When You Are So Tired It Hurts: The Correlation Between Sleep and Pain

It’s not big news that pain can cause issues with sleep. In fact, it almost seems like common sense. Simple aches and pains can make it difficult to fall asleep and/or stay asleep. But, what comes first? Does pain keep us from sleeping? Does a lack of sleep cause pain? Are there contributing factors to sleep and pain problems that should be considered? With over half of Americans reporting strong or severe pain in a given week, it is an issue worth investigating further.





A recent poll by the National Sleep Foundation reveals that sleep and pain have an intimate but sometimes complicated relationship. The results indicate that pain also couples closely with stress and overall well being. Those who report having good health and low stress levels also report getting good quality sleep. The reverse also holds true. In fact, “reported sleep duration and quality decline linearly with each health rating, showing that perceptions of one’s sleep and health are deeply related.”

Americans who report having chronic pain or a stint of severe pain rack up an average 42-minutes of nightly sleep debt. That is nearly five hours of sleep lost to pain per week! We know that both chronic and acute sleep deprivation can impact memory, reflexes, mood changes and irritability. All of these effects tie back to the one fundamental thing all the advances in research have taught us – sleep is critical to almost everything we do and therefore not getting the sleep we need impacts all areas of our lives.

Interestingly enough, regardless of what comes first, both disrupted sleep and pain can be treated and also prevented. The study is a poignant reminder that sleep is an integral part of health. So a healthy lifestyle must include good sleep hygiene.

If you are having trouble sleeping or are experiencing chronic pain, you should seek medical assistance. Through sleep studies and physical therapy, many people are able to restore the quality of their sleep and also find relief from ongoing pain, thus improving every other area of their wellbeing.

Link to Infographic: https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-disorders-problems/pain-and-sleep