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Sleep Disturbances as Result of Chronic Pain

Posted by Lewis Olden on
Sleep Disturbances as Result of Chronic Pain

Chronic Pain can interfere with sleep and whether a chronic pain sufferer feels pain or not.

Chronic pain can have a substantial impact on sleep and not getting enough restful sleep can increase the level of pain you are susceptible to. Pain that is caused by a traumatic injury or a short-term medical issue can cause negative effects on alertness and how the individual functions throughout the day. These symptoms can manifest upon the day the illness is inflicted or after a night of bad sleep. However, chronic pain can result in prolonged sleep deprivation that can have terrible emotional and physical effect as well as some behavioural changes. It has long been known that there is an association between chronic pain, sleep disruption and depression.

Restorative sleep can be an effective tool in pain management. A pain management plan that encompasses sleep quality and quantity is integral to a chronic pain patient dealing with their condition more effectively. Treatment of sleep issues that are caused or worsened by chronic pain is prescribed for on an individual basis and must take into consideration of the chronic pain condition and the specific sleep disturbance that the sufferer is complaining about. 

Sleep Disturbances Caused by Chronic Pain

It is believed that well over half of those living with chronic pain experience a regular disruption. A recent study revealed that 53% of the participants who had chronic pain and were considered to also have insomnia while only 3% of the pain free control participants met the criteria to be considered an insomniac.

Insomnia is the most common sleep disorder that is seen as a result of chronic pain. Restless leg syndrome and obstructive sleep apnea are also prevalent within people who live with a chronic pain conditions such as fibromyalgia. A chronic pain condition can result in more than one sleep disorder and can cause the sufferer tremendous distress and a lack of sleep can be detrimental to maintaining employment and relationships with family and friends. 

How Does Pain Impact Sleep?

There are a number of mechanisms that mean pain can interfere with sleep. Pain is an obvious distraction and it is very difficult to think about anything else other than the pain when it is acute and prolonged. Pain makes is really hard to fall asleep and often causes you to wake up throughout the night, especially when the medicine for the pain has worn off after a few hours of sleep. Pain can also interfere with the physiology of sleep in specific ways that go beyond the mere discomfort when trying to get to sleep. The wide range of chronic pain diagnoses such as fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, severe back pain mean that the distinctive types of pain syndromes affect sleep in variable ways. The impact of chronic pain on sleep is a multidimensional issue and research into various types of chronic pain and the physiological impact on sleep have a wide range of sleep interferences.

An acute pain that is experienced after a major surgical operation has a quantifiable effect on sleep and measurably decreases the time spent in the rapid eye movement (REM) phase of sleep. There are also changes that are noted in the quality and quantity of sleep after regional anaesthesia. These findings imply that the pain itself is a contributing factor to post-operative pain and the resulting sleep disturbances.

Fibromyalgia is often associated with disturbances of sleep. Those who live with fibromyalgia have a significantly reduced short wave sleep and fibromyalgia sufferers also have abnormal a-rhythms and are often awoken during non-REM sleep. Fibromyalgia can be the cause of daytime fatigue and non-restorative sleep and this is consistent with the side effects of inadequate sleep quality and not sleeping for long enough.

Neuropathic pain is another type of pain that is associated with sleep disturbances.

Sleep disturbances are extraordinarily common within patients who have chronic migraines or headaches. Tension headaches and migraines have often been associated with sleep disturbances and can drive people mad when they cannot sleep due to a headache. Similarly, with fibromyalgia, the amount of time sleeping isn’t necessarily diminished in patients who had headache associated sleep problems. Variations of headaches cause different effects.

Sleep Deprivation and Pain

The disturbance of sleep can alter a person’s response to pain and as sleep is compromised, the resulting daytime pain can increase because of the process of hyperalgesia. This is when lower pain stimuli result in a greater amount of pain being perceived than would otherwise be expected

Research suggests that patients with fibromyalgia who suffer from sleep deprivation then have their pain inhibition pathways impaired that typically help to manage pain. Existing evidence doesn’t suggest that sleep deprivation can independently be the cause of pain. In fact, sleep deprivation amplifies the perception of pain that occurs as a result of an underlying condition.

While there is a strong relationship between chronic pain and sleep disorders, determining which has a bigger impact on the other is very difficult to ascertain. 

The Effect Pain Related Sleep Disturbances Have on Psychiatric Health

Depression and anxiety are often the result of long-term sleep disturbances caused by pain. There are other psychiatric issues such as hallucinations and delusions which are not often associated with sleep deprivation.

Research into neuropathic pain suggests that inflammation may be associated with psychiatric changes and alterations within a person’s behaviour. It remains to be seen whether there are other contributory factors. Regardless of the root cause, psychiatric diagnoses of anxiety or depression can cause severe patient distress and may lead to behavioural changes. It is imperative that mental health problems such as anxiety and depression are treated within a clinical setting and that patients can have access to treatments that proved substantial symptoms relief and improve their quality of life.

Can CBD Help You Sleep? 

CBD which is shorthand for cannabidiol is one of many cannabinoids in the cannabis plant. Cannabinoids interact with the endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system is integral in regulating a state of balance which is also known as homeostasis.

Unlike the notorious cannabinoid THC, CBD has no psychoactive effect and does not get you high. CBD has a range of health applications such as reducing inflammation, reducing seizures for those who suffer from epilepsy and pain relief from an array of conditions.

There are many things that can lead to you not experiencing a good night’s sleep. Insomnia and other sleep depriving conditions can be caused by: 

  • Chronic pain conditions
  • Medication which can interrupt the sleep cycle
  • Caffeine
  • Mental health issues like PTSD, anxiety and depression
  • An uncomfortable bed or loud noises

There is some research that suggests that CBD could be used to treat anxiety. The research that was published in 2019 investigated whether CBD improved sleep or reduced anxiety. The study that took place had 72 participants, with 47 suffering from anxiety and 25 who suffered with poor sleep. The participants were given a 25mg CBD capsule each day. In the first month of the study, 79.2% of the participants reported lower levels of anxiety and 66.7% reported sleeping better. 

Chronic pain that may also be a factor in sleep problems can be eased with CBD too. In a 2018 study found that there was evidence to support the claim that CBD soothes pain, the authors of the study also noted that by reducing chronic pain, CBD can help improve sleep. 

What Is the Best Way to Take CBD to Sleep?

There are many CBD delivery methods available on the market with each method having different attributes.

CBD patches are an incredibly effective method of consuming CBD and because the CBD is gradually released over a 24-hour period it means that CBD patches have a cumulative effect and can help the user sleep better over an extended period of time. CBD patches are a popular delivery method because they are easy to use and long lasting. The CBD also doesn’t have to be digested so it can be ideal if you do not like the taste of CBD.

CBD oil is the most widely used method for consuming CBD. CBD oils are typically used by placing several drops underneath the tongue. Some CBD oils taste very earthy and are not very pleasant to consume. Cannacares CBD oils ensure that they taste great with the new themed range of products either tasting of Tangerine or Spearmint. 

CBD sprays are also a popular method of using CBD. Topical CBD skin care products are also on the rise with many huge consumer brands releasing CBD or Hemp ranges of products, including CBD balm and CBD moisturiser.


Sleep is such an important part of life. Sleep deprivation can be the cause and result of many detrimental health issues and it is vital to ensure that you get as much good sleep as possible given the circumstances you are in.  

Chronic conditions can have a horrific impact on the quality and quantity of sleep a person gets and it is imperative that the symptoms that are affecting sleep are attempted to be remedied as soon as possible.

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