Beat Nighttime Pain

1 out of every 10 of us have spent at least one day in pain during the last month—and 86 percent of us didn’t sleep because of it. Low back pain is the most common cause—frequently joined by migraine headaches, joint pain, aching, or stiffness. Try these tips to prevent pain from disrupting your sleep.

By Ellen Michaud with Julie Bain from Sleep to Be Sexy Smart and Slim

Pain not only interferes with your ability to get a good night’s sleep, it actually disrupts the sleep you do get by encouraging your brain to wake you up throughout the night. That’s because pain and sleep share common biological pathways, says Julie K. Silver, M.D., an assistant professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Harvard Medical School. So even if your eyes remain shut most of the night, chances are your brain still isn’t getting the deep, restorative sleep it needs. As a result, you wake up in the morning feeling far from refreshed. Also, sleep deprivation actually increases your sensitivity to the pain. Yeah, you read that right. So pain = less sleep = more pain.

Want to escape from that nasty little loop and get some sleep? Here’s what Dr. Silver prescribes.


  • 1.


    When pain first raises the alarm that something’s wrong, pay attention. Precisely where is the pain? On a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 being no pain and 10 indicating the worst possible pain imaginable, where is your pain? What makes your pain worse? Do any other symptoms accompany it?

  • 2.


    If the pain’s not severe—and remember, severe pain requires a doctor’s immediate intervention—keep a pain log and track the pain for a month, says Dr. Silver. Jot down when it occurs, its rank on a scale of 1 to 10, and what makes it better or worse.

  • 3.


    Whether it’s delivered as a pill, patch, cream, or injection, medication can be God’s gift to the hurting. Ranging from acetaminophen and lidocaine patches to low-dose antidepressants and muscle relaxants, the arsenal is awesome. But every one has side effects, and not every one works in every situation. Work with your doctor to find the best approach.

  • 4.


    There is no virtue in bearing pain. Its your body’s alarm system that something is wrong. So get to the person who can help you figure out what your body’s trying to say: your doctor.

  • 5.


    While you’re waiting to see your doctor, don’t aggravate your pain. If you have hip pain every time you run, don’t run. Walk instead.

  • 6.


    Try applying a hot pack to the area in which the pain occurs for 20 minutes a day.

Want to stay smart and healthy?

Get our weekly Health Reads newsletter

Sending Message
how we use your e-mail