the end of the day. The researchers concluded that sleep quality is related to pain intensity, and interventions for back pain should include attention to sleep problems.
While a link between back pain and sleep quality may not be scientifically established, a national survey by the National Sleep Foundation found that pain is a key factor in loss of sleep with an average 42 minute sleep debt for those with chronic pain, compared to no sleep debt for those without pain.
Whatever the role of pain has in sleep, there is a lot of research showing that getting 7-8 hours of good quality sleep is important for overall health. If lower back pain is interfering with getting a good night sleep there are a number of things you can do to improve your sleep quality, which could in turn improve your back pain.
Pay attention to sleep hygiene
Surprisingly your daytime habits can be affecting your nighttime sleep. The National Sleep Foundation says that people who get good quality sleep make sleep a priority and pay attention to what specialists call good sleep hygiene.
Good sleep hygiene refers to the habits and practices that contribute to good nighttime sleep quality and full daytime alertness. The foundation recommends these 10 steps to improve your sleep hygiene.
Good sleep hygiene begins during the day – Many people sit at a desk for most of the day in front of a computer. Sitting too much, particularly if you slouch with a rounded curve to your spine will increase back pain. Strive for good posture while sitting and standing. Break up sitting with standing or walking several times a day.
Limit naps to 30 minutes – Short naps of 20-30 minutes can improve alertness and performance, but naps do not make up for inadequate nighttime sleep.
Avoid stimulants – Most people know to avoid caffeine and nicotine close to bedtime, but don’t realize that these stimulants take several hours to clear from your system. If you find it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep, try avoiding caffeine and nicotine from early-to-late afternoon on.
Avoid alcohol before bed – While alcohol is widely known as a sedative and can make you sleepy, moderation is the key. Too much alcohol before bedtime can disrupt sleep during the second half of the night as your body works to clear the alcohol from your system.
Exercise promotes good quality sleep – Moderation is key with exercise as well. Light exercise, like walking or cycling can improve sleep quality, but strenuous exercise close to bedtime acts as a stimulant as your body is revved up, making falling and staying asleep more difficult.
Avoid certain foods – Heavy, fatty or fried foods, citrus fruits and carbonated drinks can cause indigestion for some people, which can result in painful heartburn when you lay down to sleep.
Get natural light during the day – Try to get outdoors several times during the day. Sunlight during the day and darkness at night helps maintain your body’s natural circadian rhythm, which is key to your sleep-wake cycle.
Maintain a regular relaxing bedtime routine – A nightly warm shower or bath, reading a book or listening to relaxing music before bed can help prepare your body for sleep.
Ensure a supportive sleep environment – Make sure your mattress and pillows provide the support and fit that makes your body comfortable. The mattress should have enough give to reduce pressure points while supporting your spine. Pillows should support the neck not the shoulders.
Maintain comfortable sleep position – Whether you sleep on your back, stomach or side, there are things you can do to reduce stress on your spine. Back sleepers might consider a pillow under the knees, stomach sleepers might use a small cushion under the stomach, and side sleepers can use a body pillow to help cushion and support legs and knees and keep them aligned with the spine.
Regardless of the source of your back pain, a quality night sleep may ease the pain temporarily and improve other aspects of your health. At Dr. Michael Gomez we take a comprehensive approach to achieving the optimal relief for your back pain. Request an appointment by contacting us by email, or calling 786-456-4152.